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.

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

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 100ml of the sakura tea (with petals) 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, with an additional 50ml water/milk

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.

• 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.

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.

   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

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

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

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

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!

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.

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

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. Stir (or shake) to combine (then pour into a bowl or jar).

4. 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, if desired, with 50ml added water. 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.

• 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)

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.

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.
   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?

   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.

   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.

   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.

   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.

   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!

Friday 9 March 2018

Friday Favourites

Ohhh this week. It's been immensely eventless. I've been making lots of notes on my writing rather than actual writing, so it feels like I've not done anything - though those notes should lead to a lot of work this weekend, so hopefully I can rectify that to stay on track. But because I spend a lot of time staring at white screens - Etsy, Blogger, Microsoft Word - my eyes get tired and every few months I get bouts of shaking where my vision won't line up or keep still. It's disconcerting, but a day away from screens usually helps, so last night I put loads of work into my exhibit pieces instead, cleaning out the loose grass in the jars. So tedious but it doesn't require screens nor looking too closely. I feel a bit better today, so I'm hoping that tomorrow I'll be good to go and catch up on a week's worth of writing.

I'm also thinking a lot about my exercise. I've been using FitFlow for a week now and it's been pretty good, but I've been thinking about making some drastic changes to how I work out. Different set-ups, kit, goals and generally overhauling my attitude through activity. Last month's workout was so bad I started supplementing it with PIIT28, and something Cassey Ho said in that had a very sudden impact on me. I don't remember what her words were, nor if they were even intended that way, but I suddenly realised, while struggling through cardio HIIT, that if I focused my energy on changing my attitude rather than my body, I would probably see faster results. Rather than giving in to those 'I can't do it' and pausing for 3 seconds before going back into it, I should use that as an opportunity to change my attitude and push through. Put myself in uncomfortable situations - ie leave my comfort zone - and focus on mental strength. Trust in that, and the results will come in.

Otherwise, my favourites this week are pretty straight forward, and as much as I want the body of my dreams, chocolate is my vice and it's one I have managed to tame rather than have to cut out. I've learned to be satisfied by 1 piece of chocolate - truly, I'm not just saying that. It's about how you eat it, and I've always liked to melt it in my mouth until it doesn't exist any more, and I generally take small bites - one chocolate will last me 3-4 bites, and when each nibble is melted, the texture and flavours appreciated, it can take me 2 minutes to eat 1 chocolate, by which point I'm very happy.
Of course that doesn't apply at Easter. Give me an egg. A matcha Easter egg. Ohh yes please. But I believe I've already been bought an egg so Teapigs & Rococo have come in a little too late. But look at that swirl! It's so pretty!
And Mr Bean - it's one of those things that almost physically hurts to watch, like one of those disasters you can't look away from...and yet you keep coming back to it. I've watched it 3 times this week. While working on my shop or notes, of course, but still. And when I say '3 times', I mean both movies. Each.
I have a problem.

Monday 5 March 2018

March & April: FitFlow

   After last month's poor workout choice of BarreAmped Bounce, I'm really looking forward to what I have lined up this month! Back in January I decided to make a change: rather than change my workout every month, I'm going to stick to the toughies for two months, and then drop down to something a little lower impact for one. December and January saw Killer Body, February saw BarreAmped Bounce, and now March and April will feature FitFlow.

   Yep, I've gone backwards. I featured FitFlow Max in November, a HIIT-yoga fusion on the yoga streaming platform, Cody, and instructed by MacKenzie Miller and Briohny Smyth. Well, FitFlow Max consisted of five 30-40 minute videos each used once a week for four weeks, while FitFlow consists of 28 videos averaging 13 minutes each, and a new one every single day. No repitition.

   I'll be using it for two months and I'm considering the format. I prefer to work out for a minimum of 30 minutes high intensity on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, with kickboxing on Friday, and I have recently introduced yoga into Tuesdays, while Thursday and Sunday remain rest days. If I follow the intended structure, I'll be exercising for 10-17 minutes a day six days a week, with a restorative stretch on Sundays.
   As I plan to use this for two months, I'm thinking about splitting it. The first month, I do it my way and get a feel for the workouts. On Monday, I will do Monday & Tuesday's workouts; Wednesday do Wednesday & Thursday's workouts; Saturday do Friday and Saturday's. This way I can find myself in the workouts and decide if breaking it down and doing it as intended will work for me, personally. If it does, then that is how month 2 will work.
   Though I admit, I don't much like the idea of exercising every day, even though it is broken down into different muscle groups. But it's something I haven't done in a few years and could be a good idea to try it again. The trick will be not overdoing it by tacking on extra circuits at the end. Perhaps some bonus cardio activity, but that is all.

