Tuesday 26 March 2019

A Guide to Creating a Small Home Gym

   I was speaking to my cousin recently - who is currently training for the BDFPA 2019 Home Nations Championships in Glasgow April 6th - and she brought up how hard it is to find the motivation to train at home. Personally, it's not something I suffer with. Being a full-time carer for my mum (Multiple Sclerosis) means that I am always at home. Gyms have never been an option for me. I've never been in one. Instead, I gradually built up my own home gym. I started working out with DVDs and basic dumbbells. Then I gave kettlebells a go, starting off with a cheap set of 3 for £25, which I have since built up, and then, last year, turned at last to barbells in order to try to shift my mindset away from results in the mirror and onto results in my abilities. I fell in love, then. And all my workouts take place in my living room, with kit hidden behind the sofa. You'd never know it for looking.
   But part of that lack of motivation to work out at home can stem from space. Some people need designated areas for certain things, like an office for work, or an art room for painting. Me, I can sculpt, paint and write pretty much anywhere. So I haven't suffered from the need to designate a space for my workouts, either. But, if you just can't do that, take a look at the below article for tips on working out at home, and creating your own gym-space at home.


   Creating your very own home gym can be intimidating, but it’s actually easier than it sounds. There has always been a debate about which is the better choice: working out at a commercial gym or at home. The answer depends on your personal goals and preferences. Working out at home allows you to move at your own pace and free from feeling self-conscious. You can also make as much noise as you want, and use gym equipment without worrying about other people waiting for you. If those reasons persuade you to build your own home gym, here’s everything you’ll probably need:

A clear and well-thought-out objective

   Your gym’s layout and all the equipment in it depends on the type of workouts you will be doing regularly. Is your goal to create a space for Pilates and yoga or do you want a workout area that is essentially for one person? Your fitness objectives will determine the type of home gym you build.

   You need to make sure that you choose the right equipment, too. There are many cheap products out there, but compromising on quality might put you at risk. Some faulty gym equipment could break while you’re in the middle of a workout, which will not only lead to injury; it will also cost you more money in the long run. Life Hacker suggests you start with at least three dumbbells that you think you will use the most often. Adjustable dumbbells are ideal as they allow you to add plates with the click of a switch. Good yoga mats, stability balls, resistance bands, and a jump rope are good investments as you can perform multiple exercises without using up much space. Also, getting a good quality elliptical trainer takes up less room than a treadmill. We’ve already discussed on A Blackbird’s Epiphany the benefits of elliptical machines, and talked about how it’s a low-impact exercise machine. Perfect for those with joint problems.

A room with optimal conditions for fitness

   A home gym with integrated smart technology will allow you to control the temperature in it, which can enhance your workout. Shape explains that you burn more calories during hot-weather workouts, which means if you have a way to control the heating in your home gym, you can increase the temperature so that you sweat more. The heating controls that are featured on Screwfix, show how a room’s temperature can be controlled using a connected device. These devices can be adjusted using your smartphone, allowing you to change the temperature without having to stop your workout.

A home gym in the garden

   A good place to have your home gym is in a separate location in the garden, such as a converted shed or a conservatory. The benefits of this are that you can build a space specifically for working out. If you drop a heavy weight it won’t matter as much, and you also won't disturb the rest of the people you live with at home. The Telegraph suggests that the perfect home, should reflect your personal style as this can help you condition your mind to workout and continue moving through your sessions. If you’re someone who loves the outdoors then working in a dedicated space in the garden could help motivate you. On a nice day you can take your equipment outside and workout in the garden.
   Your garden doesn’t need to be complex, or filled with different bits of equipment. Often the most effective workouts are the most basic. A home gym should be convenient, as this will motivate you to exercise more. The more you use it the more you can expand your gym to include different equipment. You can even be more experimental than your local gym and maybe invest in something like a mini trampoline (for tips on how to use this checkout our article ‘How To Use A Rebounder Effectively’). The choice is yours, so create the gym that suits you.

Friday 8 March 2019

Illustration Experiment

   With a new book on the horizon, I've been thinking more and more about digital art. That, and this tarot book. That's also spurred my interest, I'll admit.
   The trouble is, while I love the swoosh of a pen over a tablet, I much prefer working with pencils - I love the mess, the texture, and the hand-eye coordination is much simpler. But I hate colouring with them. Instead, I love colouring on tablets. The thing is, you rarely see the two combined, and my twitter feed is full of digital artists with nary a pencil in sight. So, naturally, the thought of combining the two comforts just doesn't seem acceptable because I'm constantly comparing myself to them.
   Well, I recently decided, when drawing the skogsr√• from my short story, October's Blood, that I would just try it. I had nothing to lose, especially since it was Saturday night and I had 2 hours before my husband and I put on a movie (The Terminal, that week). And I was shocked by how quickly I made progress, and how well it came out. So much so that, when Faebelina announced a new twitter drawing event - #OCGardenParty - I thought I would have a go. I'd been following these kinds of things for a while now but never felt my work was worthy of being submitted. But, because I was drawing with pencils and not inking the lines, I realised that it couldn't really be compared to other people's since it was kind of a different style altogether.
   So, I went ahead (cheekily using characters from my book). I got the pencil lines down in about 3 hours, with shading, and the colouring took about 4. And I realised a few things when breaking the mould:
1. By keeping the pencil lines and pencil shading in, I immediately eradicate any possibility of realism, which is a trap I constantly fall into. Instead, it's become a little more stylised, but not in any forced kind of way. It's something that, with practise, I could really hone and turn into something wonderful.
2. With the gritty texture of the pencil lines, I can also get away with doing less. It looks more detailed than it actually is, and much less smooth and flat, which had always bothered me.
3. Even if I'm working with pencils, because I'm scanning it in to colour it, I can still resize and rotate things. There's nothing worse than spending 2+ hours on a pencil drawing and then realising that one of the figures is wonky, or too large. Both were the case below. Rathen was tilting to one side, and Aria was too far forwards. She would have come up to Rathen's shoulder. She's eight. And a small eight, at that.

