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half filled house

Why You Should Care About Interior Design

I never much cared for decorating, nor was I bothered about having a super-aesthetically pleasing home because it was simply not a priority. I wanted to spend my time and money on travelling, handbags, shoes and eating out considerably more often than I should have.

I simply wanted a clean and minimal home that functioned for studying, cooking, starting businesses and hosting nights in with my friends – and that really didn’t require much consideration as far as I was concerned

Only recently – when I decided to sell my first home – have I started to enjoy the idea of having a beautiful home. The up-and-coming sale process coupled with a little inspiration from friend and up-coming interior stylist Saskia Dooley has lead me to interior design enlightenment!

Why do I suddenly care so much about the detail? Why have I suddenly taken a liking to house plants and rid my entire new-build house of it’s offensive magnolia walls? It’s because I realised that I actually do care about interior design. 

Here are some reasons why you should too:

You Can Get Help.

Even if you’re not sure where to start and you’re struggling to piece together inspiration – there is hope! The professionals can help you. If you were unsure how to change the oil in your car, you’d see a mechanic. If you were unsure how to fix a broken boiler you would (I certainly hope) call I plumber.

It follows that if you’re not sure how to make the best of your home, you can consult an Interior Stylist!

You Can Start Small

Start with a blog. Reading tips and studying the stunning visuals of a design blog is a sensible place to start, and better yet – it’s usually free!

Most credible Interior Stylists will have a blog.

img_0484

Unsure where to start – try Saskia’s blog – halffilledhouse.com – the title of which was inspired by a move into her first home – a new build which has been lovingly and carefully furnished over time (but for at least a few months was less than half filled).

You SHOULD Love Your Home

Many of us will never be completely satisfied with our houses. We might want a bigger house with more character  and a walk-in wardrobe. 

For most of us, the ‘dream house’ will remain exactly that – a fantasy at best. That’s not to say you can’t make the most of the house you have by turning into an environment that you feel proud of – a place you LOVE to come home to!

For years I put off decorating on the basis that I was going to move anyway so might as well save my time and money for renovating whatever house I was to purchase next. What actually transpired is that I enjoyed our current home less.

We recently decorated with a view to improving the appearance prior to sale and I realised I should have done it much earlier so I could have enjoyed the benefit of the light, bright and fresh environment we had created.

It Might be Cheaper than You Think

It’s possible to spend a little bit and get a lot in return. A good interior stylist will take your budget and max out it’s potential, knowing where best to save and where best to splurge. Similarly, popular trends and hashtags such as #ikeahack lend themselves to creative uses of typically inexpensive furniture that has been somehow altered or re-purposed to make it fit for purpose in a stylish home. Check out these hashtags on Instagram for inspiration and make your pennies stretch further!

Make Small Spaces ‘Bigger’

With house prices rising and wages typically not growing at a rate to match, many of us will find ourselves struggling to afford the living space we perhaps grew up accustomed to.

Clever interior design can make a huge different to the perception of space. That under-stairs cupboard where you chuck your vacuum cleaner, a bucket and your muddy trainers could quite easily be transformed into a walk-in larder by someone with the right creative vision – like this project:

halffilledhouse

Add Value!

One should never overlook the power of fresh neutral paint, stylish accessories and the removal of irrelevant clutter. If you’re thinking of selling your home, get a second opinion as to whether you could add value with a little interior styling. It could be worth thousands!

Happy Home Styling!

F x

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Quick Blueberry ‘Cloud Eggs’

If you’ve browsed Instagram aimlessly at any point in the morning over the last few months you may have stumbled across the phenomenon that is ‘cloud eggs’.

These are basically baked whipped egg whites with the yolk plopped in the middle – a somewhat extravagant and slightly laborious way to prepare an egg, but photogenically pleasing therefore attractive to food snappers globally.

Does anyone really have time for that in the morning? I certainly don’t, which is why I decided to throw together my own fluffy and fast (and sweet and fruity), totally unrelated version of cloud eggs!

Ingredients:

cloud eggs

  • 6 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup blueberries (or a handful)
  • 1 tbsp sugar (or sweetener if preferred)
  • 1 tsp coconut oil

Tools:

  • KitchenAid or alternative electric whisk (you can use a manual whisk, but it will not be quick!)
  • frying pan

What to do:

cloud eggs - blueberry 1

  1. Whisk eggs and sugar until the mix is thick and fluffy (not quite as thick as meringue mix, but 2/3 as thick)
  2. Heat coconut oil in pan to low/med heat
  3. Add egg mix to the pan and flatten the mix
  4. Sprinkle the blueberries on top
  5. Cook over a low heat for 2-5 minutes, then break up and turn over
  6. Cook for another 2 mins, turning when necessary
  7. Chuck it on a plate and eat it!

