Monday, 19 February 2018

BarreAmped Bounce - 2 Weeks Later

   I've been using BarreAmped Bounce for two weeks, and it is pretty much as expected. Well, almost. The barre movements are very familiar, but in no way easy - seriously, when does that stuff ever not burn? But the inclusion of the trampoline feels like a gimmick the whole time through. It does provide an unstable platform which can challenge your balance in relevĂ©, but even then, since you'd probably be holding on to a bar even on firm ground, the trampoline makes little difference. The cardio intervals are also immensely tame and feel more like a breather - which is just the opposite of what a cardio interval is supposed to be.

   I have to admit, I'm a little disappointed. I did intend for this to be a low-impact month after 9 weeks of Killer Body, but I had hoped for a little bit more. I've had to draw on personal knowledge of cardio and the body to get the most out of the jumps, and had to look at the trampoline logically to apply it.
   Jumping is great cardio because of the effort you have to exert to launch yourself off the ground. The trampoline, being elastic, removes a great deal of that effort. So, naturally, you have to apply effort in other ways on the trampoline if you want to get anything for your time.
   Now, I suck at tuck jumps, which Jillian Michaels loves to force on you, but on the trampoline I get more height and a softer ground to land upon, giving me a little bit of forgiveness if I mess up. So in that case, I turn normal jumps into high knees, and anything more than normal jumps into tuck jumps or rock stars and get quads and hamstrings more involved, safe in the knowledge that I've got the height to really lift my legs as high as I can. This hasn't returned the explosiveness of a tuck jump on hard ground, but it's a hell of a lot more than just bouncing up and down.
   Only when I started doing this kind of thing did the cardio intervals actually have any impact on my heart rate, and even that was light.

   The barre sequences are quite similar to those on her original BarreAmped DVD, which is a little disappointing and only really serves to highlight the gimmickiness of the whole thing all the more. But those movements were never easy and at least I can rest assured knowing that I'm not completely wasting my time.
   In light of this, I'm going to do some research and write an article about rebounders and trampoline workouts, because I'm a strong believer in 'it's how you use it', and I know they can be effective. I just don't think this is it.

   I will continue to use this DVD for the next two weeks, as planned, but unless I have a personal revelation - which shouldn't be the case, since the DVD should be providing all the instruction I need - I don't see its effectiveness changing.
   But, I suppose, at the end of the day, it certainly still is a BarreAmped DVD, it fits well beneath the brand, and if I really wanted cardio and barre combined I'd be using her really quite effective BarreAmped Cardio Fat Burn DVD instead, which I used and reviewed last year.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Friday Favourites

What a slow week. It's been nice, actually. Orders slowed when Valentine's Day came about, which meant I had more time for Seeg and for my writing, and I've also had the chance to restock on some of my staple products like my korok necklace and fox necklace, and make a start on a custom order that I didn't think I'd get around to for another week. I even started putting together my wedding invitations!
So it's been a slow, calm week, and while that also means that money has dropped, I have, at least, been able to breathe.
I had a good Valentine's Day, too. I did the below Happy Heart Vinyasa session, we watched Mulan with Wei Zhao (very good), shared some Love Brownies, and generally had a lovely day. We never do anything grand, but a movie goes without saying, and, honestly, I always find that that simple together time at home is enough. That's not to say I don't make gestures, like preparing a special breakfast, adding a Valentine twist to simple meals to make them into something new while remaining quick, easy and healthy, and, of course, a card, and he did also get me flowers ♥

