Review of The Fitbit. My new toy.


I love a good gadget and I’m a sucker for trying anything new or on trend, so last Christmas I’d asked for a Fitbit to start tracking my steps, heart rate and activity.  I previously had the Jawbone but found that after a while the whole plugging into my phone syncing malarky was a bit of a faff.

Fitbit Dashboard

Features and reminders

With the Fitbit, it’s a lot easier syncing via Bluetooth;  results are instant and tracking steps and activity is simpler.  The handy app means you can adapt and adjust your step goals, heart rate, weight and so on.   It even recognises and logs certain activity such as a walk if it’s longer than 10 minutes or that you’re on an outdoor bike.

If you have signed up for notifications via email, Fitbit sends a weekly track of your activity and will also notify if it needs charging.  Can be a great reminder for some but I just check my app and charge it periodically.

There are other features like letting you know when a phone call or text comes in but since I’m not using this to keep track of daily life (in fact I’m escaping from these interruptions by doing exercise!), it’s easy enough to switch this function off.

Since I’ve been using this, I’ve found that it really helps me keep on track, it’s a handy stylish watch and has useful features such as an alarm clock and stopwatch.

Training log

At the moment I’m training for a 10k run and the only thing with the Fitbit Charge 2 model is that it needs to be synced with the app so you will need to take your phone with you (not a terrible thing for me seeing as I use it for music too).  The GPS tracker shows the km splits and your pace too which is great to check progress later on the app’s dashboard and stick to a training schedule.

Fitbit Challenges

Fun with the Fitbit

The app has a number of Challenges to keep you motivated and you can challenge friends to different goals such as who can the most steps within certain days or times.  They, in turn, can also challenge their friends making it a fun and collaborative way of meeting step goals. For those who want to rev it up a bit, there are Adventure Challenges such as NYC 10 Miles (NYC landmarks are simulated to tell you how far you’ve reached in the 24,000 step challenge) or similarly you can try the Valley Loop for an epic hike between Yosemite’s mountains (35,800 steps).  I haven’t used these features yet but once I do I will post a review here.

 

 

Fitbit Workouts

Workout Challenges with Fitstar

This is pretty awesome! (I never use this word but this warrants it), the Fitbit app in collaboration with Fitstar offers a number of workouts to suit your needs, whether it’s a warm up, working on core, legs or cardio to optimise your training and fitness.  Some are free, some are for Premium subscribers.  You’ll need to download the Fitstar app to access these but I think it’s a great way to maximise your workouts and especially if you don’t have time to go to the gym or are away travelling and can only do a workout in the hotel room, these are very handy.

Currently, the subscription is GBP5.99/monthly or GBP29.99/year (check your territory’s rates) which I think is not too bad considering you can easily spend this on a night out if not more!

In conclusion, while there are a plethora of fitness gadgets out there, I’ve found this to be easy to use, great for beginner runners, easy for technophobes to grasp and reasonably priced if you are serious about tracking your fitness and training.  The added subscription on Fitstar is a small price to pay and adds a bit of variety to your fitness routine.  So far I’m loving this watch and its apps and will post some more reviews once I’ve done a few of the Challenges or workouts.

Happy Training!

 

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10k countdown – Day 18


So it’s only 18 days to go until the 10k run I’ve signed up to! Training? Well, it’s been a bit sporadic but I need to step it up a gear!

I found a training guide in a Trail Running magazine which outlines what you need to do in the weeks leading up to a race. We are now in Week 4 and although I’ve been running here and there and doing some strength work in the gym, I’ve not been sticking to it religiously…whoops! Well, we’re only human and I’m not a professional sports person so I’ll cut myself a bit of slack 🙂

However, it’s not too late and will adjust the diet and plan until the big day.  Today I will be doing an easy run and will build up strength and distance from there so watch this space to see how it’s going.  Maybe train with me wherever you are and whatever you’re training for, hopefully we can motivate each other!

Nutrition for the 10k


So one of the first things I thought about when signing up for a 10k race was how could I adjust my food and nutrition to optimise my training?

There’s a balance between ensuring you are eating properly and still having the odd treat here and there.  So I’m keeping up with the eating clean principles: no processed food, whole wheat and grains, fruit, vegetables, plenty of water.  Pre-run I’ve been having a banana or a slice of toast with organic peanut butter (less sugar and salt). One of the things I do have post-run is some protein to feed the muscles such as Greek yoghurt with a handful of almonds, topped with chia seeds and honey or with some fruit like a kiwi or banana.  This always keeps me satiated until I have something else later.

Now that my race is looming (three weeks and counting…), I’ll be trying to keep up with my training schedule and getting enough fuel to keep me going.  It’s hard though!