The Macros:

Estimated macros for this meal are as follows:

Protein: 22g

Fat: 5g (if cooking in coconut oil)

Carbs: 18g (if using sugar)

Calories: 210

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ICAEW New logo 2017

ICAEW Women in Business & Leadership Event

Last week I attended my first ICAEW event, hosted by Liverpool Society of Chartered Accountants. The event was aimed at women in finance and business and special guest Penny Haslam spoke about how she delivers concise and compelling content, confidently.

Personal and professional development is something close to my heart. In my biggest moments of doubt – including my ¼ life crisis – the common theme was that I lacked challenge and therefore was no longer forging forward at the pace I preferred. 2017 has been the year where I’ve broadened my development horizons. I’ve opened up my diary, said yes to almost every invitation and met some brilliant and inspiring people as a result. My first ICAEW event was no exception.

 

Pizza, Tea, Biscuits and a dose of Confidence

I walked into a hotel conference room full of accountants and made a bee-line straight towards the tea and biscuits, obviously. I was attending with two senior finance professionals from my team and one of my fellow KPMG alumni (now friend and fellow networking group member) who had first alerted me to the event. I scoffed my first biscuit, wondering whether it was chocolate or toffee flavour – or both. Whilst I was musing as to how easy it would be to replicate the recipe, we were escorted into a smaller room set up with 3 round banquet tables and a projector.

We took a seat at the back table, immediately grabbed the free 4-colours-in-1 ball point pen and ruffled through the materials in the shiny clear plastic wallet in front of us. The title for Penny’s talk was ‘Gain the Expert Advantage and Lift Off In Leadership’ – quite an intimidating and powerful title.

Penny Haslam Gain the Expert Advantage Vimeo

Click on the image to view the key note speech

When Penny took her position at the front of the room, the audience warmed to her immediately. Perhaps this was because she manages to appear confident and knowledgeable whilst also seeming approachable. Perhaps it was also something to do with the fact that I had progressed through my teen years seeing her face on the BBC and therefore felt like I knew her a little already.

Penny talked us through her broadcasting career and life since leaving the BBC before the big question came…

“Who in this room considers themselves to be an expert?”

No hands were raised in the audience.

Penny pledged that she would do her very best to change that and in the 1.5 hours that followed she covered a variety of topics, delivered some harsh truths and equipped the room with some tools to take away and deploy in our personal and professional lives.

The session was engaging and not at all studious and CPD-like. Audience participation was high – something which is particularly rare when the audience is made up of accountants!

At the end of the session, with pizza reduced to crumbs and tea and coffee cups empty, Penny asked the question once more.

“Who in this room considers themselves to be an expert?”

I found myself raising my hand without hesitation. I surveyed the room and noted that everyone else had done exactly that. Modesty is something most Accountants (and the British generally) are built on, so the mere fact that any hands were raised was indicative of how we can change the way we perceive ourselves, and therefore how others are likely to perceive us.

So it was good then?!

Personal and Professional development is something that requires constant work. I appreciate it doesn’t sound like the most exciting way to spend your Thursday evening and add to that the looming pressure of maintaining your CPD file and it’s easy to feel like you’re at the Malmaison due to some misplaced feeling of obligation to the institute or to ‘tick a box’.

I certainly thought the event was a valuable use of my personal time, but what did others have to say?

“It was really informative. Penny was really engaging and the skills shared were really useful! I’ll definitely go on to use these in the workplace.”

Rebecca Trebble, Senior Finance Manager, Shop Direct

The course was very interesting, we learnt lots of great tips. There was lots of interaction which kept everyone feeling engaged, motivated and inspired. I will definitely be attending more courses in the future. “

Stephanie Lucas, Senior Finance Manager, Shop Direct

Having attended my first ICAEW event I can now say that it was more than a box-ticking exercise. In fact, I’d strongly encourage anyone not already doing so to attend events like this – what do you have to lose?

F x

Why I Ripped Up My 5 Year Plan

“Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?”

It’s the interview question I hate the most.

Where I actually see myself is to be remotely managing my portfolio of investments, successful start-ups and the build of my eco-friendly container-house from a hammock in the garden of my Nanna’s house whilst I holiday in Barbados.

