Friday, 13 April 2018

Planes, Cakes, Iron & Mages

   Today, we fly out to The Netherlands. The wedding is looming, and as it's small - limited to the closest to our hearts (bar two who can't make it) - we're heading out to see Seeg's family. We last visited in October 2016 (was it really so long ago?!) when we went with his parents to Texel Island for a week, then back to Arnhem to see the rest of his family and friends for a few days which was lovely all around, but this is a slightly more...formal affair, I suppose. Compulsory. Collecting well-wishes and congratulations from the people who aren't coming rather than going just to faff around. Although, it is true that I'll be stuffing myself silly with Cote d'Or. It's worth it. You can get the little bouchees here with a bit of trouble, but nothing beats the bonbon blocs. Praline noisette and white are both our favourites ♥ our bag on the return journey usually holds about 6+ bars. Among other chocolatey things... We all have our vices.


   As far as the wedding goes, we're more or less set. The only thing now is the cake, which I'm making myself (cringe) and trying something I haven't before (triple cringe). It's going to go wrong, of course, so I'm working on a back-up plan. Worst case scenario, I resort to Love Brownies. For real. They're ridiculously good and, like I said, it's a very small event. Spruce them up with some of the cake decor I had planned and all will be fine.
   My only issue is my hair. Seriously. It's one of my favourite qualities to be honest - naturally straight, perfect amount of volume, wonderful colour and very thick and strong. I don't have a natural parting, though, so my hair always just drops in front of my face and I do not look good in a fringe. I have ways around that, though. But I wanted to do something different with plaits and soft curls for the wedding, but, my goodness, it is impossible. I can't even get curlers to work - I'm not kidding, it's wizardry that I do not understand. I've been practicing with my sister's tongs and it's just...it's...my hair is iron-straight. And I mean that by both definitions. It won't curl. And I don't want to try too hard or too often because I don't want to destroy my hair even with heat protective spray. If I'm honest, so far it's the must difficult part of the whole wedding.
   I do have to admit, though, that it's nice that I've not had to stress over things. Keeping it small has meant that the run-up, so far, has been exciting but easy - there's far less to go wrong, far less to worry about, and far fewer people to keep happy with expectations. The day is about us - not flowers, dresses, speeches or dinner. And those coming want to be a part of that single, significant detail. And so it's also for that reason that, if my hair refuses to co-operate, it really won't matter.
   There will be no Bridezilla here.


   I'm quite excited to be going away - I woke up early Monday morning after a terrible night's sleep, waking up every hour for no good reason at all, but I was actually in a good mood. I tackled my workout with ease, did the groceries and was actually fine with sacrificing writing time to ensure that I got as many Etsy orders out before the end of the week as possible. I love Seeg's family - his parents, brother, aunt, uncle, cousin, cousin's wife - and I realise that I'm actually immensely lucky to be marrying into such a family. I'm really looking forward to seeing them all!

   And I love the Netherlands too (though I despise its lack of hills) - the food, the people, it's all great.
   It's just a shame I have to fly to get there (the boat is just too long). I know, I know, I really shouldn't complain since it's a 55 minute flight from the west of the UK, but I hate the acceleration, I hate all the people in airports, and it is beyond me why they would serve alcohol in airports and, especially on planes. A substance known to make people loud and restless served inside an enclosed space with people who didn't volunteer to be around them. Go into a bar and you'll expect to be around loud drunkards, but a plane?! Why does vacation mean that people need to get drunk the moment they reach the airport? I've not had one experience without people being loud and drunk on a 55 minute flight, and on one occasion the plane was even delayed because of a drunk man causing trouble and refusing to co-operate because he was 'on holiday'.
   Aaaand breathe. People who say half the fun of going on holiday is the travelling haven't used public transport in a while. They've forgotten what other people can be like. But we usually sit at the rear of the plane, right by the food trolley, so I can distract myself with the muffin I always treat myself to. That's how I start my holiday, yo. Quietly. Because I am eating.
   Of course the upside to planes is that they do, generally, wait for you. You get a call out on the tannoy (well, I don't because I am always ridiculously prompt - I generally have my coat on half an hour before I have to actually leave the house) and you're advised to be at the airport at least 2 hours before your flight. It's true that there's a lot of waiting around, but once you're in the airport and through security, you're there and ready. It's plain sailing from thereon out. Sit down, read a book, grab a sandwich and look forward to that muffin. It's easy. Trains are not. And there's a 1-1.5 hour train ride after the plane. Euughh. But, once that's done...you have to do it all over again to get back. And that hangs over me the whole tip.
   So it's safe to say that I like to get away, but I'd rather rely on a mage to portal me there and back.

   On a final note, being away also obviously means that orders placed in Myth of the Wild will be delayed, but I've factored my Mother's Day deadlines around it. As long as orders are placed no later than April 20th, they will be shipped out from the UK by the 25th, giving them 2 and a half weeks to arrive by Mother's Day. Please note, though, that time varies from country to country and as no one has ever gotten in touch to inform me of how long it takes (and the post office give rather ambitious times that are met only about 5% of the time, so I always triple the provided time frame), I can't be certain that it will arrive on time. Based on my personal experience over the past 5 years, though, 2.5 weeks is appropriate.



Wednesday, 11 April 2018

How To Use A Rebounder Effectively

   As a fitness enthusiast who is always excited to try new things, I was quite keen when I was given a rebounder (mini trampoline) for Christmas. I got BarreAmped Bounce to go with it, since I was intrigued by the fusion of barre and rebounding - after all, Pilates and HIIT worked really well for PIIT28, and HIIT and yoga worked for FitFlow Max - and I was so excited to get started. I mean, who the hell doesn't love bouncing on a trampoline? And don't give me boob nonsense - with Panache's sports bras going up to a J cup, no one has any excuse not to bounce around.
   Well, after a month of use, I was disappointed. I was disappointed on day one. And while it was the DVD I was disappointed with, I realised that it would be very, very easy to mis-use a trampoline when exercising. Everyone knows that jumping is an excellent calorie burner, so you would think that a piece of kit designed for jumping would be even better, right? How could it possibly be used wrong?!
   Turns out, very, very easily.


Plyometrics
   Jump training - plyometrics - is one of the best fat-burning activities you can do because it requires a burst of power for every jump. This means you need to put great effort into the leg and glute muscles to thrust yourself upwards and land again safely, more work still to leap straight back up, and even more work when the jumps become more advanced. This applies to all jumps, from jump rope to squat jumps to tuck jumps to box jumps. Power.
   But things get a little foggy when a trampoline is thrown into the mix.
   It's important to realise that, with jump cardio, it isn't the up and down movement that sheds fat, it's the power with which you push yourself up, and while you can certainly jump much higher on a trampoline or rebounder than on firm ground, you only put in around a third of the effort because the elasticity of the trampoline is doing most of the work for you.

