Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Flowbility; Floor Flow - 4 Weeks Later

   Flow Movement has provided an interesting month. A frustrating, bruising month. It truly is a mixture of dance and yoga, and it takes so much grace and control to execute it properly - grace and control that you will only really develop with practise. The movements aren't like anything I've seen anywhere else, and as there's a lot of core and upper body strength involved, it is very refreshing, but it's also very difficult to grasp, and that makes it frustrating.

   I used Session 1, which consisted of six tutorials totalling about 25 minutes. But it took me two weeks to be able to progress past tutorial 3 because they were so hard to grasp, and even then I ended up giving in to one movement because I wasn't brave enough.
   You can't use a mat or a carpet because you won't be able to move properly, so you need a smooth, hard floor, and when you're pivoting onto your shoulders, it can really hurt. It gets better in time, but it took a month to get to that point, and that can be really off-putting.


   The movements are also hard to follow while doing it because, using Seeg's summary, 'spinning around on the floor' makes it difficult to keep your eyes on the screen. If you learn by watching first, that's not a problem, but if you learn by doing like I do, it's very challenging to keep up with. Which makes it frustrating, and you will begin to feel nauseous, which only makes it worse.

   Having said all of that, it is immensely satisfying when you start to get it, when you're able to flow through a sequence and keep it going - and you really do flow with such grace when you get familiar with it - and that returns the enjoyment.
   When I reached that point, I found my heart rate rose and I began to sweat, which surprised me until I thought about how much effort goes into lifting your body and moving it so slowly and precisely. It's not necessarily a workout that's going to improve weightloss - it's more something to improve strength, grace, flexibility and co-ordination - but it did turn out to be  more demanding than I expected.


   After four weeks, I managed to familiarise myself with four of the six tutorials, and loosely grasp the final two. I feel - and it's silly to say - sexier and more confident in my body, which is rare because my self confidence has always been below average - I'm sure you've noticed the bare minimum number of pictures of me on my own blog - and I've also felt more confident and aware of my general movement.
   I'm working on a full review, but after my little holiday last week, I'm a bit behind on everything, which is why this post is late. But it will be up, in good time!



Monday, 29 May 2017

Back To The Grindstone.

   So my blog has been a little quiet lately because I've been a bit distracted. Seeg and I had a little holiday last week, which consisted mostly of The Wind Waker, okonomiyaki, ice cream, feeding a tarantula and working on my next draft. It was awesome.
   We're both big foodies, so we experiment with new recipes and foods, and while okonomiyaki is a favourite and always on the holiday menu, we tried crab fried rice, niku udon and all kinds of pancakes. Then there's the date night favourite dessert of freshly baked brownies, hot out of the oven, served with Ben & Jerry's chocolate fudge brownie ice cream for good measure, after a decadent duck dinner.


   Yep. I gained a little weight. But I expected that and planned ahead for it. My cupboards are now stocked with lots of healthy snacks and fresh ingredients, I've got new recipes to try, new products, and I'm raring to get back on the healthy old horse. I'm actually kind of sick of the holiday freedom, physically and mentally. I'm looking forward to stability, confidence and wellness. I'm also returning to Lean in 14, my two-week post-holiday slim down staple, so I've got some kettlebell swinging to do for the next two weeks before trying a new workout. That's always proven to be enough in the past, so there's no reason it won't now.
   I also got some lovely goodies, including Nikki McWilliams' new custard cream cushion (to go with my teacake), and a new Two Steps From Hell CD for our 7 year anniversary.


   It was a very enjoyable, quiet week, but also hot. We had a heat wave, and in Bristol, 28 C is high, especially out of the blue. So I went way out of my comfort zone with skirts, dresses and - would you believe it - shorts, and oversized, loose, breezey shirts were far more acceptable, meaning I could hide when I felt chunky without anyone batting an eyelid.
   We spent most of the time with video games, but while I usually watch Seeg play while I work, it was fortunate that I gave myself the week off of anything important, because he's just picked up The Wind Waker, and aside from Beedle's half-swallowed "Thaank yooouu" there's no spoken dialogue, so I have to pay attention if I want to follow.