That probably wouldn’t go down too well so I revert back to the more reasonable but probably less exciting answer which I hope conveys my willingness to graft year-upon-year in the hope of some incremental remuneration and an eventual promotion.

 

businesspundit

Anyway, regardless of any of that, I don’t really believe that a 5 year plan is either required or beneficial.

Why? Let me explain…

It’s nobody’s business but mine

It’s the business equivalent of asking ‘Do you plan to have children?’- socially acceptable but actually pretty uncomfortable for anyone who’s plans sit outside of societal norms.

It implies your current situation is one you should change

The insistence within a corporate environment of having a 5 year plan implies that where you are now is somehow inadequate… so inadequate that it will take you 5 years to get to a point where you really ought to want to be.

The thing is, this leads to a focus on the future – so much so that you can completely miss out on the joy of living in the present.

five-year-plan

Carpe diem. YOLO. However you put it, I don’t want to wish away the next 5 years!

It can lead to negativity when you go off-course

When you have a 5 year plan and something changes which means the plan is not longer realistic or possible, it can feel like a monumental failure and a catastrophe beyond recovery.

Last time I had a 5 year plan, the end-game was to become a Barrister or Solicitor, working in the field of mental health and medical ethics. When I realised that wasn’t likely to happen I was devastated. My laser focus on that plan meant I was less prepared for life outside of that plan.

Since the 5 year plan had failed me, I decided to give it the boot. Did it do me any harm? I don’t believe so.

5 Years is too long

I don’t think 5 years is an appropriate time scale for a modern careerist to plan. Tech advancements and changes in the way businesses operate mean we need to be adaptable. If you’re mid-late 20’s, it’s likely that there will be lots of non-career life changes in 5 years, so is it really realistic to plan over that timescale?

I propose we think agile instead, and plan the next ‘career sprint’ rather than fixing on a point half a decade away.

Something 5 years away can be put off, but something 5 months away requires immediate action!

“So you don’t have a long term plan any more?”

I have clear ambitions and goals, and whilst these goals don’t change, the time and method of achieving them does – almost daily.

Ripping up my 5 year plan is not a display of weakness. It is not a failure. It is not naivety.

It is control, power, flexibility, adaptability and absolute confidence in what I believe I will achieve in-and-out of the office. Next time I get asked where I see myself in 5 years, I’ll try and remember that.

F x

 

skinny blueberry muffins

Skinny Blueberry Muffins

I’ve been meaning to post some healthy food-swap recipes ever since I finished my sports nutrition qualification last summer, but life got in the way.

Last week I decided, after 5 years of wanting one, to buy a KitchenAid Mixer.

Since then, in an effort to extract the best value from it I’ve been trying to use it at least a couple of times per week.

My aim is to make healthier version of the sweet treats that i frequently crave. First up, skinny blueberry muffins!

I’ve started using cups for recipes because I like to use only the bowl of the mixer, limiting mess!

skinny blueberry muffins

Ingredients:

Ingredient lot 1:

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil / melted coconut oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup low fat cream cheese (e.g. Philadelphia light)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (prefer the slightly more extravagent vanilla beans in jelly, but vanilla extract will do)
  • 1 cup defrosted frozen blueberries
  • 0.5 cups hazelnut milk (or other silk substitute)

Ingredient lot 2:

  • 1.5 cups self-raising flour (or buckwheat flour if making gluten free versions)
  • 0.5 cups sugar
  • 1 tsps baking power (or gluten free raising agent)
  • 0.25 tsps salt

Finishing ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of frozen blueberries to put on top of the muffins

What to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 220c
  2. Chuck all of ingredients in lot 1 into the mixing bowl and whisk until light and smooth (if using a KitchenAid, mix for 2-3 minutes on setting 6 using the whisk attachment)
  3. Chuck all of ingredients in lot 2 into the mixing bowl and stir in (if using a KitchenAid, mix with the flat beater for 1-2 minutes on setting 2)
  4. half fill each compartment of a greased muffin tin, the pop the finishing ingredients on top of the mix
  5. Cook for 5 mins on 220c then drop to 180c for the next 20-25 mins or until golden brown and a knife the the centre comes out clean)
  6. leave to cool (maybe go to the gym at this point?)
  7. Eat with a brew. Preferably a T-OLOGY brew. 😉

Cheers to that.

F x

 

 

Done list

Why You Should be Using a ‘Done List’

 

A done list is a short hand way of noting the main things accomplished in a period of time. It can take the form of a literal ‘list’, or simply ticks against a date on a calendar to represent having completed a goal on another consecutive day (such as going to the gym or not smoking).