Using A Trampoline Correctly
   That's not to say that using a trampoline is ineffective or inefficient exercise, but to get the most out of your trampoline or rebounder, you have to use it right. So rather than seeing it as a tool (or toy) to help you jump, consider it this way instead:
1: trampolines and rebounders emphasise jumps - they give you greater height and a softer surface to land upon. In this case, use it as an opportunity to put focus instead into speed, or into lifting your legs. High knees and tuck jumps are made much easier because you have more height and subsequently more time to lift your knees into your chest. So take advantage of that. Never just bounce up and down - make sure you jump.
2: it's an unstable platform, which means that your balance has to remain dynamic; single leg squats or many barre movements in relevé are made much harder. So if you're proficient at such things, performing the movements on a trampoline (but, obviously, without bouncing) can provide a new challenge.
   Every time you use a rebounder, make sure you put effort into every jump. Never let the trampoline jump for you, or you're truly wasting your time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3PmnN-ALjo

Effective Rebounder Workouts
   I've been unable to find any decent rebounding or trampoline workout DVDs. They're all extremely tame and seem to forget that the trampoline cancels out the hard work of jumping. But I have found a few Youtube rebounding workout videos that are, actually, quite effective, which I've listed here:
Cardio & Strength BeFiT workout (20 minutes)
ReboundFit Advanced (25 minutes)
Arnita Champion's Rebounding Workout (30 minutes)
Power Jump Mix (40 minutes)
Arnita Champion's Rebounding Kickbox Workout (45 minutes)

  I have used BarreAmped Bounce, but it felt more like a gimmick to me. The DVD used the trampoline as an unstable platform for all the barre moves, and barre is amazing at creating sleek legs and bum, but it does absolutely nothing for fat burn and neither did the tame jumping that was involved. Again, there was little work put into jumps. You can put it in yourself, of course - you're accountable for your own effort - but none of it was ever even suggested, which means you need to forearm yourself with this knowledge before even beginning, which you shouldn't have to do with a specialised DVD. And sadly this isn't just limited to BarreAmped Bounce. Most rebounding DVDs I've found are the same. Jumping burns fat; trampolines help you jump. Surely the two are connected. That's the conclusion they're relying on you coming to and not thinking beyond. Unfortunately, it isn't that simple.
   But as long as you keep the two above points in mind when using your mini trampoline, you can get an effective trampoline workout it.



Sunday, 8 April 2018

Cody FitFlow Review

Price: £14/$20
Length: 5x 30-40 minute yoga routines
Workouts: Upper, Lower, Core, Total, Yoga, Stretch
Suitable for: Everyone
Overall Rating:   ★★★☆☆
Enjoyment:  ★★★☆☆   Difficulty:  ★★☆☆☆   Results:  ★★☆☆☆
Based on 4 weeks of use.


   Having used MacKenzie Miller and Briohny Smyth's FitFlow Max workout in November (it seems I jumped the gun), I was curious to try the original FitFlow series. FitFlow Max consisted of five 30-40 minute videos, used six days a week (one video would be repeated) for a month, but FitFlow had 28 videos to carry you through four weeks with no repeats. Wonderful. So I was keen to give it a go, because I loved the FitFlow system that fused yoga and HIIT together with very few static poses, and provided both isolated and total body workouts. In fact, if I'm honest, after months of waning enthusiasm, FitFlow Max made me fall in love with movement all over again.

Overview
   FitFlow consists of 28 videos ranging from 10-20 minutes each, a different one for every day, including a restorative stretch session for the 7th day each week. It's broken into 4 workout types: HIIT, FitFlow, CoreFit and yoga. HIIT and yoga are self explanatory, CoreFit focuses on the core, while FitFlow is their signature fusion of the two and the basis of the FitFlow program - didn't see that coming, did you?

Kit
   You need nothing but yourself and a yoga mat for grip and comfort's sake.


Difficulty
   Overall, FitFlow isn't too challenging and can definitely be used by a beginner to both yoga, HIIT and fitness in general. The yoga sequences are simple, it's just the names that can throw you off, but they're not hard to pick up, so if you're used to names like down-dog or chair pose, prepare to learn!
   The HIIT consists of basic moves like mountain climbers or high knees, with a few burpees thrown in, but they're not difficult and the pace is ultimately your own, as are modifications. Though HIIT is supposed to be high intensity, meaning going as hard as you can for the entire 30-second move, so it's best to keep that pace as high as you are personally able to and ignore the voice in the back of your mind telling you to hold back because you're only half way through the workout. That voice does nothing but hamper your results.
   FitFlow sequences are a fusion of HIIT and Yoga and may catch you out once or twice, but you can modify using your own experience. I'm speaking largely of crow push-ups. And I mean crow pose push-ups. Yikes. I can only just hold crow for 5 seconds before toppling forwards and bumping my noggin, so I didn't even bother and opted for straight push ups instead. I'm all for challenging and pushing yourself, but in this case, I knew I wouldn't get one full rep in and it would be a waste of my time to try when the window of opportunity lasts just 10-15 seconds in this case. And there's no shame in that at all.
   CoreFit can be a bit unpleasant if you hate working your core like I do - but I was surprised on the second week. The first week was as expected: a variety of crunches. But on week 2, the focus was on the back. I was already well aware that the core actually encompasses the muscles all the way around your trunk - so your upper abs, lower abs, obliques and back - but it's so rare for any workouts to actually point out that the back is part of it. 'Core' has become synonymous with 'abs', and even those in the know seem to forget about that. And the fact that FitFlow took a whole CoreFit session to focus almost exclusively on strengthening the back really reaffirms my faith in their capabilities as trainers and their general know-how.
   The videos do become a little more advanced as the program progresses, and I'm not talking about cardiovascular demand, but rather skill. An example? I cannot do handstands. Even against a wall. Which makes HIIT sessions that have a static handstand hold for a whole 30-seconds kind of useless to me. It's true that you should push yourself to try new things, but when movement and rest time counts so much as it does in HIIT, by the time I'm almost in position, time's up. But: you are totally accountable. For me, handstands are something to practice outside of active workouts, so instead of wasting valuable time in my HIIT workout, I simply replaced the move with a crow pose. A pose I am also not good at, but I learned a trick: stand a yoga block on its tallest end and position it so that it's beneath your forehead when you're in crow pose. Falling forwards is no longer an issue and you can concentrate on arm strength, lifting your feet and squeezing your hamstrings rather than falling on your face. You are welcome.
   Bottom line: this program does get a little advanced, and so if there are moves you can't do, especially in HIIT when timing matters, try to replace them with something that targets similar areas. As for the yoga and FitFlow fusion sequences, try the new moves, that's how you grow, and modify if you need to.


Structure
   The structure of FitFlow is great. With different videos every day and no repeats, you can't start freaking out and telling yourself you can't do it before you've even started. They're all separated into lower body, upper body, total and core, and are provided in a mixture of HIIT, FitFlow and yoga practice.
   HIIT generally follows a 4x30/10 structure - 4 circuits of 4 moves, 30 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest, non-stop for 10 minutes. One or two are more like 15 minutes, and in these cases there are five moves in a circuit; three moves, two of which are repeated on each side for balance, such as a static lunge.
   FitFlow is a combination of yoga poses, flows and dynamic bouts of cardio, and is generally about 13 minutes and, like HIIT, provides a circuit flow to be repeated 3 or 4 times on each side of your body.
   Yoga flow incorporates static stretching with a few vinyasas, perfect for the end of the week or, if like me you opt to double up and do two a day, is a great finisher. Especially if, like me, you opt to double up and do them after a 30-minute strength session. With a rest day the next day, of course.
   The Restorative Stretch session is wonderful. Filled with stretches held for 1-2 minutes on each side, it's great for recovering from the past week's workouts, and can always be repeated or stacked up with other stretch sessions from the program for an amazing 45-minute stretch session on a rest day. There's also great guidance here about focusing on the stretch and not letting other parts of your body compensate. I never realised how much my spine moves around when I'm stretching my shoulders or triceps until they brought my attention to it.