   But the holiday is over, we're back to normal - demanding workouts, healthy eating and early rising to look after mum. Sometimes I think the comfort of stability and routine is the very reason we go on holidays and staycations. To upset our routine so that we're grateful to get back to it.
   Or perhaps I am just an insane creature of habit.
   But I do feel chilled and refreshed all the same, I enjoyed myself, and I'm happy to work on undoing all the weight gain because every bite was worth every Turkish get up.

http://www.ablackbirdsepiphany.co.uk/2016/05/kettlercise-lean-in-14-dvd-review.html



Friday, 19 May 2017

Friday Favourites

This week I've been pretty excitable. It was my 7 year anniversary with Seeg on Wednesday, which meant that I baked for the first time in forever, and with my dad taking my mum away next week, my responsibilities as a full-time carer are suspended and I can actually relax. I can stay in bed beyond 6:30am, I can eat tricky food like rice and noodles which we never have because my mum physically can't eat them, and I can watch/play video games all day long and really dive into redrafting my next book. I. Can't. Wait.
It's the little things.
And this week I've been yearning for this Belle & Rumple Once Upon a Time dress, envying the artistic skill of Faebelina, and enjoying a gorgeous salted caramel protein shake after every yoga/Flowbility session. Hell yes! Though with next week's menu, I expect I'll have to add some kickboxing into next week's workout schedule...but it'll be worth it!



Belle & Rumple dress   ♥   PhD salted caramel protein shake
Faebelina's art feed   ♥   Winn mid rise capri by Fabletics



Thursday, 18 May 2017

Kiss Goodbye to MS

   This Month, the MS Society is trying to raise awareness about multiple sclerosis with their #KissGoodbyeToMS campaign. Most of you know it's a charity close to my heart, as my mother suffers from secondary progressive MS and I'm a full-time carer for her, so I feel a little guilty that I'm so late to this month-long event.

   For those of you who don't know, multiple sclerosis is a neurological disease that affects the nerves. It occurs when the myelin sheath, the protective coating around nerves, is damaged and the body is unable to repair it. This simple damage can have far-reaching effects and a wide variety of symptoms, because it's the myelin that helps messages travel to and from the brain and the rest of the body. In MS, the reason the sheath doesn't get repaired is because the immune system mistakes it for a foreign body and attacks it, so it breaks down and can't repair itself. Over time this damage becomes scars and interrupts the signals travelling along the nerves, slowing them down, interrupting them or stopping them from getting through at all.
   In my mum's case, initially she suffered from what she called 'floppy foot' - her foot wouldn't lift properly as she walked, for no clear reason, and she'd fall over. Over time, this began affecting her lower body further, she was unable to walk and needed a stick, then a frame, and now a wheelchair. Now she can no longer do anything - anything - for herself, and is entirely dependent. She is absolutely never left alone. She barely speaks anymore, either - a day we get 5 words out of her is a good day. A full sentence is cause for celebration.
   I wrote a post a couple of years ago about it all.

   It's a vicious disease for which there is no cure. Fortunately, a lot of progress has been made in the recent year to delay its progression and to eradicate some symptoms in the beginning stages, but there is no hope for people suffering from such a severe case as my mum.

   My sister and I have always worried about it - what if we have it? We've wondered for years, as we watched her symptoms progress since we were children. She became wheelchair-bound when I was 16. Fortunately, all the progress being made means that, if we are so unlucky, then it's possible it won't be as bad for us as it is for her, assuming we were in the 65% whose MS escalates to secondary progressive. But it still terrifies us.
   MS can only be diagnosed by a neurologist; a GP is not likely to catch it, and it generally forms in women aged 20-30. The symptoms of MS are also so vague you might brush them off or chalk them up to something else, such as fatigue, dizziness, or blurred vision. It's always a good idea to get it checked out, especially if it's recurring.