I first came across the ‘done list’ as a concept when I read ‘Brainhack‘ by Neil Pavitt. I started writing done lists in work around 1 month ago, and it’s already changed the way I approach my work. Here’s why you should re-think the to-do list and consider writing a done list of your own:

YOU’LL RECOGNISE YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Ambitious people – particularly British ambitious people – are particularly terrible at acknowledging when they have achieved something. It’s something to do with modesty, or perhaps being chastised for boastfulness in our early years. The done list forces you to take stock of what you have achieved. It forces you to state clearly what value you have driven within the time period, and it’s actually quite pleasant!

BUSY DOES NOT EQUAL PRODUCTIVE

i am very busy

If you’re the kind of person who is running around all day without feeling like you’re getting anything done, it might actually be the case that you aren’t. Taking the time to pull together a done list will help you identify which of those energy-draining activities was a useful allocation of your time and which were simply an illusion of productivity.

In an article by Jessica Stillman for INC.com she asks whether what’s on your to-do list and what you actually spend your time doing line up. If they don’t, where is it going wrong?

If you get through the day and you’ve only really served others, however noble that might be it will not help you to meet your own objectives. Take a step back, see what you’ve actually achieved and adjust your focus according to how you feel about that balance.

YOU’LL REMEMBER WHAT YOU DID LAST WEEK

Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve worked long hours all week only to freeze and fall silent when asked ‘what have you been working on this week?’ in a team meeting? Yup. Same.

The done list is a good way of summarising what you’ve achieved in the week and validating the feeling that you’ve worked hard. Often when I’ve been writing my done list I’ve struggled to recall how I spent my time initially, then it all comes flooding back once pen hits paper.

If I hadn’t taken 10 minutes to regurgitate the list of completed tasks into my journal last week I would have disregarded around 25-50% of the valuable tasks I’d done. I would have left the office on a Friday afternoon with a feeling of failure – after all I still had a huge to-do list. As it happens, the done list  was twice as long as the to-do list, so on reflection it had been a good week. Compiling the done list is what tipped the balance.

TRADITIONAL TO DO LISTS ENCOURAGE YOU TO DE-PRIORITISE

To do lists encourage you to attack the easier tasks first, so you can enjoy striking the line through the words. The temptation to strike off ‘submit expenses’ ahead of ‘financial modelling for Easter promo offers’ is so great that despite the relative unimportance of reclaiming a £20 train ticket, you find yourself filling out the form with gusto.

PROGRESS = ADDITIONAL MOTIVATION

Seeing progress provides motivation. Reflecting on what you have already achieved can make you more productive simply by giving you the extra energy you need to crack on with the next big task.

Joel Gascoigne, Co-Founder/CEO of Buffer, has this to say about done lists:

“Done lists help me sustain my productivity throughout the week. I used to have that ‘where did the day go?’-feeling without being able to remember what I did. Now I look at my list and feel great about all the things I got done. That’s powerful.”

If that doesn’t convice you, Laura Vanderkam, Author of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast has this too add: 

“Progress is motivating. Failure is not.”

THEY BRIDGE THE GAP BETWEEN ‘STARTED’ AND ‘DONE’

progress the done list

If you’ve challenged yourself to lose 10lb and have lost 8.5, your to do list would suggest that you haven’t met your goal. The done list would clearly state that you’ve lost 8.5lbs – a cracking achievement – and allows you to give yourself a mental pat on the back.

HOW TO BEGIN USING A ‘DONE LIST’

There are plenty of free and excellent resources online to help with your done list. One interesting option is iDoneThis. Perhaps try downloading and reading their excellent e-book here

Too attached to the to-do list?

Yes, me too. I’m using both. I don’t subscribe to the idea that you need to switch completely from to-do to done to reep the benefits of the latter. Simply recording your ‘done’ tasks is enough to provide balance when your to-do list grows as fast as mine does!

Go forth, get shit done… and make a note of it.

F x

 

Excuse: I Don’t Have Time to Exercise

BULLSHIT. Yes, I said it. A controversial point and I know it.

It’s the most common excuse for not engaging in activities which contribute to a healthy lifestyle – the fact that we are simply too busy.

In the past I’ve declared “I don’t have time” to justify the many things that in hindsight, I just simply didn’t want to do. It’s far easier to communicate using that short statement than it is to explain that we have allocated our precious time to something else, because we place greater value on that alternative activity than say, a spin class (which quite frankly, is fair enough!).