Variety
   As mentioned, every week you work through 6 videos - 2-3 will be HIIT, 2 FitFlow, 1 CoreFit and 1 yoga session. None of them are the same and they're never in the same order, though a few moves will crop up a few times like mountain climbers, warrior poses or bicycle crunches, but they're simple, straight-forward and effective, so they're welcome every time.

Verdict
   My single complaint is the music - or lack thereof. While that's not unusual for MacKenzie or Briohny's videos, it's a little bit strange during the HIIT videos; you definitely notice it's missing. I played my own music beneath it - The Witcher soundtrack, thank you - and it worked together very well. I could still hear them but the music kept me going, and I know that, without it, not only would the HIIT workouts have been bland but they would also have been much harder.
   I also feel that the videos are too short for me, I'm used to high intensity for 30-40 minutes a day, so dialling it back to 10-20 minutes feels like cheating. If you're new to exercise or short on time, it's excellent, but I like to really focus my exercise, so even before I started I'd decided to double up, and it worked for me that way.


   Otherwise, FitFlow is a versatile workout plan that is great for beginners and intermediate users, whether they have much experience with yoga or HIIT or not. Teaching and guidance is involved, and in some cases is better than that which I've found on other DVDs over my past 4 years of trialling. It's great if you have little time as you can get a workout in in as little as 10 minutes, or it can be used to supplement a resistance workout done beforehand, using HIIT for bonus cardio or yoga for stretching, or you can stack them up to two or three in one go - in order or not; you could stack all the lower body workouts and a CoreFit into one day, for example - and take the following day as a rest day to utilise the restorative stretch before using two or three more the next day, and a restorative stretch the next. But while the program can be challenging, it seems more suited to people who want to stay or get active on limited time. It doesn't seem to be a good program for weight loss, even if doubled up.
   But I would still absolutely recommend it, especially with a free 7-day trial.



Friday, 6 April 2018

Friday Favourites

I've been getting so excited about my book this week, it's ridiculous. In fact just last night it was keeping me up, I was tossing and turning in bed with my mind wrapped right around it. I'm so convinced that this one is my best piece and I just can't wait to get it out into the world. The best part is, because it's a trilogy, even though the first book is done I've still got loads of work to do, and I'm just head over heels in love with the world, the characters and their less-than-ideal situation.
Truly. Watch this space.

As for this week's favourites, there's the remnants of an Easter binge (that may or may not have been purchased in the sales on Monday), a delicious bargain from F&F clothing, and a few less obvious things, namely beard oil - which is not for me, I got it for Seeg for Christmas and it makes me want to eat his face. It smells delicious.
And secondly, Top Gear. I get severe spells of wanderlust but my situation makes it impossible to indulge. Never mind the money, I don't have the opportunity to get out. Leaving the house for the weekly shopping is hard enough, which is why I only make one post run a week! And it doesn't help that half of my DVD collection consists of natural world documentaries. Oh how I wish to visit mountains, Asia, Canada...
Top Gear, would you believe, can invoke the same response, but at least it's more entertaining when I start getting down in the dumps about it, and this past week I've been switching off my brain cells and binge-watching the entirety of Top Gear, The Specials. Because they is funny, and inter'stin'.



Sweyn Folkbeard Valhalla Beard Oil   ♥   Woolliam chocolate sheep
F&F burgundy split-sleeve   ♥   Top Gear - The Specials



Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Healthy Hot Crossed Bun Porridge

   I'm not at all religious, so I'm afraid the nature of hot crossed buns means little to me, but they are delicious. But because they're loaded with sugar I usually only have one or two a year, and when it comes to Easter indulgence, I prefer to prioritise chocolate and a big Sunday roast. So when Easter morning rolled around this year I decided, knowing what the day had in store, that I would rather have a healthy porridge for breakfast rather than a hot crossed bun. Oats are higher in fibre, slower to digest, and the protein I add to it always makes it much more satiating. But...I wanted a hot crossed bun.
   As is usually the case around here, the two became merged. And it worked out quite well! All you're missing is the...lovely...doughy...bread...
   Okay, so hot crossed buns simply can't be replaced, but this is as close as you'll get! All the fruits, spices, and sweetness - but without the added sugar! Because if you chop up your apple and put it in a pan with raisins, sultanas currants and a little bit of water and heat it over a low heat for 20+ minutes, all the sugars start to diffuse into the water, and when you add that to your porridge, yum.

Ingredients
Serves 1
30g oats
10-20g protein
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp mixed spice
zest of 1/2 orange (approx 1/2 tablespoon)
100ml water
100ml milk
25ml boiled water
25g dried vine fruits (raisins, sultanas, currants)
1 apple
Optional: 2 tsp brown sugar


Method
For overnight oats:
1. Combine oats, protein, cinnamon, mixed spice and orange zest in a bowl (or shaker bottle).

2. Add 100ml water & milk and stir (or shake and transfer to a bowl/jar) then set in the fridge overnight

3. The following morning, peel, core and chop an apple and put it in a saucepan with 25g dried vine fruits and 25ml boiled water and heat on low for 20 minutes.

4. Heat the overnight oats in the microwave for 2x 1 minute, if desired, then stir in the apples, vine fruits and water.

5. Set a crossed stencil over the top and dust with extra cinnamon to serve (see notes).

For oats on the hob:
1. Boil 125ml water.

2. Peel, core and chop an apple and put it in a saucepan with 25ml boiled water, 25g of vine fruits, cinnamon, mixed spice and orange zest. Heat on low for 15 minutes.

3. Combine the oats and protein and stir into the pan, adding the milk first, stirring all the while, then the remaining 100ml boiled water and turn the heat up to medium.

4. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes to thicken.