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Killer Body DVD Review

Price: £10
Length: 3x 30 minute workouts
Workouts: Upper Body, Core, Lower Body
Suitable for: Everyone
Overall Rating:   ★★★★★
Enjoyment:  ★★★☆☆   Difficulty:  ★★★★☆   Results:  ★★★★★
Based on 8 weeks of use.
   So I've used this DVD three times now and as far back as 2015, and it's taken me until now to write a review. That's not because it's bad - it's actually because it's such an incredibly brilliant DVD that I use it at those severe times of the year, like Christmas, and don't have the time to write a review. But I finally got around to it, and that's a very good thing, because this is one of my absolute favourite Jillian Michaels DVDs. There's so much room for growth, so many unique moves, and with a workout for the upper body, another for the lower body, and another just for the core, it's easy to use it every single day.
   Well, not for me, perhaps, because I suffer migraines and frequent high-impact workouts both aggravate them and bring them on, but for normal people who aren't plagued by such things! But when I assign it as a month's workout, I will always use it on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and rest on the others. It works best for me and seems to be my migraine boundary.
   If you're looking for information about the workout as well as my honest opinion, read on!

   'Killer Body' is a big promise, but, as usual, Jillian Michaels is in a position to make them, and this DVD is the means to achieve it. With three workouts combining weights with compound moves while focusing in on upper body, lower body and core, it's not for the faint-hearted - but if you want a 'killer body', you have to be ready to push.
   Compound moves are more effective at burning fat that isolated weights or cardio alone, and take less time to do, which means that you can get an amazing workout into just 30 minutes and visible results after a few weeks of use. And while weights are involved in the core and lower body workouts, if the focus isn't on the upper body, you have permission to go lighter.
   With the DVD being broken into different areas of the body, it can be used every day as long as you don't use the same workout on consecutive days - but, as always, the workout starts the change, and the rest and recovery makes it. Aim for at least one rest day a week, or one total rest day and one active recovery day with an activity such as yoga to help stretch and repair the muscles.

   The workout requires simple kit: hand weights and a mat. Definitely make sure you have a variety of different weights, however. Every movement is different and smaller muscle groups are not necessarily as strong as larger, and muscle groups you rarely use or target will of course be weaker. Personally, I used everything from 1.5kg (3lbs) to 4kg (9lbs), and at one point doubled up to hold a 4kg and 1kg in each hand because my heaviest wasn't quite enough. I do love a good deadlift.

Difficulty & Structure
   Each workout consists of four circuits, each run through twice and then followed by a 1-minute cardio interval before moving on to the next, and each move is provided with beginner and advanced modifications. The best way to approach it, as with any workout, is to try the original movement rather than going straight for the beginner mod, and, if you can, try a few reps of the advanced. It doesn't matter if you can't finish the set with advanced moves, or the intermediate if you're still personally at the beginner level, but trying is how you will grow.
   As for which weights to use, it's best to have a variety on hand because for some moves you'll want to go lighter, and others heavier. Having just one set of weights will mean some moves are too challenging to complete, while others you may breeze through too easily. If you're unsure what to use for each one, use your judgement, and consider how you feel. Generally the correct weight is one that is light enough for you to complete the set with good form, but just heavy enough that you struggle for the final 2-3 reps. As soon as you stop struggling, it's time to up the weight - and congratulate yourself!

Upper Body
   The upper body workout isn't too deadly, and while the focus is on the arms, back and chest, your legs do, of course, get involved in order to burn more calories and fat. But te whole workout is still pretty well-balanced and no particular circuit is any harder or easier than the last. Instead, every other move is a challenge which gives you plenty of room to grow. A variety of weights are good to have on hand - heavier is better, as your focus is upper body, but for some moves you will simply need to drop down to something lighter. Standing chest flyes are always murder, so I typically use lighter weights than I would for lying chest flyes.

   The core workout is, to my mind, the most manageable of the three, but it is by no means easy. Weights aren't used as often in this workout - about 4 times, I think - instead it's mostly body weight, which means pushing yourself is more about depth and height than it is about the number on the dumbbell.
   Crunches are involved, of course, but Jillian Michaels knows the body well, and knows that there are a myriad of ways to hit the core, oblique, internal and external, back and so on, so don't expect to spend much time lying down.
   I often follow this workout with some kickboxing, so that does suggest that it is the kindest when it comes to cardiovascular activity.