The Luxury of Time

Modern life is a series of connected events which merge together to create a waking day which is ‘fully switched on’ from start to finish. Every waking hour of every day appears to be consumed with working, eating, networking and running around after other important people in our lives.

In fact, according to Ofcom, we’re spending two hours online on our smartphones every day; twice as long as laptops and PCs.

How to ‘Find Time’

It’s not very helpful to rubbish the excuse without providing practical steps to get over it, so here’s some of the techniques I’ve used in the past when I’ve been hammering the ‘I don’t have time’ excuse…

1. The ‘Time-Sheet Test’

Otherwise referred to as the ‘repeat test’, you keep a detailed log of your day, including any ‘down time’. I can almost guarantee you that you’re committing time to things you don’t place any value on, or to things you simply didn’t realise you were doing! Having seen in black and white how you’re allocating time, you might wish to ditch the third consecutive episode of that Netflix drama and get some fresh air.

2. Be a Bit Selfish

If the one real barrier between your current position and a healthier lifestyle truly is time, when you’re making your choices about what you want and therefore what is most important for you to fit into your routine, consider first the direct effect on your life and then consider the effect on the lives of those for whom you care the most.

3. Sleep Less

Sleep is something people often give up to fit in the things when they’re struggling for time but having tried 5am daily workouts for a few months I decided sleep wasn’t something I could sacrifice – the cumulative impact of sleep deprivation was just horrible.

For more tips on how to find time in unexpected places, see this Huffington Post Article.

How to ‘Squeeze In’ Exercise

If the above methods have failed, all is not lost! I’ve had many weird suggestions from my friends over the years on how to fit in exercise ‘in disguise’. Here’s some of the weird and wonderful ways my associates manage it despite not being able to find the time…

1. Switch up the Transport Method

The prime candidate for this is the commute to the office.  A friend of mine switched the car journey for cycling. This added 15 minutes to his commute in the morning and again on the way home, but it did mean that he was getting in 45 minutes each way of moderate cardio. The way he looked at it was that he would already spend an hour a day getting to and from work and wanted to do around an hour a day of exercise. In combining the two he managed to SAVE half an hour in the day!

Many companies actually incentivise cycling to work through cycle to work schemes, so check with your employer if you plan on making this switch!

2. Make the Train Less Convenient

For some of us, cycling to the office isn’t an option. Getting off the train / tram a station further from the office can be just as effective.

This is a relatively small change to make and often doesn’t inconvenience the traveller much more. Take the example of riding the tram into Manchester city centre – if you want to get to Victoria from south Manchester, then you could stay on the tram right through to that stop. As an alternative, you could jump off the tram near the city library and walk the 10-15 minutes to the office from there (assuming the office is close to Victoria!). This would, as a return journey, amount to nearly the recommended daily minimum exercise quota per current government guidelines.

Squat whilst Brushing Your Teeth

This was one of the more ‘out-there’ suggestions. Brushing your teeth is an essential part of our daily bodily maintenance, and whilst I don’t want to discourage concentrated and methodical tooth-brushing, most people can probably manage moving their legs independently from their arms in order to dip down into the squat position a few times. If that’s not the case, then you’re also developing co-ordination skills at the same time. Win-Win.

Some even go as far as whole dental-related workouts – see this handy article for more ideas! 

Sit-ups in the Ad Break

Dropping to the floor and doing sit ups or press ups when the adverts are on the TV doesn’t really appeal to me, but I can see how it’s better than being in full couch potato mode.

The only real flaw is that a lot of what we watch now may be recorded, and therefore you could just whizz through the adverts, thus avoiding the exercise altogether!

Under-Desk Leg Raises

This requires you to hold your legs out in front of you at a right angle to the body when sitting at the desk, thus engaging the abdominal muscles and quads.

It might look a little bit odd if you have a desk which doesn’t have ‘sides’ or you’re on the end of you bank of desks, so perhaps have your reasoning readily prepared in case you get challenged about why your legs are suspended in mid-air.

Try some of the other ‘Stealth’ moves in the office – check out the tips in this article!

Take the Flipping’ Stairs!

Whilst this is possibly one of the most obvious suggestions, I expect few of us actually do this! I used to work on the 12th floor, so by the time I had walked up, it had taken me a few minutes and because I’d come from outside in my big winter coat carrying my work bag and my lunch supplies I would be very warm and flustered, therefore much preferred to take the lift!