5. Transfer to a bowl and set a cross stencil over the top, then dust with extra cinnamon to serve (see notes).


Notes
• I used skimmed milk
• I used Pulsin premium whey protein
• I made my own stencil with two strips of paper taped at the centre where they crossed


Nutrition
Without brown sugar
342 cals, 3g fat (0.5g sat), 55g carbs (32g natural sugars), 6.5g fibre, 26.5g protein
1 teaspoon brown sugar adds: 17 cals & 4.5g sugar

 



Tuesday, 3 April 2018

FitFlow - 4 Weeks Later

   I've spent 4 weeks on FitFlow now, and I have to say that while the variety is great, it isn't really enough. It's perfect if you have little time and would otherwise be doing nothing, or if you're new to fitness and don't want anything too daunting, be it in time or difficulty, but for someone like me, who likes to max it out on every workout, it feels more like a rest day.
   It's all relative, of course, and I'm absolutely not trying to stomp on anyone's personal sense of accomplishment, but, for me, it's not enough. Like I said: relative.
   FitFlow Max was infinitely better for my workout style - longer sessions and much more dynamic. But that's not to say that FitFlow wasn't enjoyable. Having a new video every day (or in my case, two new videos every other day) really does maintain some level of excitement throughout the whole month, and moving between HIIT, yoga and a combination of the two does keep every day different, and keeps your body from getting stuck in a rut. It's consistently refreshing.
   Of course, I had a feeling it would be this way from the start which is why I decided to double up and play 2 videos a day rather than just one, and for that reason I feel that I've gotten more out of it than I otherwise would have. But in the past week I've been using FitFlow after 30 minutes of resistance, and I feel like I've been getting even more out of it from that, and that's actually helped improve the enjoyment.


   I have decided, though, that it's not really a program suited to anyone trying to lose weight. It's true that HIIT is an effective form of exercise, but the movements and 12-minute time frame of each HIIT workout is too meagre to yield results alone, and while it's also true that any exercise is better than nothing, the low to medium intensity of the program as a whole isn't going to do much for anyone.
   It is, however, ideal if you're looking to simply get active or stay active but have little time each day in which to do so.
   Unfortunately, Cody's abandonment of the a la carte system rubs me up the wrong way because I hate to pay subscription fees, I prefer to pay more, buy the thing as a whole and use it as and when I like, but at the same time their prices were quite high and I can see that it would put people off.
   Fortunately, they do have a 7-day free trial so you can test out lots of videos before paying anything out. I may get a subscription fee in the future, there are a couple of programs I still want to try, but as it is, it still rankles to have to do so.


   I'm basically restarting FitFlow for the coming month and sticking with the doubling up method, but as I've taken on this new resistance training plan - yes, I know, I can't stop talking about it but I'm so excited about it! - I should be able to get more out of FitFlow this time around than I did the first.
   I will be posting a review of the FitFlow program in the coming few weeks!



Friday, 30 March 2018

Friday Favourites

Things have gone a little better this week. I'm slowly getting on top of things again and taking things one step at a time. My new workout has been tough but immensely more rewarding already, and I certainly don't dread doing it (yet). But I am only three days in! Even so, focusing on strength and knowing - and feeling - that I'm making progress with every increasingly difficult rep makes me feel so much happier and more sure of my body's abilities.
And the added burn is just as well with Easter around the corner!
These are the things I'm obsessing over this week - the Easter 'egg' I've had my eye on, limited edition for April Fool's Day, it's peanut butter and banana. Victoria's Secret's new line of ombre tanks, yes please, and Cassey Ho's new line and, most of all, the new suede yoga mat in the Dusky Blossom design.
I've been (re)watching a lot of science stuff lately, which I love because I'm slowly grasping more and more of it every time I watch it, and I also find it immensely humbling to think of my insignificant place in the universe and that, ultimately, it really doesn't matter at all what I do with my time, so the only thing that makes sense in the end is to spend it doing what makes me happy! So write, write, write away...






Thursday, 29 March 2018

Japanese Sakura Cherry Blossom Porridge

   The 27th of March is, officially, the Day of the Sakura in Japan. Not for any reason in particular, but rather because the sakura is an iconic flower in their culture and usually blooms around the end of March, beginning of April, which itself initiates the celebration of hanami, the celebration of spring.
   The Japanese, traditionally, have a sad but beautiful way of looking at the world, and hanami is part of it. Sakura - cherry blossoms - flower very briefly, and all fall together. Hanami itself is only half about welcoming in spring; it's also about appreciating the fleeting nature of beauty. They don't seem to have any mind for permanence nor perfection and live in what I would considered a more enlightened frame of mind, one that logically would lead to less hoarding, less focus on material things and more focus on the moment. The same can be said for Kintsugi, a centuries-old art of repairing pottery with gold. While in the West we typically try to make things look as good as new, the Japanese have long had a habit of highlighting the breakage and making things look more wonderful and evocative for it.

   Cherry blossoms are one of the first hints that spring is coming. From my window, the trees in the park are all still bare and brown; one or two are beginning to get bobbly with budding leaves, but they still look a long way off of fully waking up.
   Then there are the smaller trees at the edge. White and pink spots of wonder to catch the eye, a promise of brighter, lighter things to come.


   My favourite cooking website, Just One Cookbook, originally raised my awareness to the fact that sakura flowers are actually edible through her sakura cherry blossom cookies recipe. But beyond trying the recipe for myself and including some of the flowers in my first canvas cake, I've not really tried very hard to integrate them into other things. Unsurprisingly, there are many sakura sweets across Japan during hanami, from simple sakura tea to pink mochi (sweet rice balls with red bean paste) and dango (sweet rice dumplings), all the way to the far fancier sakura milk pudding, so I knew that they were quite versatile.
   And that is where this seasonal spring porridge comes in!

   Delicate, aromatic, and a wonderful way to greet the first days of spring, this sakura cherry blossom porridge is unique and fragrant with a very subtle (but present) flavour. You can use fresh cherry blossoms, if you have them, or you can use pickled cherry blossoms (which means they've been salted, and the salt is removed by soaking for 30 mins to a flawless flavour) and have a taste of spring all year round. How very Western.


   I've gotten quite into overnight oats, though I always heat them up in the morning. It saves active work first thing in the morning and gives you a much creamier texture - I love it! I've not changed any of my recipes for it, I use the same oats, milk, water, protein etc, the only difference is that I throw it all into a shaker bottle to properly combine it all before pouring it into my bowl and setting it in the fridge overnight. I take it out in the morning, give it a stir, then heat it in the microwave or on the hob for about 5 minutes. All of my porridge recipes are suitable for doing this way, and this one is no different. You may have noticed that I've started adding the method into all of my porridge recipes.


Ingredients:
Serves 1
5-7 sakura flowers (see notes)
30g oats
10-20g protein powder
Sweetener of choice
100ml boiling water
100ml semi-skimmed milk (or preferred), separated into 2x 50ml
Optional: 5g cacao nibs for garnish


Method:
1. Soak the sakura flowers in cold water for 30+ minutes to remove the preserving salt or remnants of 'outside'. This is the first step that follows any recipe using sakura flowers, including sakura tea, which is often drank at Japanese weddings.

2. Chop the flowers into bits, or pull the petals apart. The sakura flower, stem and even leaves are edible, so don't worry about being precise. Though I did remove the stems for aesthetics.

3. Combine 100ml of boiling water and 50ml of milk in a cup and add the flowers. Set aside until cooled, about 20 minutes.

Sakura Overnight Oats:
4. Combine all your dry ingredients in a bowl or jar (or shaker bottle), add the sakura tea (with petals) and the additional 50ml of milk and stir it all together (or shake it, then pour into a bowl) and set it in the fridge.
Eat cold the following morning, or heat your overnight oats on the hob at medium-low, or in the microwave for 1+ minutes.