Lower Body
   Lower body is easily the hardest workout on the disc, but with your lower body muscles being so much bigger than your core or upper body, there's a lot more room to burn calories and fat in this section than the others, and while core and arms do get a look-in, the focus is definitely on the legs.
   The first two circuits are the worst, but you should have more energy at the start, so you can get through them, especially knowing that the majority of movements in circuit three and four are slower and more controlled, making it easier on your heart rate. But that's also not to say that this is easy, either. It's all a challenge, but if, like me, you hate cardio, the second half is almost enjoyable. That said, I love a good lower body workout!
   The weights used in this one are the most varied. It's not upper body day, so you don't really need heavy weights, but at the same time, even my heaviest weights aren't enough for deadlifts anymore, to the point that I resorted to holding two weights in each hand for it. But that's also my own experience; everyone's strength is different, and, as I said, I love leg day!

   This has been my go-to workout for the Christmas season for both 2015 and 2017, while in 2016 I followed the same structure with Jillian Michaels' Killer Buns & Thighs and Killer Arms & Back DVDs, and it has never failed me. It's hard work, but it's varied enough to be enjoyable - in fact, while I usually use it for 6 weeks over Christmas, this year I used it for 9 weeks, from December 4th (I always start new workouts on a Monday) to February 3rd (and end them on a Saturday), and I didn't get bored at all!

Monday, 12 February 2018

Bananas - You Will Never Throw Them Away Again

   Bananas. I've learned to love them. But what I can't get behind is their shelf life - ie, they don't have one. I would buy ready-to-eat bananas on the Monday and, by Thursday, they'd be brown, bruised and generally unpleasant. And because I'm against food waste and eating needlessly, I would just suck it up and eat them as they are rather than throw them out or make banana bread.
   So, when I found a trick to help bananas keep their freshness, I had to try it. And when it worked, I had to share it - which I did in my recipe post for banana, maca and blueberry pancakes. But I'm mentioning it again, and in greater detail, because bananas are one of the most wasted foods in the country, all because of that shelf life.

   First of all, why do bananas go bad so quickly? Well, it's the same reason that fruits kept in close contact (ie the same bowl) as bananas ripen faster, and it's simple science. When picked, banana stems are broken. This contrasts to other fruits whose stems aren't truly part of the fruit. But, in the banana's case, the stem is part of the banana skin. When harvested, the stem is broken, and this exposure of the inside of the stem and skin to the air encourages the production and release of ethene (formerly ethylene) gas. This gas is a hormone that acts upon the fruit and encourages ripening by breaking down cell walls, converting starches to sugars and removing acids. This gas isn't limited to touching only the banana but the other fruits around it, which means they ripen with the banana.
   So, the simplest way to prevent this is to cover the broken stem and stop the gas from escaping. And chilling the bananas - like all fruit and veg - also slows the maturity. The combination of the two is almost fruit sorcery.

   There are two ways to wrap the top: clingfilm, or plastic or NatureFlex and elastic bands, both of which can be reused if done carefully - the clingfilm, when wrapped neatly, can be used again on the next bunch of bananas, and the plastic and elastic bands even more so.

   The trick is to separate the bananas if you buy a bunch. Break them all apart and wrap the stems individually. It's true it will use more plastic, but, as I said, it can be re-used, and it will be both easier and more effective than trying to wrap the top of the bunch as a whole, and each banana will actually be subjected to even less gas.
   Next, store them in the fridge. I promise they will keep for at least a week. I always do my shopping on a Monday afternoon, but I have bananas after my workout, which means I still need one for the following Monday morning. Which means I rely on this method to keep bananas fresh for 8 days.

Day 1

   Here is a picture of my bananas, purchased Monday afternoon. As you can see, they are not green bananas, they are yellow and ready to eat. I separated them, wrapped the stems, and then put them in the fridge.

Day 8

   Here is a picture of my last banana, which I had on the following Monday morning. It looks gross, right? The skin has gone completely brown, and it's not quite as firm as it was when I bought it. But only a little. And the stalk is still yellow.