   Sign up to the #KissGoodbyeToMS campaign - give up one thing for 4 weeks and raise money to help their research. Or just donate. It could help people you know - it could even help you. Sign up, kiss goodbye, share on social media with the hashtag, and spread the word.
   I'm giving up World of Warcraft for a month, which is a daily habit, and giving this month's game time fee to MS Society. Here's my kiss goodbye picture, and as an added bonus, there's a photo of my mum and dad in the background.
   And in case you're wondering, nude is the only lipstick I have...




Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Kletskoppen (peanut lace cookies)

   As today is my 7 year anniversary with Seeg (yay), I decided to make him some cookies he's been pining for: kletskoppen. They're basically peanut lace cookies, but they're impossible to find in the UK, so I tracked down a recipe and made him a little batch! They're gorgeous, and so easy, so I thought I'd share it here - because a little sweet treat every now and then doesn't hurt anyone, even if you're a health freak like me. Mental health is all a part of it!
   You can substitute other nuts in place, if you prefer. Almonds are quite popular, and very nutritious! And swapping white flour for whole meal adds more nutrition without compromising flavour or texture.


Ingredients:
Makes 20 cookies; 55 calories each
4 tbsp room temp butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup/100g packed brown sugar
1/4 cup/30g peanuts
1/3 cup/40g plain flour
(Note: I halved the above recipe since they were a gift, rather than something to be left in the cupboard)

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 200 C/400 F/gas mark 6 and line a baking sheet with parchment or silicone paper.

2. Cream the butter, cinnamon and sugar together, then add the flour one tablespoon at a time until it's absorbed.

3. Fold in the peanuts.

4. The dough should be a little tacky but workable. Add more flour if need be, or refrigerate to 10 minutes. Then divide into 20 small 1-inch balls and set them on the prepared tray, then flatten them a little. They will spread and thin out significantly as they cook.


Warning: they will burn easily, so don't walk away from them once they're in the oven! If you're worried, test one cookie first.
5. Bake (one cookie or all) in the centre of the pre-heated oven for 5 minutes. They will spread after about 2 minutes.

6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. They will dry and harden as they cool, so don't panic. If they didn't spread enough, add a teaspoon of water to the next batch or knead into the rest of the dough. If they spread too much, add a teaspoon of flour.


As with all lace cookies, store in an airtight container or they'll go soft in no time.




Sunday, 14 May 2017

Flowbility; Floor Flow - 2 Weeks Later

   After two weeks of Flowbility, I think I'm starting to get to grips with it. It's about as difficult as I'd expected - it takes a great deal of practise and understanding to grasp the movements, and even more to flow so fluidly. I can't fathom how long it would take to get as graceful at it as Marlo.
   But it's also been a bit more difficult than I'd expected, in the sense of keeping at it. Perhaps my shoulders are too bony, perhaps the floor is too hard, or perhaps I'm simply doing it wrong, but both of my shoulders and shoulder blades bruised after the first session - and I mean immediately. I had intended to use it Monday, Wednesday and Friday for a lower-impact workout this month, but that's not how it's panned out.
   I've stuck with low-impact, but I had to swap yoga in on Wednesday instead because the bruising was so bad. I was able to do it again on the Friday, and the second Monday was fine, as was this past Friday, but that means that I'm not getting the chance to put as much time and practise into it as I'd hoped to, which is disappointing.


   I had planned on flowing through all of session 1 (tutorials 1-6) each time, but given how difficult they were, I started by repeating tutorials 1 and 2 until I was comfortable, then began adding the others on. As a result, it's taken me two weeks just to get my head around some of the movements, and as of this point I'm only comfortable with sessions 1-3.

   Having said that, though, it's been very interesting. It's a completely different kind of thing to what I'm used to and I'm keen to get down to it. I was also surprised to actually raise my heartrate and work up a sweat, but to be honest, once you get used to the moves enough to be able to repeat them, there is a lot of full-body movement, core control and upper body strength involved. I think I underestimated it - though that's still not to say it's any higher impact than a dynamic yoga session.
   I'm also finding myself feeling a little dizzy after every session, too, but when you consider the fact that you're sort of spinning around on the floor, I suppose that's not surprising. Taking five minutes to do a savasana afterwards, or just sit and breathe, does help to settle yourself.


