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Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Powergloves 2.0 by Powerhoop Review

   In 2013 I wrote a review about Powergloves - weighted gloves by Powerhoop with the most feminine look on the market. I loved them and really used them to death as they really gave my workouts a boost. I'd bought them rather than any other brand simply because pretty much all of the others out there looked really bulky and uncomfortable, like they were designed for men, and that they'd fall off, irritate me or just took themselves too seriously. No matter how hard I tried, however, I couldn't find any designed specifically for women, and while Powergloves are unisex, they at least look much less serious and far more managable, even if their weights are no different to any others.
   But, as I said, I used them to death, and they needed replacing in time which I did with no hesitation.
   As recently as a month ago, however, Powerhoop released a new model which got me quite excited (you all know what I'm like). They fortunately kept their comfortable and simple shape, but, unlike the old models which were colour-coded depending on their weight, these only come in black. "That's it? Has the weight not changed?" You may well ask, but the best part of this model - other than being black, which, lets face it, is always a wardrobe staple whether it be skirt, shirt or weighted glove - come only in 'one size'. Simply put: their weights are interchangable. Rather than buying three pairs in different weights, you buy one pair and change the weight yourself when you're ready to!

   The gloves contain sand bags - grey 250g and black 350g - that can be used individually or together in the same glove to weigh a total of 600g, meaning you can increase the weight gradually. The sand bags slot into the back of the glove from the inside, and while the insert slot may look unfinished, there are several practical benefits: no unnecessary materials have been used to fasten it shut as, once the glove has been fastened to your hand, the sand bags simply will not fall out because your hand is entirely blocking the way. Believe me, I've put these gloves under vigorous testing over the past month! It also avoids adding anything even as simple as Velcro that may only add irritation while in use, or some other kind of discomfort.

   These gloves can be used to give your cardio workouts a boost, or add a little bit more weight to resistance routines without having to buy a new set of dumbbells just for an extra 0.5kg (1lb). They're also amazing for kickboxing in particular as you can keep your hands in a fist and not have to worry about potentially dropping (or, heh, throwing) any dumbbells if your fist should loosen a little, and that adds extra resistance in particular to your hooks and uppercuts. You can also use them alongside a Powerhoop (each set of Powergloves have a 10% discount on any Powerhoop) should you have one and get a little bit of added resistance to your hooping routine - a workout I suggest you try if you haven't already, as it's certainly something unique.

   There is a downside to the gloves, however, and that's that the secondary weight is a little odd. The old gloves started at 250g, then went up to 500g and then to 1kg. To go up to 350g as these gloves do, however, increasing by just 100g is a little strange and I'd have expected to have been given a 250g and 500g sandbag. However, while Powergloves may not advise it as the gloves can surely only take a certain capacity, you could always make your own 500g sand bag to insert inside if it bothered you enough.

   That point aside, however, I can say the pros massively outweigh that single con, and I can highly recommend these gloves. As I've said several times already, they're very comfortable, and that counts for a lot when you're exercising. They look better than most gloves, too, and, above all else, they're affordable. I massively suggest buying them if you haven't already. I've tested them at all weights, but I'm using them at their max at the moment as I was using the blue 500g version of the old model before I replaced them with these.
   You can find them on the Powerhoop website and buy the gloves there or head over to Amazon, both stocked for just under £20, and, as I've already suggested, they can be used in most workouts.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Why Am I, Personally, So Passionate About Fitness?

   I received a tweet a few days ago asking me about why I'm so passionate about fitness, and it really made me think. While a passion for fitness was something that grew gradually for me, it sort of exploded rather abruptly on the blog, and a sudden transition came over it which I've only just addressed.
   But beyond that, I also thought more closely about just why I am so passionate about fitness.