   And here is a picture of that last and unpleasant looking banana, peeled. It is perfect. The skin had turned brown, but that was all, and the softness was in fact just from the skin itself, which you do not eat. The banana itself was firm, sweet and unmarked. As were all the others I'd had through the week, and every time I've used this method over the last month.

   Now, if you do have some overripe bananas, I have some suggestions for you, and they aren't banana bread.
   My favourite thing to do with overripe bananas is make banana pancakes - but in this case, they're made with only a banana and an egg. Sounds crazy, but it works. They're not fluffy like usual pancakes - they never could be without flour - they're more like the middle part of French toast. But the reason this is my preferred use is fourfold:
1. You're not adding extra ingredients like flour, butter, sugar and so on. Instead, it's just an egg, which is a whole food.
2. That egg actually enhances the nutrition of the banana, providing both healthy fat and protein, while the banana provides carbs and fibre. That makes the whole thing much more well-rounded and nutritious than just a banana.
3. You don't end up with something that will make multiple servings, making it ideal if you have fussy eaters under your roof or know no one else would be interested in eating it.
4. It's also very easy to improve - add other fruit, spices, powdered superfoods and so on to get even more out of them.

   If this isn't for you, there are other things you can do with overripe bananas that aren't banana bread. The trick is to put the banana into a position where its texture and firmness don't count for anything. Such as:
1. Breakfast muffins - or any baking, really, including any regular pancake recipe. Mash or puree and add to the mix - it's a wonderful replacement for sugar.
2. Banana sauce - puree with some milk and you've got some nutritious banana sauce for your muffins or ice cream.
3. Smoothies - fairly obvious, but they increase the yield of a smoothie without adding an overpowering sweetness or flavour, as bananas are generally quite mild. The banana also counts towards your five a day along with any other fruits, superfood mixes or greens you add.
4. Canvas cake - mash or puree the banana and add it to the mixture once you've added your water and egg white. Top it with plain yoghurt and a handful of nuts for a banana nut canvas cake that also counts as one of your five a day.
5. Porridge! Replace your sugar, honey or sweetener and add more volume, and one of your five a day.

   There. As far as I'm concerned, this post officially rules out the need to throw out bananas ever again.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Friday Favourites

I've not been having a great time lately. I've been moody, and I got two book rejections in quick succession which has knocked my confidence. I'm still going, though, because I know my new book is worth it, and there are countless reasons beyond it just being bad that can get it rejected - timing being a huge factor. I just have to keep plugging away. I only need one 'yes'.
But I've not been as cheerful and I feel a migraine looming.

And the fact that it's almost Valentine's Day isn't much to cheer me up as Seeg and I don't really do anything with it, as I said in a recent post, which I am fine with, but when it starts to roll around, the single teenager in me starts rearing her pudgy head and I can get a little upset. But I learned long ago that he is not a mind reader, so though  I do lay down hints that don't get picked up, I usually end up making some minor gestures myself, such as suggesting we watch a movie and getting something both yummy and festive to eat with it (yes, movie always equals food in this house). So, this year, I'm proposing Mulan with Wei Zhao, and I've bought a lovely little 4-brownie box from Love Brownies - double chocolate and caramel fudge for him, and white chocolate raspberry and salted caramel for me. Yum. I've mentioned them before, and they are still worth every decadent bite. I'm also making a duck, sausage and oat cassoulet (oats, not beans), and putting little heart-shaped cuttings of bell peppers in it.
I've been laying hints for the new Legend of Zelda lamps - either the Sheikah eye or the rupee - but in keeping with the Valentine theme, I'm sharing the extra life heart, and also some gorgeous Victoria's Secret gym capris in 'tease floral'. Tell me they're not gorgeous!

Anyway, as a final note, I hope you all read my last article, because I really do believe it's important to show yourself some love. We're all guilty of burning out and neglecting ourselves, so whether you're single or not, make some time for yourself on Valentine's Day. You'll be surprised what good it can do you! Valentine's Day isn't just for couples!