   I do feel kind of silly doing it, but at the same time I feel very proud of myself, and a little impressed with my strength in some cases. A few of the moves looked impossible with such grace, but while I am much clunkier than Marlo, of course, I was actually surprised by how well I executed them. And that has only improved with each use. I'm still far from confident, but I'm enjoying it, and I am getting satisfaction from personal progress, even after just 4 sessions.

   I'll report back again in 2 weeks with my final impressions, and whether recurring bruising has lessened. At this point, I think it's a great thing to do, and does draw attention to grace and strength, but it also sort of feels like a bit of a novelty workout that you'd probably use a couple of times a month at best.



Friday, 12 May 2017

Friday Favourites

I'm so excited for the weekend. I've been so drained this week, but I'm super excited about a little vacation in a couple of weeks so I've been gathering up some recipes I want to try, and as simple as it is, crab fried rice is one of them - along with the old favourites like okonomiyaki.
I'm also head over heels for my new grey skinnies. I used to loathe my legs, but since I fell in love with lower body workouts (epic for fat burning as well as leg-sculpting), I've equally fallen in love with my legs. I have no fear of super-tight light trousers.
Also, this cookbook, which I stumbled across in this month's Women's Fitness magazine, and this pink stegosaurus mug, both of which I need rather urgently.


The Woks of Life's crab fried rice  ♥  Super skinny grey jeans from H&M
Eat Better, Not Less cookbook  ♥  Stegosaurus cup by EARTHLINGSporcelain



Friday, 5 May 2017

Friday Favourites

I'm still obsessed with Breath of the Wild - I don't really have any game-related jackets or anything, but I'm desperate for this 'Write Your Own Legend' hoodie - it has a peak on the hood and everything! And I'm also head over heels for Pulsin's new packaging, and especially their peanut and chocolate chip brownie. It's so good that it's actually suspicious. I'm stocking up.
And despite the initial disappointment with Mass Effect Andromeda, and the remarkable similarities between its story and that of the original Mass Effect trilogy, I am actually really enjoying it. I loved the original trilogy, and though a lot of the details seem to have been unimaginitively repeated (you can't tell me the Kett aren't remotely the same as the Collectors), many of those are details I loved. All that's missing is Legion.


Delicious Guava by Yankee Candle   ♥   Mass Effect Andromeda



Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Game of Thrones Workout Tips

   Fantasy and fitness - two of my favourite things. I don't often share guest posts, but this one is more than welcome, compiling the fitness tips of the four leading ladies of Game of Thrones - and what great tips they are! Staying in shape is never easy, and it must be especially tough and demanding for stars in the limelight, but though my any of them have personal trainers to help them stay on their strict path, the rest of us can learn from their experiences.

*     *    *    *    *

Game of Thrones is currently the biggest show in the world and has become a global phenomenon. The actors and actresses who star in it have become household names and inspire many who wish to follow in their footsteps. No matter whether they are good or evil the one thing the characters all have in common is that they are in great shape. In this article we look at the four main female stars and examine how they achieve their fitness goals.

Gwendoline Christie

The towering Brienne of Tarth is one of Game of Throne’s most loved characters. After learning about the series Christie was determined to be cast and put herself through a tough workout routine to lose a stone in weight and replace it with muscle. Her hard work paid off and she won the role. Hopefully this will inspire you to keep working for your ambitions whether they are health or career related.



Emilia Clark

Emilia Clark is not only the Mother of Dragons she has also played the iconic action heroine Sarah Conner in the Terminator franchise. In an interview with Train Mag she stated how her workout regime to become Sarah Conner included “weightlifting, kickboxing, hand-to-hand and stunt fighting – kicking a lot of ass.” She also pointed out that her diet was also important and that she had to plan out her meals.