Why am I so passionate about it?
   There are many driving factors.
   Initially, it was just because I wanted to get in shape. I'd wanted to lose weight for years but never had the guts or motivation to do it. Funnily enough, it was only when I started to love my body with Seeg's help that I actually found myself motivated to do something about it. I know how backwards that sounds. "I love myself, therefore I will change myself." But it was actually more a case of not shying away from the mirror anymore. I learned to look at myself and recognise myself without freaking out and focusing only on what I didn't like. Finally discovering what I truly looked like made me realise what needed to be changed, and that I could.
   I started by using the Wii Fit from Nintendo. Seeg bought it for me and I didn't want his money to go to waste because it was the first birthday gift he ever bought me, so I used it all the time. Using a games console also appealed to me a lot, too, so that did help, but once I felt I'd outgrown it, I moved on. I made sure to pick out things I thought would be fun, so I just used dance DVDs from 10 Minute Solutions for a few months and grew to really enjoy them. I might still freestyle like Mr Bean, but I can bust out some real moves when I want to. But eventually I stopped losing as much weight and wanted to try something new. I saw hula hooping in the back of a Women's Fitness magazine and thought it looked like fun. It was little different from dancing, really, and I bought into the idea that it could target your waist. While it targeted the muscles around my waist, it didn't cause me to lose any fat from it, but the activity was enough for me to be brave enough to try other things. The next month I tried the 30 Day Shred, which was quite a leap, and after completing it and surprising myself, I never shied away from the tougher stuff - though I continued searching for the fun stuff all the same.
   And I saw results. Once you see results it can become an addiction because you realise you can change your body all by yourself, you don't need a gym or a magic pill, it can simply be done at home, and that's an empowering realisation, and one that also keeps you going.
   I also saw progress. I don't mean weight loss this time, I mean skill. You gradually find that the weights you struggled with initially are too light and you need to buy or use a heavier pair. You find you can go deeper into yoga poses than you used to, that your balance has improved and you feel brave enough to not only try new moves but execute them better than expected on your first go. You find yourself jumping higher, dancing better, twisting further and running longer. And that's amazing, because your body can do so much, you just need to push it to see how much.
   Then there's the other stuff. My confidence grew - hell, I know what confidence feels like now! It's never something I've had. I can step out of the shower and not feel like I have to hide behind a towel right away. I can walk taller and lift my chin because I know I'm more powerful than others might think by looking at me, and I absolutely love it. I can handle myself, and I know what I'm capable of, which is never something I've been aware of.
   I'm healthier, and I don't mean munching on veggies rather than chocolate. I've not given up chocolate or cakes or biscuits or anything like that, and I don't eat any more veggies than I used to. I mean that I simply don't get ill as often. Headaches are few and far between even after a tough workout. Colds are phantoms - I'll sneeze twice and that will be it, while everyone else around me is coughing and sneezing for days. My skin has cleared up. I was never necessarily prone to spots, but my skin glows more now and feels smoother and clearer.
   I eat healthily without thinking about it. Yes, I did just say I never gave up chocolate, cakes or biscuits, and that remains 100% true, but I don't eat anywhere near as much of it anymore because I'm simply not in the mood for it. It's not me saying "no I'd better not" it's just "meh, what else is there?" I also started buying Nakd bars, Eat Natural bars, drinking water and green tea and ordering more chicken, fish and salads in restaurants instead of lots of red meats, all without even thinking about it. I never set out to get healthy, just to lose weight, but with all the exercise and becoming aware of my body, I became aware of other things on other levels and just adopted new and better habits all without trying. It happened naturally.
   I'm stronger and more flexible. I don't just mean tying myself into knots, it's simpler than that. I've not grown in height - that can't be changed - but I can reach things on higher shelves because the muscles in my shoulders and waist are longer and stronger than they used to be, offering greater flexibility and greater reach, which I didn't expect. I can get higher and lower than I used to be able to.
   I have more energy even right after a 75 minute workout, which is astounding. Yes, my body aches, but there's little better than the satisfying post-workout exhaustion, and yet I still feel like I could do more. I don't because doing too much would negate the workout and pretty much kill me, but I'm not left suffering through the rest of the day or the next because of it. My body handles energy much more efficiently, it knows what I need and it knows when I need it. My metabolism has also increased in order to feed the energy demand for both the workout and the general increase of lean muscle in my body.
   My posture has improved. I can sit taller more naturally, I walk more confidently and I have a more powerful presence, which is amazing for someone who always used to hide in the corner of the room, back of the class or in a big hoody. There's also random things. I may not have been able to steer that horse, but my posture was almost perfect throughout, despite it being my first lesson.
   There is also, of course, the shape of my body. My bum is bigger, my boobs are smaller, my arms and legs are slimmer and my waist is drawn in. I am in much better proportion than I used to be - top heavy with nothing at the back. Now I'm almost balanced, and I love it. I never knew that a bum could be grown, but as your bum is just muscle it's possible for anyone to tone it up, improve its shape and its size. Women don't gain muscle anywhere near as quickly or easily as men so it's a long, tough job, but it can be done, and I've seen results from my hard work.
   Above all else, I did it all myself. No one twisted me into yoga poses, no one lifted the weights for me, no one learned the dance moves for me. I did it, and the results I've gotten are through my own hard work. Yes, I certainly owe thanks to the creators and instructors of the DVDs and websites I've sourced my workouts from, but I still completed them by myself. I did every movement, I improved my own strength, I completed the sets and circuits and I progressed past them.