   For only my second attempt, I'm pretty pleased. No, it's not perfect, but it's presentable. There are so many drawings I've done digitally that I've never shown, and more still that I've never completed. But with just 7 hours of work - a weekend, if taken easily - I've made something I'm really, really happy with, and was brave enough to show in a thread that I knew much better artists would both see and participate in.
   I also got around the problem of backgrounds with a green square :B It makes a shocking difference.

Aria has dragged Rathen along, and insisted that he bring flowers for the hostess.
She's also hoping for strawberry tarts.
Don't tease her about her 'antlers' - she wants people to think she 'belongs'.
Rathen, sadly, made little effort aside from actually attending. He looks so uncomfortable...

Edit: I wrote a little snippet to accompany it! Read it on my website!


Monday 4 March 2019

March & April: Kettlercise & Core de Force

   March, and so ends 4 months of strength training (3 months of this, and 1 month of this). As usual, I'm sad to see the back of it - especially knowing that there are 2 months of cardio and HIIT ahead of me which...just...doesn't bear thinking about...
   I've mentioned time and time again about a calorie experiment I'm doing - for which I'm hoping to finally talk about with solid figures in two months' time - and now I'm moving into the final stage. If it's going to work, now is the time I'll know.
   I've been trying to shift stubborn fat for years now - and I've done well, dropping from a (UK) size 16 to a size 8 - and while I've turned my attention over the past 12 months towards muscle-building instead, which has been infinitely more enjoyable and subsequently both easier to stick to and more rewarding, my shame and hate over squidgy arms and tummy has gone nowhere.
   Part of what has made strength and muscle building so much better for me, personally, is that I'm not running on steam. After hovering around 1350 calories a day for a few years and seeing zero change in my body, I gave up and finally dared to eat more. I was at my wit's end. I raised it to 1600, and, to balance it, in March last year I decided to turn towards lifting heavy weights so that the excess calories (and the fat I was terrified of gaining back) would be put to use repairing my body. And it has done exactly that. For the past month I've been eating 2100 calories a day, I feel so energetic and happy (despite a few loathsome trouble zones) and I'm still a size 8.

   But, while the first stage of this experiment involved increasing my daily calorie intake by 100 every 4 weeks (from 1600 to 2100), my body has given me the sign I've been waiting for that it's time to move on to the second stage.
   And that involves calorie cutting, and cardio. Turning away from resistance training - and the need for higher calories along with it - and towards cardio and HIIT instead with fewer calories.
   But I'm not talking about 1350 a day. I'm talking about 1700, 50 either side. This gives me an effective and safe calorie deficit (my calorie experiment has yielded my maintenance calorie level), which grows a little broader when coupled with high-intensity workouts (I'm opting for a rotation between Core de Force and Kettlercise, both of which have proven to be the most personally effective cardio & HIIT workouts I've ever seen). The original plan was to use just Core de Force for a month, but I really want this to work, so I've doubled the time and added Kettlercise in to stretch it out and make it more bearable. We all need change.

   So, for the next two months, I will have my fingers and toes tightly crossed, very sweaty kit, and hopefully only a vaguely rumbling but flattening tummy.
   Whether it works or not, I'll blog this whole 7-month experiment when it's finished in May.
   I'm terrified of failure. It feels like, if this doesn't work, nothing will.

   I have 8x 20-40 minute Core de Force videos, and 8x 20-30 minute Kettlercise workouts. I'm considering adding a little extra Core de Force on after Kettlercise, but I shouldn't have to repeat any full workouts for a month.
   Kickboxing and kettlebell workouts are some of the best fat-burning workouts you can do because they are total-body workouts that involve a lot of power driven out from your muscles. Aerobics, dance, things like that don't recruit as much power though they still burn fat, but because of this, muscle mass can be lost. I've worked my ass off to build my ass up, and I have no intention of letting it go. I want to lose fat, not weight. This doesn't mean that kettlebell and kickboxing workouts build muscle, at least not to the extent that a barbell circuit would, but it does mean that what muscle you have built up will still be put to explosive use, which in turn means it won't be lost, and that you'll burn more calories.
   This is because muscle is calorifically expensive, and that also means that if you don't use muscle, you lose it. Your body sees no reason to carry it around any more. This in turn means that you need to eat less - which is also the root of the 'muscle turns into fat' myth. If you don't use your muscle, you lose it; if you don't reduce the amount you eat along with that loss, the excess that would have gone on to feeding and maintaining the muscle will be stored as fat instead.

   After that little science lesson, loooook, I have a new kettlebell! This gorgeous and motivational kettlebell is cast iron (heavy and compact, which means it's a space-saver) and 10kg, so it should be pretty effective. I've had my eye on it for months, but Kettleboobs sell out pretty quick, so I had been watching their website since early December for the 10kg of this beauty to come back. I finally got it mid-February.

   I'll update in April, once I'm about half way through. Scientifically speaking, there's no reason this shouldn't work. But I'm extremely dubious. You only get out of it what you put in, so I also know that, if I fail, it's my fault.
   And I'll just have to make do with the skin I'm in.
   And, if I'm honest, upon typing that line, it struck me that my skin really isn't so bad...my body can do pretty amazing things. And I am currently the healthiest I have ever been in my life.