Lena Heady

The Game of Thrones star is known for her ferocious portrayal of Cersei Lannister in the show. According to Food 4 Better Health, Heady stays in shape through boxing and yoga. Boxing is a great way to stay in shape as the body can burn over 600 calories during a 60-minute session. At the other end of the spectrum is yoga, which helps Heady stay injury free through stretching her muscles. Mixing up exercises is an effective way to keep in shape as different workouts can target different areas. Getting stuck in the same old routine is why many people quit.


Sophie Turner

Sansa Stark has had a tough time during the six seasons of the show. In contrast, the career of Sophie Turner who plays her has sky rocketed with a role in the recent X-men film. Speaking to Self.com, she told the health site that her workout includes hill sprints, kettlebells, resistance bands and burpees. Interestingly her workouts took place outside which she said: “was more fun than being cooped up in a gym.” What this shows is that you don’t need to be a slave to the gym in order to stay fit and it can often be better for motivation to find new ways to work out.

The next series is due out this July and is expected to break viewing records again. To get a sense of how big Game of Thrones is you only have to look at the ways different companies have used the show to entice new costumers. For example, gaming portal Pocket Fruity have their own official Game of Thrones game. This is just one of the many different gaming versions that have been launched off the back of the show’s global success.

Hopefully this article has relight the Game of Thrones flame within you and you will seek to become a warrior women through following the tips from the stars. 





Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Pulsin Protein & Brownie Bars (& Giveaway)

   Healthy eating has honestly never been so easy, nor so varied. Gone are the days of being able to snack only on a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts - because health and fitness has finally fought its way into the limelight and become a habit that more and more people consider desirable, so many new foods have also popped up on the market. Smoothies can be bought ready-made, a fact which we now take for granted, and with fruits being dried, smooshed or cold-pressed together into bars, we have not only a more convenient and de-cored fruit option, but also far more flavours. It's not so practical to carry a mango in your bag to eat at the bus stop - perhaps you've never tried, but now mango is a bus stop snack option.

   I'm sure you've heard of Pulsin - if you haven't, you must be new to this easy lifestyle. Like many snack bar brands on the market, they use only natural ingredients, which means no refined sugars, fats or proteins, only those found in the fruits and nuts they use, or from peas and other vegan high-protein foods. And they're not just simple fruit-nut combinations. Pulsin boasts high-protein energy bars, and 'raw brownies' - the closest you can come to brownies while keeping it clean and free of added sugars.

   Their protein booster bars are made with almonds and cashew butter, which are rich in vitamins and minerals, pea protein and rice protein for slower energy release, and sugar-free chocolate chips and cacao butter. They weigh in at 230 calories, 13g of protein, 12g of carbs, 13g fat and 6g fibre. These numbers vary slightly according to flavour, of course, which are chocolate orange, maple & peanut, maple & whey crisp, vanilla chocolate chip, and mint chocolate chip. All Pulsin protein booster bars are gluten-free, dairy-free, soya-free and vegan. They're great for an afternoon pick-me-up!


   But perhaps you're more interested in their brownies. Where fruit and nut bars are involved, 'brownie' is always a very bold claim, but Pulsin's raw chocolate brownies are the closest thing you can get to such a thing. Dates make up a great deal of the bar, lending it a subtle sweetness throughout, while almonds and cashews offer a good crunch. Cacao, rather than refined cocoa, gives it the chocolatey edge demanded of anything that can call itself a brownie. Now, of course it's difficult to overlook the fact that it is not, in fact, an actual brownie, and it certainly doesn't crumble, but I've tried a few fruit and nut bars that claim to be brownies and this is the closest I've found, a wonderful take on a chewy, fudgy brownie, and the almonds in the almond & raisin give it a nice nutty crunch, rather than having been blended into a smooth paste.
   Pulsin's raw brownie bars are 150 calories a piece, about 4g of protein, 12g of carbs, 8g of fat and 5g of fibre, all of which from natural and unrefined sources, just as their protein boosters are.