Here is a great article I found by Kate Percy giving some great tips for a better, faster run.  What do you eat pre and post run? How have you found your running training?

Body beautiful: embracing weight and resistance training


Since I started back on the Clean and Lean programme, I joined the gym (even though I preferred The Great Outdoors – see previous post) and decided to really embrace resistance training and weight lifting.

Weights

Love your dumbell!

I had always thought of the gym as a sweat pool of body beautiful, muscle bound gym bunnies but decided to ignore my pre-conceptions.  My local SATS (Swedish gym chain) gives you access online to a training plan tailored for your goals when you join so I have been diligently following it and lo-and-behold, I have noticed muscle definition and an ever so slightly beginnings of some abs! I haven’t seen those since I was a skinny teenager so I’m very pleased with my efforts.  In fact, I remember watching the brilliant Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill speeding her way to victory in the 800m at the 2012 Olympics and thought I’d love to have abs like hers – big wish! but now a possibility (never say that dreams don’t come true ;)).

The key to this is to keep maintaining those muscles (for me, not in an obsessive way) but to workout around two to three times per week on free weights, resistance machines and core workouts.  I have done it even at home, in the loo at work (yes I’ve done a few squats and standing push ups in there, don’t tell anybody!) and while I’m cooking in kitchen I’ll do a few standing calf lifts for good measure.  Building muscle can really help with kick starting your metabolism and help you burn calories, even while you’re sitting! This article by Shape Magazine can give you a few hints and tips for starters.

So even in my grand old age, we can change and do something different and out of our comfort zone.  Don’t be afraid…embrace it!

Set yourself a goal to shift those last few kilos


It’s been a wee while since I last posted and as with anyone with a day-to-day life, we all get a bit swept up with doing other things and maybe our diet or fitness may fall by the wayside.  I’ve been away travelling and eating lots of delicious things which were definitely not clean and lean…whoops – but we’re all human aren’t we?

So, has this affected any weight gain? Thankfully not! For some reason I haven’t gained weight and I believe this is due to me being mindful still about what I’m eating, while not denying myself some treats and keeping up with the fitness and weight training – even while on holiday.  So that’s the key, just keep it up and a little can still help and count to keeping your fitness and muscle tone in check.

I have actually reached a weight loss plateau and felt I needed to step it up a little and do something different.  So, my hubby and I have signed up for a local 10km run! Although I am a regular runner and often go to the gym mixing up elliptical with rowing and the treadmill, I am not shifting those last few kilos.  I don’t usually sign up for these things but felt I needed a goal and a training plan to work towards.

So here goes! I will post more about how I will be training over the next few months before the race in August.

Reaching My Fighting Weight!


So in my post Review: The Clean and Lean Year I mentioned that I’d come to a bit of a weight-loss plateau.  You know, where you’ve come to a standstill and those few niggly kilos that you can’t get rid of are still lurking.  While I’m pleased that I’ve kept the weight off that I lost last year, I’ve got an end goal which I call my ‘fighting weight’.  The weight that you know you can fit into clothes without jelly bellies and bulges here and there and it’s the weight which is not putting your health at risk. It’s also the weight where you can probably have a little blow out but safe in the knowledge that you can lose it again if you’ve overindulged.

My downfall is wine – hmmm, love a good vino but that has to go…empty calories and no nutritional value whatsoever  😦 The other is sugar, so no Semlas* for me at the moment (ok maybe one at some point before they disappear for the year).

I’ve kickstarted the Clean and Lean diet again, bearing in mind the key principles:

  1. No booze
  2. No sugar
  3. No refined carbs (and not after 6pm)
  4. Lots of sleep
  5. Lots of water
  6. Regular exercise with mainly strength training
  7. No stress!

My new typical food day:

Breakfast: scrambled eggs, spinach, ham and grilled tomatoes with a little shaving of parmesan. Small Nespresso coffee.

Post-workout snack: Plain Greek yoghurt with almonds and a sprinkling of chia seeds, coconut flakes and a drizzle of honey (great protein provider!).

Lunch: Chinese chicken salad with homemade dressing.

Snack: Small Nespresso coffee (but not after 3pm!) and a small satsuma.

Dinner: Baked salmon with cous cous, broccoli and green beans.

I’m also keeping a weight and stats diary with weigh in/measurement taken at the same time every week (currently Sunday mornings before breakfast).

So, let’s see if this will kickstart any weight loss again and if you’re starting Clean and Lean for the first time, check out Back in the saddle again and how I prepped for a change in lifestyle**.

