For UK Valentine orders, the deadline is Saturday 6th February! Orders placed after that date may not arrive in time!

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

POUND - 5 Weeks Later

   I've used POUND Album 1: Sweat. Sculpt. Rock. for 5 weeks now, and it's been so much fun! I used it 6 days a week, alternating between lower body, upper body and abs, and adding the cardio section in on the end, and it's been amazing. There's more definition to my triceps and upper back, and I've been more enthusiastic about my exercise because it just didn't feel like work.
   I have only one complaint, too, but it's one I can remedy myself: I feel that each set ends one rep too soon, it never feels quite right. There are a few too many seconds for transition between moves, and while that's totally fine if you're new to it, once you've used it for a week or two, it becomes a bit wasteful. As I said, however: easily remedied. Just add on an extra rep or two while the wonderful instructors talk you through it, then transition smoothly. It's barely a complain, really, just something that niggled at me.
   But I voice it anyway, because I never use these workouts or review them upon request of the producers. I choose my own workouts, I buy the DVD and/or kit with my own money, and I dedicate my time to it for fun and for results. I choose to review it because I know how hard it can be to find effective or fun workouts, so I like to see what's out there on the market, and as a consumer rather than just a journalist being given freebies, it's much easier for me to find out what's easily available. What use is there in reviewing a limited or restricted product?
   As such, I will tell it from every side, voicing every complaint or praise I had while using it, and I feel this is very important for these kinds of workouts. Those developed by individual people on the indie fitness scene, such as POUND, benefit from the increased exposure but also the customer feedback. I adore Jillian Michaels; her workouts have changed my life, as cheesy as that is, they've pushed me to discover what I can do, and what I can learn to do. She doesn't need my feedback, my praise or the increased exposure, but it's because her workouts are so good that I continue to do so. But that also gives a frame of reference to whatever I might say about POUND or other indie workouts - if I usually spend my time doing squat jumps, burpees and mountain climbers for cardio, and I tell you that Kukuwa's African Dance is a very effective cardio workout, then I mean it. And if I usually use kettlebells, do deadlifts and Ashtanga, and I tell you that POUND's tricep pulses are hard, then I mean it.

   I really do hope that POUND release Album 2 this year, because though I bought Album 1 on Black Friday because I wasn't sure if it would be worth the money full-price after past experiences with indie workouts, I will happily leap upon Album 2 at full price. I'd like a 'POUND' tank top, too, because I am now a very, very proud member of the POUND Posse, even if I'm limited to participating at home by myself because I can't leave my mum by herself to attend a class - not really a responsible thing for a carer to do. But it's on my to-do list, and one day I might be lucky enough to find the opportunity.

   As always, I've written a full review of the workout that I will get up in the next few days, so you can read more info about the individual workouts on the discs, the kit and general set-up. So stay tuned!

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Greek Yoghurt Pancakes

   So, I've become addicted to pancakes. There's nothing unusual in that, I grant you, but I'm so careful with what I eat that pancakes went off the menu 2 years ago. But I came across a recipe - such a simple simple recipe - that put them right back on again, and I thought I'd share it with you today, on pancake day!
   Yoghurt pancakes.
   Yup, Greek yoghurt gives you a great dose of protein with much lower fat and carbs. It's awesome. Just throw together a bit of Greek yoghurt with an egg, some flour and baking powder and you're away! And its so versatile - you can add all kinds of flavours with fruit or powders, or by simply opting for a Greek yoghurt that contains fruit.
   So, every Sunday for the past 4 weeks I've had pancakes for breakfast, and they've been deliciously clean and healthy - well, except one, but that was my birthday.

Basic Greek yoghurt pancakes recipe
Serves 1; 4 small pancakes;
215 cals; 18g protein; 25g carbs

80g Greek yoghurt (protein & calcium)
1 medium egg (protein and loads of vitamins and minerals)
1/4 cup whole meal flour (carbs and loads of vitamins and minerals)
1 tsp baking powder (raising agent)

   Just combine the yoghurt and egg together, then add in the flour and baking powder and cook in a pan until little holes start to form on the top, then flip it over for half the time.
   The mixture is thick so it doesn't spread out, but that means you can make shapes with it, like hearts, smiley faces and so on.

   Now, the above recipe doesn't sound great, but as I said, it's easy to add clean and healthy flavour to it without adding any refined sugar at all. Use fruit juice, set aside a little bit of fruit smoothie and add it into the mixture, use powdered fruit, flavoured protein powder, or just use Greek yoghurt with fruit or honey already in it. I assure you: there's no need to add any sugar at all.