Sakura Oats on the Hob:
4. If you're making it on the stove, combine all the dry ingredients in a pan, then stir in the sakura tea (and petals) and additional 50ml of milk. Mix until combined and heat over medium until just beginning to boil, then reduce the heat to low and allow to thicken for 15 minutes or so.

5. Garnish with a trail of cacao nibs to make a branch, then add additional flowers - soaked or fresh. If you'd like it a little sweeter, add a little honey.


Notes:
• I used 1/2 packet Stevia.
• I use Pulsin's premium whey protein.
• I used 5 sakura flowers, and after soaking, pulled off the stems and pulled apart all the petals before brewing.
• If you don't have fresh sakura blossoms on hand, you can purchase salted ones from Nihon Ichiban. I've used them a few times for a variety of Japanese ingredients, and they ship fast worldwide. Salted blossoms need to be soaked for 30 minutes before use but the flavour remains the same.


Nutrition:
With 20g whey & 5g cacao nibs:
258 cals, 5.5g fat (2.2g sat), 25g carbs (5.5g natural sugars), 4g fibre, 26g protein




Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Resistance Training - The Workouts

   On Monday I started my new workout plan. I'm still following my usual 'new DVD/Program every month' habit because I like the variety that can offer, but the difference is that I'm putting half an hour of resistance training in first.
   I've always put the DVD/program first because I wanted to see how effective it was at weight loss and toning and all of that, but I never posted any before/after pictures due to being cripplingly self-conscious, and my DVD reviews always focused more on the technical side of it, difficulty and things like that, with results being only one small part of it. In short, despite my intentions, I've always approached it from a long-term fitness perspective rather than fat-shedding.
   I also realised that that wasn't working for me, personally. It meant I was prioritising the wrong thing and not getting the results I could have for my own goals, and, in the end, why else am I doing it?

   So, by putting 30 minutes of resistance training first, I can use up the glycogen in my muscles (readily-available energy) without exhausting my heart rate like I would with circuit training, HIIT or cardio. This meant that, by the end of the 30 minutes, my cardiovascular system would feel like it had only done 5 minutes, and yet my body would have already started turning to its fat stores for fuel, all of which means that any cardio I do after those initial 30 minutes is much more effective at burning fat and calories, and I don't have to do it for 45 minutes to reap the benefits. 15+ minutes of HIIT is enough, and it is that much more effective in itself.

http://www.ablackbirdsepiphany.co.uk/2018/03/workout-shake-up.html

   These are the workouts I've chosen. While I will continue trying new programs and DVDs every month, I intend to stick to a single resistance training regime for 9-12 weeks. These are the routines I've chosen for this first attempt, which I will carry for 9-10 weeks, until the beginning of June when I will change it up to something else. This is to avoid plateaus, but it's also long enough for me to really reap every benefit from it that I can, as long as I progressively increase the weight and the reps when it starts to get 'easy'.

The Workouts

[Warm Up]
Dynamic warm up via Shape.com

Monday
Lower body via Whitney Simmons' Youtube (landmine replaced with over-shoulder kettlebell) followed by 20-30 mins FitFlow HIIT & yoga/FitFlow

Wednesday
Total body via Gemma Atkinson & Women's Health Magazine (Jan/Feb 2018) followed by 20-30 mins FitFlow HIIT & yoga/FitFlow

Friday
Lower body via Whitney Simmons' Youtube followed by 20-30 mins FitFlow yoga/FitFlow/Corefit

Saturday
Back/upper body Whitney Simmons' Youtube (cables replaced by resistance bands behind a bench) followed by 25 mins kickboxing

   My favourite fitness magazine, Women's Fitness, came to an end a few months ago (one sodding month after my 6-month renewal - yes I am still bitter), and I've turned to Women's Health, a competitor, as my alternative. I never thought much of the magazine, but now that it's the next best thing out there (Health & Fitness is just appalling), I'm finding that it does offer things Women's Fitness didn't, even if it also lacks a few things. That said, the workout from the Gemma Atkinson feature was from the third copy I ever purchased, Jan/Feb 2018, and I was interested, though I didn't have a barbell until now.
   As for Whitney Simmons, I found her Instagram via a viral post of the top fitness Instagrammers, and I began following her among a few others quite some time ago. But, again, the lack of a barbell and suitably heavy weights, and my commitment to using DVDs and programs instead of a home gym, meant that her workouts weren't an option until I made this drastic (as far as I'm concerned) change to my routine.

   I'm confident that I can work with these two sources for a while; Whitney Simmons has plenty of videos and all of which are her own workouts, so I'm confident in the nature of their potential results, and Women's Health has already had a workout or two in more recent issues that have caught my eye. So I remain enthusiastic!
   I'll blog in a couple of weeks about my efforts and progress - I'm still so excited!



Saturday, 24 March 2018

Workout Shake-Up

   So. I've mentioned it a few times and given it a couple of weeks of thought, and decided to go for it.
   It's a fact: women don't get bulky from lifting weights. At least not without spending hours on it every day for years. I've known this for a long while. It's why I've been so comfortable using workout DVDs that incorporate dumbbells, like most of Jillian Michaels'. I also enjoy it more than cardio - a lot more.
   There's also no difference in results from low reps with heavy weights or high reps with light weights; muscle fatigue is muscle fatigue, but it comes quicker with heavier weights due to fewer reps and it's also more empowering.
   Weights offer a greater variety of short-term goals (lift heavier, more reps, more sets, etc) which can be achieved in a reasonably quick amount of time, easily (bloating alone can make sizing or measurement goals hazy even when achieved), and can then be adjusted to ensure progression.
   Weights are also great for building lean muscle and improving mobility - as is body weight resistance training - and in increasing muscle, metabolism is also increased which means the calories burned at rest are also increased than by doing cardio workouts alone.
   Weight and resistance training also uses up the energy in your body without tiring you heart and leaving you out of breath, which means when you finish a 30-45 minute weight session, you still feel able to do cardio, and by that point, your body has resorted to using fat for fuel as it's used up all the energy it had readily available, making your cardio that much more effective and, most importantly to me, also means you can get away with 15 minutes of cardio rather than 45.

   It's resistance training that tones and chisels your body. If you have a layer of fat over the top of it, the cardio will get rid of it, especially if done after a resistance workout, while the resistance itself will also increase calories burned after your workout and in your every day life, further contributing to that fat burn.
   I've always liked slow-paced resistance workouts that focus on quality over quantity and muscle fatigue over timing. I still preach HIIT because it's a great fat-burner, but when it comes to resistance, I prefer to reach muscle fatigue and get the most out of it.

   I'm sure you can see where I'm going.

   I can't trust myself to do a good job on a cardio workout if left to my own devices. I won't go for long enough, I'll rest for too long, I'll avoid burpees (I won't because I know they're good for me, but I'll willingly slow down towards the end of the set), and I will generally fatigue and run out of motivation much faster than if I have a DVD. It's true that the lady on the TV can't actually see me, she doesn't know if I'm doing a good job or not, but at least with DVDs I have the best music for the activity, I have timing prompts and cues, and I have generalised encouragement. But it all works for me. A 30 minute cardio workout with a DVD can feel like 15, while a 30 minute cardio workout using a magazine or plan can feel like an hour.
   In contrast, I can definitely trust myself with resistance. There's no point phoning any of it in, but as it's slower-paced, it's easier to keep at and I can move at my own pace and get into my own depth with it. Squat as low as I can and take all the time I need to get there without resting at the top or bottom. And I don't rest for long because I love the empowering feeling and consistent sense of victory that comes with every final few reps of every set.