Good luck with your healthy eating journey and follow me for further updates on how mine is going plus some hints and tips along the way…

 

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*A Swedish bun which is loaded with cream, sold and eaten after the new year till Easter.

**Note that I am not a healthcare practitioner and this is my personal blog and opinion only. If in doubt when embarking on any weight loss programme, please consult your doctor.

Say No to the January Blues!


January.  A grim month with the aftermath of the Festive Season upon us, sitting around dreaming of a tropical getaway (unless you’re already somewhere hot of course). Still, it’s a month of contemplation, resolutions and a will to do something different, whether it’s to lose weight, change jobs, be better organised or just to eat healthier and do more exercise.  Whatever it is, ‘be better than you were today’ – that’s if you want to…

I spent last year procrastinating over a very dear personal project of mine.  I was full of enthusiasm at the beginning of the year (not dissimilar to right now, in fact) with fresh ideas, a willingness to make it happen and to ‘be better than you were today’.

What happened?

I started it, it came to a standstill and then I tucked it away, thinking about it from time-to-time but never actually revisiting it and finishing it off.  Why did I do this? Because I made excuses for myself, to myself. I think it’s fair to say that it was only me, stopping me.

So what to do?

For a start, say NO to the January blues.  Next, work out a plan. As I’m a marketer by trade, we use the SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) but it can apply to you for personal projects too. It normally comes in the form of a grid:

swot

The SWOT grid, taken from The Decision Book by Mikael Krogerus & Roman Tschäppeler

Apply SWOT to something you want to do this year.  Plan how you should do it, look at milestones and some goals.  Yes, it all sounds very organised and boring but it should help you keep track.  My problem last year was that my plan stopped in April…and that’s exactly when it stopped!! [cue: head in hands moment].

So, if your goal is to be a better runner, look at ways in which you can do this.  Say, your Strength is that you are physically healthy and can run a mile with ease, capitalise on this and the Opportunity here could be to run five miles with ease perhaps? Could you put a milestone marker here by signing up for a local run?

What are your Weaknesses? It may be that you don’t have the time to train? Are you able to free up time from something else? Could you run to and from work instead of taking the car or bus? Is it childcare issues? Could you speak to your partner, friends or family to help you with this while you train? Maybe you weaken when you reach two miles, so why not address how you could be a stronger and fitter runner? Do you need more strength training so joining a gym could be the solution or should you utilise a personal trainer?

What are the Threats? Maybe that’s YOU? Are you stopping yourself doing something you’ve always wanted to do?

So, I didn’t really want this post to become too much of a self-help guide and of course these are merely examples and I’m not a life coach. However, as it’s the New Year, it’s great to self-evaluate and to reach some goals – whether personal, professional or otherwise.

Happy planning and here’s to a fruitful and exciting 2017!

 

 

 

Review: The Clean and Lean Year


So it’s that time of year again: parties, food, boozing, food, parties, boozing, maybe the gym?  It’s hard to resist isn’t it?

Fortunately, I’ve been able to restrain myself a bit and spread out the parties and boozing and luckily maintained my weight after restarting the Clean and Lean diet earlier this year.

I’ve also introduced weight training; pretty much my gym workouts are usually split as: 10% cardio (warm-up or cool-down) / 60% resistance or weights / 30% core.  I’ve noticed that doing this has really re-shaped my body and this is coming from someone who’s not been a fan of weight training previously, usually opting for mostly cardio and some half-hearted sit ups.

Going to Pilates has really opened my eyes up to working the core and keeping it strong and the weights have helped sculpt my body giving myself a bit of definition (loving it!).  Having said that, I’m still working on the six-pack and wobbly bits here and there but it’s helped so much in keeping the weight gain at bay.  This in turn has also helped me become a better runner with more strength and with (obviously) less weight to carry.

So, what now? The dreaded plateau has returned. I’ve kept the kilos lost off and am still working on my strength…but the weight (and measurements) have come to a standstill.  My goal is to shift the last few won’t-budge kilos that then means you can stick to maintenance knowing you’re at a healthy size and weight.

My weakness is a cheeky wine and a piece of cake or biscuit here and there (I blame Swedish Fika) and so, as a New Year’s Resolution, it’s time to cut these out.  Both laden with sugar, I will be going on the Kickstart regime in the New Year, so watch this space!

In the meantime, I’ll be sticking with the main principles of eating clean and the 80/20 rule (mainly good, occasionally bad) over the next few weeks.  W I L L P O W E R ! !

Have a fabulous Festive Season and New Year wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

Loving the Lactose-free life


Some years ago, I was probably not feeling my healthiest, fittest or even lightest.  I was feeling sluggish, bloated at times and a bit stressed with work and not getting enough decent sleep.