   Raspberry pancakes: take a handful of raspberries and soak them for about 5 minutes to really soften them up. Drain the water and transfer them into a bowl and mash them up using a fork. Then you add the rest of the ingredients: the egg and yoghurt, mix it together, then add the flour and baking powder! Easy, fruity, and top with another handful of raspberries and you'll not only have a deliciously sweet and fruity breakfast, but also have knocked out one of your 5 a day!
   40g raspberries add about 25 calories.
   Baobab pancakes: add 2 teaspoons of baobab powder (I use Aduna) to the basic recipe for a sherbety, fruity pancake breakfast.
   Adds minimal calories.

   Lemon and matcha pancakes: add the juice of half a lemon and a teaspoon of match to the above recipe, and you'll get a wonderful lemony omelette packed full of antioxidents.
   Adds minimal calories.

  Chocolate pancakes: add a tablespoon of cocoa powder - I found that a sachet of Options hot chocolate was just perfect, making them perfectly chocolatey while adding only 40 calories. Alternatively, use cacao powder for a little healthy boost for your heart. If the mixture becomes too thick, you may want to add a tablespoon of water. I found it necessary with the hot chocolate.

   For my birthday I decided to treat myself - it was my first time making the pancakes so I just added lemon to the base recipe, but it was more than good enough...but it was also my birthday, so while the pancakes were clean, they were somewhat less healthy when I put mini marshmallows between each and let them melt beneath the heat, and then added a little whipped cream to the top. But like I said: birthday! It was healthy for the most part, the only sugar came from the marshmallows themselves. And it was good.

Monday, 8 February 2016

February: Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism

   Having just completed 5 weeks of POUND, I don't really think there's any workout on the cards right now that will meet with the enthusiasm from last month, so in a way I'm not going to try. Instead, I'm going back to a workout that has proven very effective, albeit not very enjoyable, especially in comparison: Jillian Michaels' 'Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism'. I want to get more cardio in, and this is, without a doubt, one of the best cardio workouts I've ever done. I like it's set-up of 7 circuits: kickboxing, hard-as-hell plyometrics, merciful calisthenics, on-the-mat core and then back to more kickboxing, plyo and calisthenics for the last three circuits. There are clear differences in each section and I know where I'm best throwing my all - for example, knowing that circuit three consists of butt kicks, high knees, jumping jacks and so on means that I really can put my all into burpees and such in circuit two, simply because three isn't as high-impact. In my mind, it's set up perfectly and prevents the workout from feeling like the worst time of your life. Instead it's just horrible. But I can't and won't deny the results, which is why I'm revisiting it.
   But only for 3 weeks.
   I have something else in mind for March and I really want to spend as much time with it as possible, so I'm more than happy to sacrifice a week of BFBM to give next month's workout 5 weeks instead of 4. So there won't be much in the way of workout updates this month because they won't be much different to November, so you can read them all here instead.

   I do have some nice new leggings, though they're from New Look rather than USA Pro or Fabletics, my two usual go-to brands. They're simple but gorgeous: grey/purple ombre capris. I doubt they're very moisture-wicking, but they are comfy and pretty. Either way, they'll certainly be put to the test this month.
   I really do need new fitness shoes, though, but I have little idea where to turn. I need some with great shock-absorption from lots of plyometrics, so something that can stand up to jumping without injuring my shins, because they're not top-notch and are my main concern. So if anyone has any suggestions for a brand or model of trainer that is great for gym and plyometrics, I'd love to know!

   And have you picked up your free 2-week trial of VITL yet? Use the code VITLKIM at checkout for the exclusive trial and have your vitamins, minerals, greens and Omega-3 delivered right to your door!

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Refresh Your Resolution With VITL Nutrition + Free Trial

   As February rolls in and we leave the first month of the year behind - the month of change - it's easy to look back on our new year's resolution and either feel proud of your accomplishments in your first month, or to put them down because your goals were unrealistic for you to meet personally, or perhaps feel guilt for giving up on them. Hey, we all do it. I made a resolution in January and I failed astoundingly by not even making a start on it! But February gives all of us the chance to try a restart, and I tell you: I will pick my violin back up! And February is the perfect opportunity to re-evaluate failed resolutions and reshape them into something actually obtainable. 
   Health is one of the most common themes of new year's resolutions, and it's also pretty important in general, but that importance also makes it kind of daunting. We live in a world of fast food, where a burger costs £1 and fresh veg £1.10, and where so many things are automated and easy, leaving us little need to really do things physically. So to get yourself healthy, even in the most basic terms of taking the stairs instead of the escalator, or choosing raw, fresh chicken over a quick drive through, takes a lot of conscious effort. It was hard for me back in 2013, and I had to make it a new year's resolution in 2014. Fortunately, despite muddling through with little idea what I was doing to start with, and goodness knows how many failures, I've managed to make stairs, chicken and veg a habit, as well as finding a surprising passion for exercise - it's more than just running, after all! Kickboxing and African dance are my favourites!