   I've got loads of resistance workouts in magazines, and workouts I've found on Youtube and Instagram I've wanted to try, but my weights weren't heavy enough to make them worth trying. For a long time the heaviest weight I had was a 8kg kettlebell. To make it heavier for deadlifts or squats I would thread my two 2kg dumbbells through the handle - the largest that would fit - but even that wasn't heavy enough for my lower body workouts when following DVDs because I could never hit muscle fatigue by the end of the timed set.
   So: I decided to buy a barbell. It was actually quite a daunting decision because it's 'serious' weights, but I knew that a basic 20kg barbell (2x 5kg plates, 2x 2.5kg plates, 2x 1.25kg plates and a 2.5kg bar) would give me more than enough weight for lower body and lots of room to grow. Plus it was ridiculously more cost-effective than buying new dumbbells all the time, especially when my 2.5-4kgs and my 6-8kg kettlebells are still more than enough for an upper body workout. How cost effective? A pair of 6kg dumbbells (12kg total) would cost a minimum of £30. I got this 20kg barbell for £40. I know. And it doesn't feel cheap.
   In finally having a heavy weight, I also picked out a few workouts - three from Whitney Simmons and one from Women's Health (links to the workouts themselves will be up next week) - and decided to finally give my routine an overhaul.

Women's Health 20kg Barbell, and my favourite gloves from Blogilates ♥

The Plan
   I still really, really enjoy trying new DVDs and streaming programs every few months, whether they're cardio or not, so I've decided that I will continue to do so, but I will be using these Youtube/magazine workouts before hand. As of Monday the 26th. There's no sense in wasting time.
   Each workout is about 30 minutes, which means I'm working out for about 50 minutes to an hour a day now, but still only 4 days a week, with a yoga session on Tuesday. I'll provide all links next week, but for now: Monday is Whitney Simmons' lower body, Wednesday is Gemma Atkinson's total body, Friday is a different Whitney Simmons' lower body, and Saturday is Whitney Simmons' back and rear upper body, all of which are followed by whatever else I've picked out for that month. This month and next, I'm moving my kickboxing onto Saturday and continuing to double up FitFlow on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
   I want to stick with these resistance plans for 9-12 weeks and then switch them up into something else for another 9-12 weeks, which means I should be using one resistance plan for about 3 months, covering two months's use of a tough DVD and one month on a lower-impact one on each rotation. If I use this one for 9-10 months then it will cover all of FitFlow and its end will coincide with the end of what I have lined up to follow.
   Because none of the resistance plans are DVDs or full videos, I'll be using more or less free resources which I will also be reviewing at the end of it all. Yaaay, free resources!

   I've read from multiple sources - such as Jillian Michaels and UP Fitnss - that a minimum of 30 minutes a day, 4 days a week for 9-12 weeks are needed to see results from a resistance training program, and by adding additional work on afterwards, like HIIT, kickboxing, Jillian Michaels DVDs or FitFlow, for example, means I will be getting more than the minimum 30 minutes and better fat-burn, especially if I ensure that the majority of these extra workouts have a good cardio element. So far, FitFlow has had two HIIT workouts a week, with the exception of this third week that has three, and that doubled with a FitFlow routine (yoga-HIIT fusion) or 25 minutes of kickboxing on Saturday means that, at least until the end of April, I should be getting some good cardio in after every resistance session bar one.
  
   I am excited. I can't wait to finally be able to push past my comfort zone and find my limit. I'm sick of timers on my resistance and small weights holding me back from fatigue.



Friday, 23 March 2018

Friday Favourites

This week started out all right - of the bad news and problems that cropped up last week, we've had one resolved and another a potential solution presented. Though only time will tell if that works out.
But then of course my own neuroses started popping back up - fear of carbs and so on, which I've been actively fighting against to prevent it from setting back in. But I've also been feeling a lot of doubt and all revolving around my writing.
Unsurprisingly it sparked from another rejection and looming deadlines, but I realised that the doubt isn't personal. I've not doubted my abilities once - it's true that there are a few technical issues with The Archguardians of Laceria, but I identified them and can say with confidence that I've not succumbed to them at all in my most recent submission, and with a generally more interesting story and characters, it's a better book all around. And I have the greatest confidence in it. But trying to get literary agents to see that is my issue, and it stems in part from poorly written synopses. It's the hardest part of submitting (that and finding the courage), and I think it's one of the areas letting me down.
But I have full faith in the book and, while I've been rejected on all but three fronts (only because they have yet to respond, and with 2 of the 12 weeks left they probably won't), I have received good feedback. It's just that no one is willing to take it on. So this will probably wind up self-published, too. But as I said: I have genuinely the utmost faith in it, and I do believe it could go far if given the chance. And if self-publishing is the only way to avoid it going to waste, so be it.

This week's favourites aren't so mood-busting, so it must have been an improvement!
Another shirt by Descended From Odin, some gorgeous Easter chocolates from Hotel Chocolat, Assassin's Creed Origins' new DLC, and some rather pretty mugs. Because you can never have too many.
Actually you can, my cupboard is proof, but I choose to turn a blind eye. The door still closes. There is room.





Descended From Odin Ægishjálmur T-shirt   ♥   Hotel Chocolat quail eggs
Curse of the Pharaohs DLC   ♥   Tokyo Design Studios LE platinum mug set




Thursday, 22 March 2018

Etsy Spring Sale!

   Yes, it's that time again! Etsy's site-wide spring sale event kicks off today and Myth of the Wild is proud to be a part of it! And it's the biggest discount I'm able to offer outside of Black Friday - which is 8 months away, so if you have your eye on a gift for an anniversary, Mother's Day, birthday or whatever, now is the time to buy! No code needed - everything's already been discounted!

   I've also outlined my Mother's Day order deadlines. Mother's Day in the UK has been and gone, but for most of the world it falls on May 13th, and in France on May 27th. So the order deadlines are as follows:

♥  Mother's Day Order Deadlines  ♥
Worldwide: April 20th
France: May 4th

   I've got book flower necklaces, rings and earrings, making the perfect gift for book loving mums, and, of course, plenty of animal jar necklaces for the wildlife enthusiast. And a few garden bird necklaces for gardeners!