   I went back out after trying these and bought a box of 3 (give me a break, summer's coming!) almond and raisin chocolate brownie bars to give away to one reader. It's open worldwide until May 16th, and all you have to do is use the rafflecopter widget below to enter.

Giveaway closed!
Winner has been contacted via email. 


a Rafflecopter giveaway



Monday, 1 May 2017

May: Flow Movement; Floor Flow

& Flowbility Floor Flow Review


   At the start of the year, I made a new year's resolution to back off of exercise. For the duration of 2016 I worked so hard and never gave myself a break, and I didn't get the results I deserved. So I worked even harder, choosing ever more demanding workouts that promised results, and didn't dare to take a day off even when I needed it due to sickness or injury - which I was more likely to suffer from when burned out - and I still didn't get those results.
   My new year's resolution to back off was intended to counter that. I figured that maybe I wasn't getting anywhere because I was working too hard. It's proven true. I'm seeing results now.

   That said, it's still difficult. I'm still not giving myself the rest when I really need it. I still won't miss a workout, though I have reduced the time I spend on it and allocated another rest day, but that means I'm still putting myself through too much. So another change I decided upon was to try a lower-impact workout every couple of months. That way I can keep moving, but my body gets the chance to recover. In March I chose to do Kelta Fit, a Scottish dance workout, simple cardio rather than HIIT, and I saw some good results that month, and I regained my energy and enthusiasm.
   Last month I used Jillian Michaels, and next month I will again, so I decided that this month I'd do something simpler.
   Though, 'simpler' is a relative term.

https://www.fabletics.co.uk/invite/Blackbird/

   This month I'm giving Marlo Fisken's Flow Movement a go. I came across it via FitnessMagazine where it was introduced as a dance-yoga fusion. I looked into it and thought it looked really interesting - it's more about movement than it is about heart rate and strength, which means it could be excellent for joints, flexibility, transitions and stretching, without being a strain. But because it's so low-impact, unusual and complicated, I decided to try one of their sample videos before dedicating a month to it. I was surprised by just how different it is. First of all, it can be quite uncomfortable for your knees and joints on the floor, because you can't use a mat or use a carpet because gliding is a big part of the transitions. So while you can use folded leg warmers to pad your knees, it's not going to be a comfortable workout.
   It's also a lot about control, and strength does come into that. Pushing yourself up from one position to the next and then back again with good form and pacing can be really tough - it's similar to a full vinyasa in yoga, like a sun salutation at full-speed, but it's a lot more dynamic. The movements aren't typical, and symmetry is less involved than in yoga.

   I'm using Floor Flow, Session 1 - a series of six 'tutorial' videos that teach and flow through moves that keep you on the floor - which lasts about 30 minutes. There are more sessions, but I'm not going to invest in them until I'm comfortable with session 1, or have grasped and grown bored of it.
   I don't honestly know what to expect, and I'm admittedly dubious about using this for a month rather than a 'real' workout, but I'm forcing myself to recall my resolution, and that I made it for a reason. To be fair, Marlo states on her website:
'Flow Movement is not a gimmick.  When I asked fitness industry marketing professionals what they thought of my ideas, they were quick to recognize the innovation, but just as quick to tell me I needed a claim about looking good or losing weight or some other nonsense. I will not promise you amazing abs, great workout hair, or better sex. While your life could change by doing these exercises, that is your journey. I'm just here to share my experiences and reacquaint you with your body.' - About Flow Movement
   So I don't expect anything more from it than an opportunity for my body to calm back down after last month, and perhaps slightly improved grace in movement. Otherwise, I'm anticipating an interesting and alternative 'movement session'.

   Also - of course - new capris. Gisele from Fabletics. Mesh panel, gorgeous black, grey and blossom pink watercolour splashes. I've wanted watercolour print like this for so long, but no one has wanted to make one. So I bought these the moment I saw them. And I'm glad I did because they sold out within a couple of days and haven't yet been restocked.

   I'll blog again in 2 weeks, as always, and update you all on what it's like. The full program review will be up on June 4th and linked at the top of this post, so if you're interested in a full write-up, be sure to come back then!