I decided to take an test to see if I was allergic or intolerant to anything and low and behold, I discovered I was allergic to yeast and intolerant to lactose.  So out went the beers, Marmite and milk!  After, I was trying all sorts of alternatives: soya, almond, rice, goat (in my opinion, disgusting by the way) milk but the real taste of cow’s milk was hard to find.  Proper English tea with soya milk – no thanks!

 

womans-hands-forming-heart-symbol-on-belly

Pic credit: Getty

So what is lactose intolerance?

This is where your body can’t digest lactose, which is a natural sugar found in dairy and milk products.  When consuming dairy or milk products, the lactose travels to the large intestine (or colon) and at this stage has trouble digesting it, causing the bloating and gas. It needs an enzyme called lactase to convert this milk sugar into simple sugars that the body can use (glucose and galactose).  Lactase is produced in the small intestine and if you do not produce enough of it to break down the lactose then this will cause issues with digestion.

A question of genetics and ethnicity?

In a 2002 article written in ‘American Family Physician’, noted that up to 100% Asians and Native Americans, 60%-80% blacks and 50%-80% Latinos were lactose intolerant versus up to 15% with European ancestry.  In simple terms, the theory is that ancestors living in cattle breeding environments grew tolerant to milk whereas those who didn’t were more susceptible (Livestrong). So being of Chinese descent, I am predisposed to be lactose intolerant.

IMG_0067

Looking for lactose alternatives and substitutes

Since moving to Sweden last year, I have happily discovered that Swedes are also a nation of lactose-intolerants and I am now in lactose free heaven!  Most cafes and pop up coffee shops offer a lactose free milk or alternative, there are even lactose free Semlas (a yummy cardamon and almond flavoured spongy bun filled with cream, mainly served between Lent and Easter) and an array of treats for my delectation.  I am absolutely rubbing my hands in glee at the thought of being able to eat proper dairy tasting items again.  To make things even better there is a large freezer full of lactose free ice cream in the supermarket – brilliant!

image

So why are Swedes lactose intolerant?

In an article by John Hopkins Medicine the Neolithic DNA of Sweden showed 95% of those studied were lactose intolerant as opposed to 25% in modern day Sweden, hence the need for a lactose free products! An article published in ‘Discover’ magazine explains this a bit further and in more detail if you’re really interested 🙂

 

The Power of Pilates


The Clean and Lean book mentions doing some kickstart exercises such as high intensity workouts mixed with Pilates or strength training.  For me I’m a big fan of the great outdoors and funnily I never used to be and hated running outside.  I try to go out at least twice per week (sometimes three) for at least 30 minutes each time.  Sometimes I mix up a flat surface running route with some up-hill running and some short bursts in my runs.  I try not to go the same route twice in a row in order to mix it up a bit and see a different bit of scenery each time.

Recently I’ve been going to Pilates twice per week and even though it’s an hour of a tough workout, it’s been very enjoyable.  At the beginning I realised my core strength was terrible and I couldn’t even do the roll up without putting my arms down to push myself up or even do a simple plank without my hips dropping.  After a few sessions I was getting stronger through my core and my legs and arms were getting more toned.  My record for plank is now 3 minutes 20 seconds and I can roll up with ease!  I’ve found that my belly is firming up and can see the beginnings of some abs that haven’t seen the light of day for years!

Pilates class

Group class at Pilates by Janessa

Janessa Clark who runs Pilates classes in Stockholm says: “Pilates targets the deep muscles of the torso and spine (your ‘powerhouse’ or ‘core’) to strengthen the body from the inside out in proper alignment. The goals are to achieve a balance of strength and flexibility by creating a symbiotic relationship of opposing muscle groups, a harmonious collaboration between stability and mobility and better overall functioning of the body in everyday life. The six guiding principles of the Pilates method are: Breathing, Centering, Concentration, Control, Flow and Precision. Pilates is a dynamic system of exercise that integrates, refines and enhances our body, mind and spirit.”  She added: “It’s important for runners to train Pilates also since Pilates addresses the body in all planes of motion where running stays very narrowly in the sagittal (front to back) plane.”

Joseph Pilates noted that Pilates is like an ‘internal shower’, helping to cleanse the organs, oxygenate the cells and assists in boosting our body’s production of endorphins (the ‘feel good’ factor). In addition, it’s great for digestion and helps us sleep better too.  With this much going for it, what’s not to love?!

I was always a yoga goer but never really Pilates so I’m really loving mixing up classes to work on different areas of my body.  Combining this with cardio and other strength work has changed my body shape and I’m loving the results!

Featured photo credit: Optimus Lab. Class photo credit: Pilates by Janessa