   Either way, for now, I'm doubling up and working on it every other day, pushing hard and, hopefully, reaping the results.

   Unfortunately, Cody, the streaming platform, have abandoned their a la carte purchasing option in favour of a rather steep $20 monthly fee, which I hate, but I do understand the desire to make it all more accessible. Locking programs behind individual $20-$50 paywalls puts people off, while a $20 sub opens up the entire library. The trouble is, you have to keep paying it. That's not to say I don't think it's worth it - I've actually used the 7 day free trial to have a look (and a go) at some of the other programs, and they're excellent. But as a full-time carer and struggling writer, I can't spare that £17 a month. At least not consistently.
   Fortunately I purchased FitFlow Max, FitFlow and even FitFlow Vinyasa - which I have been using for Tuesday's yoga - before the change at the end of December, so I have permanent access to them without a sub, which is why these next two months are an option at all.

   No pretty new legs this month, though. I can't afford it, what with saving for a wedding and a honeymoon! A sacrifice immensely worth making!

   I'll be updating in 2 weeks, then again in 4 weeks, and then I think the best method is to leave the final update for the end of the second month - 2 weeks, 4 weeks, 8/9 weeks - unless something significant changes at the 4-week point that could do with an earlier report, such as changing my normal workout structure.

Sunday 4 March 2018

Weekend Favourites

It has been cold this weekend. So this week's favourites have taken on a bit of a theme. I'm sure you can forgive me.
You'll also notice that this post is a little late - it ain't Friday. But the end of this week, when I would usually compile the post, has been spent obsessing over writing, World Book Day promos - I'm sure you caught my World Book Day giveaway, which ends tonight - and Mother's Day promos. So it kind of slipped by and instead, all of that and the cold have dominated my mind this weekend. So:
PIIT28 - Because it made me believe I'd never be cold again - or at least that I wouldn't survive long enough for it to happen.
Love Brownies hot chocolate - I admit I bought it back at the end of December for the spoon (I love teaspoons) and never used it. I rarely drink my calories, but if there is any time outside of December when I'll allow myself something like this, it's when a polar vortex swoops in and gives us the first proper snowfall we've seen in 20 years. Supposedly, it was the first meteorological day of spring on Thursday.
Legend of Zelda Christmas jumper - Pulled it back out of the cupboard because BRRR.
Bahamas Swell bottle - It has been my best friend this weekend.

Finally, there is sun and blue in the sky this morning, and green on the ground.

BarreAmped Bounce - 4 Weeks Later

   Unfortunately, after another two weeks, nothing has changed. BarreAmped Bounce remains an ineffective gimmick. It was fun at first but quickly got boring, and while I stuck it out for the whole month, I feel like I wasted my time.

   It remains true that the barre moves involved are effective at lengthening and leaning out muscle, which is great for building sleek legs and a round bottom, but it also remains true that, without holding yourself accountable and taking the lead yourself, striking out from the instruction provided, the bouncing offers nothing but a lengthy and repetitive period of recovery.

   I've written a review for the DVD which goes live next Sunday and outlines the workouts, the structure and effectiveness, just as I do for any other DVD, but my verdict remains negative. The barre movements are all straight out of the original BarreAmped DVD, while the bouncing 'cardio' intervals are lacklustre - the standard options are something a child would do, and the 'advanced' options really offer the baseline of what you should be doing if you expect to get any kind of elevation to your heart rate.

   I have used BarreAmped, and BarreAmped Cardio Fat Burn, both of which are superior to this DVD. BarreAmped focused on barre, which is perfect if that's all you're looking for, while Cardio Fat Burn incorporated bodyweight HIIT circuits in a Tabata format that actually did a pretty good job of elevating the heart rate and burning calories, making it perfect for anyone looking to burn fat while practising barre.

   Otherwise, as I've said, this has been a pretty unproductive month as far as exercise goes, and I wouldn't recommend it even to a beginner.
   I've got something that promises to be better for the course of March and April, which I'll be introducing tomorrow, but even though February was supposed to be a month of active recovery and restoring energy levels, it turned out to be too low-impact and draining on enthusiasm.