What about blogging? Why do I go on about it so much?
   There are a lot of fitness blogs out there, that is true. Some of them are more exercise-based, others are more food-based and some are a perfect balance of the two, and they will all give you their own reasons for being so passionate about it as to be able to write and frequently update a whole blog and website about it.
   For me, it's all quite personal. I review DVDs and workouts for the benefit of others who might want to try it, answering questions that I had before beginning but went unanswered until I tried it for myself. But as for the rest of it - choosing the specific workouts and doing them - it's all for me. Actually blogging about them is just a way of publicly committing to them for the month, and while I'm not deluded enough to believe for even a moment that anyone else cares anywhere near as much as I do about them, having publicly admitted to them makes it much harder to quit, and that pushes me on. Anything that helps, right?
   I try to pick out unique workouts because I know I'll be blogging about them and I feel it makes good content, but the driving reason and why I turn down some workouts and leap eagerly onto others is simply that I don't like the generic stuff - I hate running, I can't cycle and I can't swim. Picking out unique and exciting things helps to keep things fresh and keep myself excited, and changing them every month keeps the weightloss steady and consistent, avoiding plateaus. I also don't believe you need to go to a gym to get ripped or buy expensive home equipment, and my blog is part of my way of proving myself right.
   Yes, I will admit that weights are kind of generic for fitness, but I also admit that I do rather enjoy it anyway. It's empowering and I like to see the progression of using gradually heavier weights. They're safe for women to use, too. Many women don't touch weights because they think they'll get bulky, but it's a simple biological fact that women's bodies are different from men's and don't respond to weight and resistance training in the same way. Men get bulky, women get lean and more shapely. For women to bulk out they have to pretty much live in the weight room. Building up lean (developed and useful) muscle increases the energy demand on the body for even simple things like vaccuuming and walking, and subsequently increases the demand in your exercise, too. It helps to keep fat off now and in the future.

   So these are the reasons I'm so passionate about fitness, and I promise you that if you're just beginning and you stick with it, you will find all of these factors, too. Your body is not just a vehicle that you can neglect and replace. Your body is you, and if you neglect it there can be many negative effects you won't expect that impact your whole life, just as looking after it can have many positive effects you won't expect. My body has become more efficient in pretty much everything now even though I don't feel I made any big change. I just set aside an hour a day, 5 days a week to exercise using an activity I enjoy, and that's prevented it from feeling like a chore, which in turn has helped me to maintain the habit. The results have given me a new body, both visually and in terms of strength, and even my concentration, determination and motivation in other areas has improved. At risk of sounding like a pretentious ass or a hippy, my passion for fitness has resonated into other corners of my life I never expected it to, and I know for a fact that I have only done myself good.
   Some of you may find my posts about exercise boring, and I am sorry for that. I appreciate you sticking with my blog through these posts, but there is a simple fact that if you don't like them, you don't have to read them. If you're only here for the odd crafting post, just follow my crafting pinterest board, and along with crafting repins, you'll also see my own crafting posts go up without the spam of fitness.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Blog Transition - You Probably Noticed.

   I think I've lost a lot of my original readers. This blog used to be heavily craft-based with the odd personal post thrown in, and I think people enjoyed that - I certainly did - but then, when I made my new year's resolution in 2014, I started to blog about fitness and exercise a lot as a way of publicly committing to my change. I didn't necessarily enjoy exercise back then, but it was a good way to find new things to do, and it gradually grew into a passion (or obsession, Seeg would say, and I suppose I can't say he's wrong). But this meant that my mind turned to that more than to other things, and joined with running my little shop, preparing for my art exhibit this summer and writing my book, there wasn't much time left for crafting. Crafting was something I did in my free time, and it's not felt like there's been much of that for a while. When there is I try to use it constructively, and with my mind turning so often towards my passion for exercise and fitness, it's not turning so much towards crafts.