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/MythOfTheWild?ref=seller-platform-mcnav&section_id=11579038 https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/MythOfTheWild?ref=l2-shopheader-name&search_query=garden
https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/MythOfTheWild?ref=seller-platform-mcnav




Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Speckled Duck Egg Chocolate Easter Porridge

   Spring. Meteorologically, it began March 1st. When Storm Emma came into town. After a weekend of thick snow, it felt like spring was never going to get here. The little note, 'spring begins', printed on the calendar under March 20th has felt like a joke. Especially with a new flurry of snow joining us just two days ago.
   But, in between those two and a half weeks, it really did feel as though it was on its way. The sunlight had been getting warmer - no longer small, white and blinding, but pleasant and golden; invigorating. My enthusiasm was spiking, I felt immensely motivated and so excited to get to work on my book every day - I usually do my best work in the spring, and as my writing had increased by 250% last week alone, it doesn't seem to be any different this year despite its somewhat late start. My only issue is the lack of leaves on the trees, but I know that, in a few days' time, it will feel just like it should.
   I will also admit that part of my zeal is for Easter. I am not remotely religious, so for me, it's always been about chocolate and baby animals. It remains no different today. Except that I don't groom a plush rabbit toy and leave it out beside an empty basket on the Saturday night. Usually.

   Naturally, I had to mark the occasion and try to help usher it in - spring, baby animals, Easter - with a porridge. Because that's just how I roll. And as I've been a little bit obsessed with duck egg blue, I decided that there was nothing better! The only issue was going to be a natural colouring - but it turned out not to be an issue at all.


   I still had some butterfly pea flower powder in my cupboard from previous experiments, including my naturally coloured blue string pudding, so I figured that mixing that with matcha would yield the desired results. Well, I played around with quantities - 1/2 tsp of pea flower and 1/4 matcha was way too blue, and flipping it was, unsurprisingly, too green. So I tried exactly half and half. The confusion came from butterfly pea flower being quite light and matcha being quite dominating when used in porridges, so the first result surprised me. The second, not so much. The third I found a little odd, but if half and half worked, so be it! 1/4 tsp of each!
   Butterfly pea flower isn't hard to find as it's drank as a tea in Southeast Asia and used as a natural colouring in dishes like kuih ketan and nyonya chang. It looks a bit gritty and hella dark in colour, but it really does come out to be very light once soaked into oats or rice. Or pear. Having said all this, I've been unable to find it anywhere but Ebay, but even so, that's where I source it and it's all worked out so far. And like any food colouring, you need very little of it, too, so a 10g pouch goes a very long way.

   This speckled duck egg porridge uses no duck eggs at all - but if you prefer egg white oats, feel free to adapt this recipe to suit your tastes. I typically use whey for my protein porridge hit, but it's totally adaptable. This recipe is for both overnight or cooked oats.
   The porridge is white chocolate, flecked with cacao nib 'speckles', and topped with a nest of crumbled chocolate flapjack (or half a Graze protein bite) and 3 mini eggs.

Ingredients:
30g oats of choice
20g whey protein 
1/4 tsp butterfly pea flower
1/4 tsp matcha
10-20g white chocolate (or replace whey with white chocolate protein powder)
Sweetener of choice, if any
100ml milk
100ml water
Sprinkling of chopped cacao nibs (approximately 5g)
1/2 Graze cocoa & vanilla protein bite, crumbled
3 chocolate mini eggs


Method:
Overnight Oats
1. Combine the matcha and butterfly pea flower in a bowl and mix, then add your mini eggs (see notes). Mix them around so they're covered and set the eggs to one side.

2. Chop or grate the white chocolate into a bowl (or shaker bottle) and add the matcha-flower mixture, oats, whey and your sweetener of choice, if any.

3. Add the milk and water. Stir (or shake) to combine (then pour into a bowl or jar).

4. If using a jar, stir in the chopped cacao nibs (see notes).

5. Leave overnight in the fridge.

6. The colour will have darkened overnight, but it lightens significantly when heated. Heat up in the microwave or on the hob to melt the chocolate and lighten the colour.

7. Transfer into a bowl and sprinkle the chopped cacao nibs, then sprinkle half a Graze chocolate protein bite (or chocolate flapjack) into the centre to form the nest and put the eggs on top. Nom away.

Oats on the Hob
1. As above, combine the matcha and butterfly pea flower in a bowl and mix, then add your mini eggs (see notes). Mix them around so they're covered and set the eggs to one side.

2. Boil the water.

3. Grate or chop the white chocolate into a pan and add the matcha-flower mixture, oats, whey and your sweetener of choice, if any, and mix together.

4. Add the milk, stirring all the while to combine, then add the boiled water.

5. Heat over medium and bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer for 20 minutes to thicken.

6. Transfer to a bowl and sprinkle cacao nibs, then crumble the flapjack into the centre to build the nest, then add the mini eggs. Nom away.


Notes:
• I used three white Cadbury mini eggs first, but the butterfly pea flower doesn't act as a powder so only the matcha transferred. I took the white away and used purple eggs instead which worked much better.
• I used Pulsin premium whey
• I used a food dicer/electric chopper to chop the cacao nibs into smaller pieces; I chopped 5g of cacao nibs, but only actually used half. I've used the nutrition from the full 5g of cacao nibs in the nutritional profile below.
• I used 1 Hotel Chocolate white chocolate baton (8g)


Nutriton:
With 10g white chocolate, 1/2 Graze protein bite, 5g cacao nibs
423 calories, 15.5g fat (5.6g sat), 41.5g carbs (11g sugar [+ 7.4g natural sugars]), 4.5g fibre, 29g protein






Sunday, 18 March 2018

FitFlow - 2 Weeks Later

   Over the past two weeks, I've been getting up in the morning excited about my exercise because I know that I've got something new to do. And it's not just a new workout, it's a new type. I don't like to watch workout DVDs - or even take off the plastic - until I intend to use them, and even then I don't watch then move, I just learn as I go. And with FitFlow, I've not actually looked ahead at any point to find out what the next day or the next week has in store.
   Week 1 and 2 each gave me 2 HIIT workouts, 1 yoga, 2 FitFlow (yoga/HIIT fusion) and 1 core, all focused on different areas of the body. Week 1 had upper and lower body HIIT, lower body yoga, upper body FitFlow, total body FitFlow and core focus on the front of the body. The second week gave me two total body HIIT workouts, an upper body yoga, lower body FitFlow and core focus on the back of the body.
   Now, as I said in the original post, all the workouts average at about 12 minutes, and I've been doubling up every other day rather than doing one every day, and I think it's been the right choice. While they're not necessarily easy (looking at you, upper body yoga), they're not enough on their own - not enough time, exertion or work. If you don't have the time and generally do little to nothing, then FitFlow every day is great. But as I'm someone who does a lot and has done for a while, it's not enough.


   You could also ask "why did you begin it in the first place, then?" Well FitFlow Max was quite a bit more intense - hence 'Max' - and were each three times longer. But it wasn't just that. I love MacKenzie and Briohny as instructors, together and apart, and their instruction is the first access I've had to intermediate yoga. Their direction is great, I've gotten on well with it, and my yoga abilities are improving thanks to them. And I wanted more of their HIIT-Yoga fusion!

   But, for me personally, doing it once a day every day isn't enough. That feels more supplemental, something to join another workout done before or after. I had planned to double up every other day this month, and then I was going to repeat it in month 2 with one a day every day as intended in the program, but I think I will be wasting my time. That's not to say other people will, but it doesn't suit my goals, nor my personality.


   That said, I've been having other thoughts about my exercise lately that stem from something I took away from PIIT28 - changing my outlook rather than my body. I'm not going into it now - I'll give it some more thought, see if I can make it work, and then talk about it in a week or so - but if it works out, I think I can get more out of FitFlow in the manner I use it now.