   But making these conscious changes is very difficult, and while making small changes and building up is always best, it never feels enough on January 1st. So people resolve to exercise for an hour a day, every day, and if you're not used to exercise, that is simply unrealistic and, for most, doomed to fail. And of course going from nothing to quite a lot is generally difficult. It's easy to find the motivation on day 1 because it's new and you've not hit a bump in the road yet, but it's also easy to fly off the wagon when you do on day 6, and once you're off, it's so hard to get back on. The trick here is to not over-think it. But the other trick is to work up to it all slowly and gradually.

   If you're not an active person, the best place to start with getting fit is to simply go for a walk for 20 minutes a day. It's low-impact so it's easy to find the energy, so you can do it whenever you have time, morning, lunch or evening. It also gets you outside and you'd be surprised how good the fresh air can feel - and odds are that you'll end up walking more than 20 minutes because of it. And once you're comfortable being outside, you may find yourself keen to pick up the pace and go for a run, and once you've warmed up to that, you may well want to try something completely different.
   But exercise is easy in this regard - you only do it once or twice a day, for 20-40 minutes at a time. Once you've done it that day, you've done it. The harder part is making sure you're putting the right things into your body, because that lasts all day.

   There are so many people saying you need this, that and the other in order to boost your health or to lose weight, and I've bought into many of them. It's all too easy to be suckered in, and it took me a long time to figure out what it is I really need, and it wasn't CLA, thermogens or silly things like that that claim to help you lose weight (and while you may well lose weight while using them, it's probably because you were exercising harder because you wanted to help them to work). No, what I really needed was simply a good dose of vitamins and minerals, Omega-3 and Co-Enzyme Q10.
   Omega-3 isn't necessarily hard to come by in food, but is found mostly in foods like oily fish which many people don't like or aren't willing to eat - in which case the simple answer is an Omega-3 capsule. You get a daily dose of healthy and necessary dietary fats without having salmon for dinner every day. Don't be afraid of the word 'fat', by the way. In terms of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, fibre, etc), dietary fat is so important, and good levels of healthy fats such as Omega-3 are proven to aid weightloss as well as helping your body to function correctly. Some vitamins and minerals, like Vitamin A, D, E and K, are only fat-soluable, meaning that, unless you've consumed dietary fat with a sources of Vitamin K, be it an egg or a multi-vit, your body simply won't absorb it.
   Co-Enzyme Q10 is essential in energy production, and while it is made in the body, if you're active - either a frequent exerciser or simply looking to start getting fitter - you may become deficient and that can impede your body's functionality. And I'm not just talking about feeling low on energy, I mean it will perform, digest, absorb, protect and so on at a lower rate. So adding a Co-Enzyme Q10 to your health regime will really help get you started with exercise because your body will be more up to the challenge.

   Of course, if you're just starting to get your eating in check, it's really difficult to ensure you're getting all of these vitamins, minerals, fats and so on in your food. Hell, my eating is really clean but even I struggle to get all of the essentials from food alone. The easiest course of action in this case is taking supplemental tablets and capsules with breakfast or lunch and getting through the day with extra strength, energy and a properly-functioning body while you mentally wrestle over whether or not you should have that chocolate cake in the break room. It's certainly the best start you can give to your health and fitness lifestyle.

   It's a bit of a nuisance keeping stock of these kinds of things, though. Capsules come in all different size bottles, and some are two-a-day and it's easy to run out of multivitamins while having plenty of Omega-3, or vice versa. But VITL, which I started using this January, basically solves this issue.
   VITL combine a powerful multi-vitamin, Omega-3, Co-Enzyme Q10 and additional super greens in an easy daily dosage, delivered every month to your door so you'll never run out nor have to remember to top up. The four caplets are sealed in a foil strip, each marked daily, making them easy to keep track of and easy to take to work or pack in your lunch box, giving you no excuse to forget. It's the healthiest, cleanest subscription box you can get - no additional nonsense, no snacks, just the bare essentials you need to kick your body into the best healthy start it can get. Plus it's cheaper to pay the £35 fee than it is to buy all four from Holland & Barrett every month, not to mention that super green capsules are hard to come by; you're more likely to buy the ingredients in individual doses which certainly adds up even more!