   I've been trying to bring crafting back to the blog, but I've never really had many ideas. I see great things on Pinterest, but I don't want to copy them because they're not my ideas. If I came up with it first but then see it somewhere else, I might go ahead and do it anyway because I may have had an alternative method, but if I see it somewhere else first then I won't. I don't mind people featuring my crafts, but copying them and claiming them as their own I just can't stand, so I won't do that to anyone else, either. And I'm the kind of person that uses things like crafting for recognition - yes, I admit it. If I can't get an "oh, wow, that's so clever!" from someone, I generally won't do it, so I never try my hand at casual crafting. If I can't put it on my blog as unique content or sell it in my little jewellery shop, I don't see the point. Gifts are about the only times that that stops being the case, but even then I try to come up with something original and half the time they end up going on my blog anyway.

   It does make me sad, but I don't believe that I should limit my passions to keep a cohesive blog. A Blackbird's Epiphany is my space, and all my old posts are still here, buried beneath my new content. I haven't deleted anything to make my blog seem like a fresh and new fitness-exclusive blog, because that's not how the blog has progressed, and it's not how I've progressed. It's likely that it will change again in the future to focus on some other unforseen passion - or perhaps a passion I already have but have little to say about it.
   I do still make crafting posts, and I do have a few projects in mind I want to try, it's just a case of finding the money for it. I love baking, too, so whether I'm obsessed with exercise or not doesn't mean I'm going to suddenly give that up. Yes, I bake much less often because I usually end up eating the cakes as soon as they come out of the oven, and that's not good any day of the week, but also because they would just be simple cakes, nothing special and nothing worth putting on the blog. I never bother at all anymore unless I have a good idea, only then do I make the cake. If, however, it's someone's birthday, I still try to come up with something clever to make it more special. The orchid cake I made for my mum's birthday wasn't made for the blog, it was made for her. The crafting post was an after-thought once I'd already started it and I went back and made a couple of extra orchids to get the first few progress pictures.

   What I'm saying is that while this blog has changed, and will continue to change, I do have the same passions I've always had. I've just got one more now, and it's one I feel I have a lot to say about. It doesn't mean it's my biggest passion, however. My absolute biggest passion is my writing, and you'll notice I rarely mention it - and I've never mentioned any titles, character names, plots or anything because I'm paranoid about theft. So my biggest passion is one that's rarely mentioned on here. Rather than talk about it I'd rather work on it, keep it a secret and hope I can get somewhere with it without someone else stealing my idea and getting there first. Being a successful fantasy author is still the only thing I truly want to do with my life, and while getting into a career in fitness has crossed my mind once in a while, I'm not at all convinced I could maintain the enthusiasm long enough for it to last.

   I suppose I've written this post as a sort of apology to my old readers who will never see this, and as a means of explaining the transition about 15 months too late. Still, I love my blog as it is and the only thing I'd change is the lack of crafting posts. I've already started working on bringing back my old Etsy Finds posts, and I do still have some ideas for crafts, it's just a matter of getting around to them. I feel like I've made a presence for myself with my fitness posts, though, and that's a great feeling. They've been featured in a number of places and I've worked with some amazing brands, too, and it's been a lot of fun so far.
   If you are still sticking with me, I truly appreciate your time, but if you're only here for the odd crafting post, you could always just follow my crafting pinterest board. As well as awesome crafts repinned from elsewhere, all of my own crafting tutorials are added there right away, so you won't miss them.

   But I still write. I still play games. I still live for fantasy. I still craft. I still eat cakes and chocolate. I still binge-watch Star Trek. I just like to lift some weights, throw out a few roundhouse kicks and twist myself into a Lord of the Fishes, too.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Etsy Finds

Spring is around the corner and I'm starting to get in the mood! I'm still for the neutral tones of winter, but I can't help feeling more jovial and bouncy when spring starts to roll around. So it was inevitable as I put together these picks from my ancient Etsy favourites that I would be drawn to such pieces. Their soft colours popped out at me, but their light-hearted nature secured their place ^^

Friday, 20 March 2015

The Clangers Explain The Eclipse

Apparently they're making a new series of this old 1970's kid's show. It's wrong how excited I am about it. I was born in 1991, I didn't grow up with this, but I've got the DVDs because how can you not love the Clangers?! 

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