   Either way, I'll blog FitFlow again in 2 weeks' time.



Friday, 16 March 2018

Friday Favourites

It has been a rotten week.
All the bad news came at once and it's all set to get worse. So I have been forcing myself to try to look on the bright side, to analyse things to pieces to try to find a speck of positivity. It is hard.
My eyes are also still shaking so I've not had the chance to do much work on my book cover, either, which sucks since there are only 2.5 weeks left for literary agents to get back to me (as a rule, if you don't hear anything in 12 weeks, you won't hear anything at all), so I'm preparing to self publish and that is the last step, so my eyes are holding me back.

All this kind of comes through this week, when gathering up my favourites I noticed that they were all quite light. I've watched Despicable Me 1 & 2 twice each in 2 days, Seeg and I devoured a box of Mini Eggs nest cakes in 5 minutes and we're not even sorry, and I've been opting for cheerful mugs like this 'Awakening' mug by my absolute favourite designers, Wrendale Designs.
The capris, I don't have. But I want them. To cheer me up and usher in spring.
*gloom*



Fabletics capris in Secret Garden print   ♥  Despicable Me
Cadbury Mini Eggs nest cakes   ♥  Awakening mug by Wrendale Designs



Monday, 12 March 2018

BarreAmped Bounce DVD Review

Price: £8/$15
Length: 5x 10-20 minute workouts
Workouts: Upper Body, Core, Lower Body
Suitable for: Everyone
Overall Rating:   ★★☆☆☆
Enjoyment:  ★★★★☆   Difficulty:  ★★☆☆☆   Results:  ★☆☆☆☆
Based on 4 weeks of use.



http://www.ablackbirdsepiphany.co.uk/2018/02/february-barreamped-bounce.html
   Having used both the original BarreAmped DVD and BarreAmped Cardio Burn, I have a lot of respect for both barre and Suzanne Bowen, so when I saw that she had fused barre with rebounding, I was so excited to give it a try! Especially since I'd gotten a rebounder for Christmas. I was expecting lots of jumping, a high heart rate, and sore muscles. But did I get it?

Overview
   BarreAmped, with a trampoline. This DVD is a mixture of classic barre moves like rear leg raises and see-saws, with added cardio intervals on the trampoline, which also serves to provide an unstable surface to perform moves upon, adding a new challenge to relevé.

Kit
   As with all BarreAmped, you will want light - and I mean light - hand weights. I'm used to 2.5-4kg (5-9lbs), but when BarreAmped comes into things, I can't manage more than 1.5kg (3lbs), and most often use 1kg (2lbs). I also often underestimate it when I've not done it in a while and start with 1.5kg, then realise after 4 reps that I've made a terrible mistake. It's the same with Pilates. It looks easy. It isn't. But it's worth it, and it's a form of exercise that everyone will feel.
   You also need a trampoline or rebounder - as if that much wasn't already obvious. A personal trampoline about 42 inches across, with a handle. The thing is, this DVD was made in conjunction with Jump Sport's trampoline, which means that the movements used in this DVD - including pull-ups - are safe to use with the trampoline. This means that using anything other than the advertised trampoline could be difficult. If you have a sport trampoline, you're probably fine, but something picked up on the cheap probably won't do. Given the nature of trampolines, especially fold-away ones, and the variety of moves done in this workout, you want to make sure that the trampoline you have can handle the job.
   I've been using Upper Bounce, which I was given for Christmas, and, if I'm honest, I'm not at all happy using the handle for pull-ups. It's held out well enough, but every time I used it, I worried about it.


Difficulty
   Advanced modifications are provided for both bouncing and barre, but in truth, ruling the difficulty of the DVD itself is a challenge. The bouncing is easy - children can do it. But the barre is difficult, and while the beginner modifications have you moving with less range - not going as high or as deep - it is a challenging form of exercise. In the end, I would still say that beginners will get more out of this than anyone else, but where barre specifically is concerned, everyone wins.
   But though this is a low-impact workout in terms of heart rate, the difficulty comes with the fact that barre moves can often be tiny things, like pulsing your leg or squeezing muscles. Vicious, vicious things that, if you have little to no body fat, will get you quick and amazingly sleek results. But without the high-impact cardio, it will do nothing to get body fat off.


Effectiveness
   Your muscles will feel it - ohhh will they feel it - but your heart rate certainly won't. The trampoline takes away a lot of the effort from the jumping, and while guidance is provided for advanced users in both barre and bouncing, the bouncing difference is so weak that it may as well be for beginners. It's true that I'm used to quite intense stuff, but at the same time I know what it's like to be a beginner and in this case, I was approaching the workout from a beginner's point of view, but the fact is that it didn't touch my heart. I was sweating, but it was the barre sequences that earned that. The bouncing 'cardio intervals' were, in all honesty, more like breathers, which is not what a cardio interval is supposed to be. Though I did relish the opportunity to shake out the muscles.
   If you want to get the most out of the bouncing, you will have to deviate from their instruction and pull upon previous experience and knowledge, replacing basic jumps with tuck jumps and high knees. But this isn't something you should have to do, especially on a DVD that is centred around the use of that very piece of kit, and is ultimately the biggest fault of the DVD. Having previous experience when it comes to form is one thing, but having to provide your own modifications is quite another.


Verdict
   Barre is a challenging form of exercise. It burns - there's no two ways about it - and it can create such incredibly sleek legs. There's no arguing this. But it's such a low-impact workout that it does nothing for burning fat.
   Jump training - plyometrics - is an amazing form of exercise because it requires a lot of power to jump up and land safely over and over again, and becomes even more effective when you become more advanced, moving into squat jumps, tuck jumps, rock stars or burpees. But a trampoline takes away a great deal of the power you need to use in order to make those jumps, thereby removing the effectiveness. The only way to keep jumping effective on a trampoline is to jump high and lift your knees as high as you can with every effort - high knees, tuck jumps and so on are made easier on the trampoline, meaning beginners will have an easier time of them. But even then, it's not what it could be.
   The merging of the two could be more effective than either on their own, but unfortunately, BarreAmped Bounce provides no suitable instruction on getting the most out of every jump, and the 'advanced' modifications shown, as far as jumping is concerned, is still pretty basic and nothing more is provided. There is little to no cardio involved in this DVD, even in the cardio bounce section.
   Having said all of this, however, BarreAmped Bounce is very much still BarreAmped, and, let's be honest, jumping on a trampoline is fun. So if you're just looking for more BarreAmped, this is a good addition - but only if you already have a trampoline. I wouldn't buy a rebounder for this alone, and if you're just looking for BarreAmped with good cardio, definitely go for the suitably named BarreAmped Cardio Burn. With HIIT intervals in a brutal Tabata structure, you do get some damn good cardio in between the typical barre moves.

   If you did purchase a trampoline or rebounder for the sake of this single DVD, don't panic. I've gathered a few truly effective cardio rebounding workouts from Youtube - including kickboxing - as well as advice on how to get the most out of your rebounder, which will be up soon!