   But you can try it free for 2 weeks if you use the code VITLKIM at checkout!
The code is valid until the end of February 2016, and then you can see for yourself what I'm talking about!

   Often with things like this, they state that you'll 'feel a difference' and, in truth, you rarely do. But the quality of these caplets, as well as the fact that I know I'm getting everything I need every single day, mean that you will feel a difference. After a week I was feeling more cheerful and my energy wasn't as erratic. Similarly, when Mother Nature struck, I handled it much better than usual! This was probably the biggest upside, and while moods - especially then - can change hourly, my mood remained relatively consistent (barring one bad day when everything kept going wrong, but we all have our bad days!)

   So restart your healthy resolutions this February with the bare essentials. Your body truly will thank you, and you'll feel happier just for the fact that you have made one easy but important change, with very, very little effort. Once you start to feel the benefits, you may well also find yourself motivated to try exercising again - and remember: don't take that too seriously. Put it on too high a pedestal and you'll fall a lot further when you hit a small bump. And try to find a kind of exercise you enjoy. Dance is the best, and if you feel silly doing Zumba or 'sexy' dances, African dance is simply wild and fun with no emphasis on femininity. Not to mention the most effective dance cardio I've ever done.

Disclaimer: I was sent this product to review by the brand itself. The quantity and precise products sent were their choice, not my own. All opinions and images are my own, and all appropriate research has been done by myself from a range of sources rather than relying entirely on the product's website, especially where health products are concerned. I do not accept a product to review if I do not believe it is safe or worth my own time, regardless of any kind of reimbursement. I trial the products for an appropriate amount of time before writing reviews to check for wear-and-tear on physical items and side effects from edible (be it supplements or food). If I have negative points to voice, I will voice them, and I never, ever accept product reviews or reimbursement on the promise of a positive review. My reviews are and will only ever be honest.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Valentine Craft Compilation

   Valentine's Day is almost upon us - just 2 and a half weeks away - so I decided to consolidate some of my favourite Valentine tutorials into one post! I am working on new ones, but my mind always shifts to baking for events like these and, given that I'm trying to shed the final few pounds and Seeg has also become more weight-conscious, baking isn't such a good idea. Especially when I make the same cake every time, I just present it differently, it means a lot of extra sugar from frosting, sprinkles and so on! It's not worth it unless I can come up with something original, and as for general crafts, I spend almost all of my free time working on my book so I never leave time for things like that. There are crafts I've had in mind for a year now that I've not found the time to try!
   So, for now, we'll make do and I'll ensure I have new ones up for next year. Promise!

   Eros' Elixir Valentine smoothie. This Valentine smoothie is so clean and healthy, and provides a good dose of vitamin B12! It's a wonderfully clean and healthy treat to start the morning!

   Valentine locket cookies. These are my favourite! Of all the Valentine tutorials I've done, this takes the biscuit. Sugar cookies, isomalt 'windows', vanilla filigree and pink/purple mini smarties painstakingly separated from the other colours. They're not that tricky to make or assemble, you just have to pay attention when using the isomalt. These Valentine cookies could contain anything - sweets, chocolate, fruit, sprinkles, perhaps even a little love note!

   Patchwork Valentine sugar cookies. These Valentine cookies are really cute and the patchwork effect is so easily created with a ravioli cutter! Make the cookie dough, separate it into 3 balls and colour each individually, then roll them out, use a ravioli cutter/roller to cut squares of dough, layer them up and then cut out the hearts. Easy!

   Chocolate heart cake bites - these make a wonderful little Valentine dessert. Miniature heart cakes cut using cookie cutters, topped with messy chocolate frosting and chocolate hearts decorated with transfer paper - and this led me to making a little tutorial on how to use chocolate transfer sheets. It's not as hard as it might seem, you just have to take care while doing it. In short: easy, effective, delicious.

   Fabric Origami hearts. This unique tutorial provides you with wonderful handmade Valentine decorations! Using the same folding techniques as origami hearts and the heat and pressure of an iron, you can do the same with fabric! As the image might suggest, this is a very old post, but I've not seen it repeated anywhere else, so that's quite nice!

Check out my Tutorials page and
Valentine Pinterest board for more inspiration!

Follow Kim's board Valentine on Pinterest.

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