Hold ‘Walking Meetings’

Again this is a bit of an odd one, but fairly logical nonetheless. There are plenty of meetings I’ve been in that could have been conducted on-the-go. In fact, I often used to dash out at lunchtime to grab something for lunch an with my colleagues in tow, we would effectively be having a walking meeting.

There are obviously some draw -backs. It’s pretty hard to take notes, and even harder to show slides, but next time you have a 1-2-1 or a less paper heavy meeting perhaps suggest a quick walk in the fresh air.

The oft-cited benefits of improved productivity and the ability to break down hierarchical barriers in the workplace might sway you towards trying it nonetheless.

If the thought of that is far too ludicrous, perhaps suggest the meeting takes place somewhere away from your desk so that you at least have the benefit of getting up and walking, even if it is only to a meeting room on another floor.

Do ‘Exercise Sprints’

This means splitting your (for example) 25 minute workout into 5 x 5 minutes slotting those small sprints into the day.

This was something I saw on a social media post, by a new mum who was struggling to fit in her work-outs. She had a yoga mat at home and would split her workout into 5 rounds of 5 x 1 minute exercise bursts, meaning she could do them on an ad hoc basis around whatever needs her baby son had.Sounds intense, but completely do-able.

Actually Take a Lunch Break

Take a break at lunchtime and use it wisely. Perhaps a stroll, gym class or a swift stretch. This is so easy to do, yet so many of us work through our lunch break that it just doesn’t happen. Not only is it physically beneficial to take a lunch break, but has been proven to improve productivity upon your return to work. Even the boss will be happy.

 

Keeping on Track

Physically allocating time for something in the day is one thing, but committing to it longer term is another thing altogether. Maintaining good habits much harder than choosing to adopt them in the first place and takes considerable self-discipline.

It’s important to learn to differentiate between when you:

  1. Genuinely have other more important things to do (e.g. you’re in work for a long shift, then picking up the kids, then have a dentist appointment, then have to wash the clothes and take the dog for a walk) or;
  2. You’re stretching out other things in order to provide a bullshit excuse for yourself to mean you can justify avoiding training – otherwise known as procrastination – something I used to be very good at!

If you’re in a situation where you genuinely need to prioritise other things then you also need to accept it, get that done, and take tomorrow as a new day. Shit happens.

If you really honestly don’t have time to work out, then so be it. Accept that you’ve prioritised something else that was a worthwhile focus of your time and then you can be happy and content with your decision.

It’s all a choice – and the best bit is, you only need to be accountable to yourself!

F x

 

15 tips for new gym goers

15 Tips for Newbie Gym-Goers

So you’ve joined a gym and 2017 is going to be your year! But wait… you’ve never been to a gym before and you have no idea what you’re doing.

Take these 15 Top Tips for newbie gym-goers as the place to start:

1) Set Goals & Make a Plan

The easiest way to fail is to start your fitness journey without goals and without a plan of how you’re going to get there.

“I want to lose weight” isn’t a very good plan.

“I want to lose 7lb in 4 weeks and to do so I will attend the gym 3 times per week, run/walk 5k once per week (and make positive changes to my nutrition) is a much better plan.

I’d go one step further and plan out the exact exercise I wanted to do on each gym visit. Write it down or print it off and cross off each session when you’ve done it – it’s super satisfying when you can see all those crosses!

2) Invest In Appropriate Footwear

If you’re going to be doing a lot of running then you should probably go and get ‘gait analysis’ in a reputable running store. This will make sure you prevent injury caused by repeatedly allowing your foot to strike the floor in a wonky or wobbly manner. I wasn’t aware of the importance of this when I first started training many years ago and even after someone suggested my injury could be down to my trainers, I thought they meant poor quality rather than just the wrong type. 

If you’re going to be doing weights exclusively then running trainers don’t offer a lot of stability for moves like squats, so you might be better with an all round training shoe or lifting shoes.

screen-shot-2016-11-26-at-14-34-19

Trail shoes, appropriate for off road terrain!

3) Don’t Buy All Your Kit At Once

I was so enthusiastic about my new found motivation to get fit that I went to the shops and loaded up on ‘gym gear’ to go running in. Half of it only ever made it out of the house once, because they were somehow irritating or impractical to wear.

I can’t explain how annoying it is a top to end up around your neck when you’re mid-burpee, or for your shorts to cause embarrassing mooning situations in yoga class.

Obviously you’ll need some kit. The best advice I can give here is to buy minimal kit and test it to see what it is you’re most comfortable wearing.

When you’ve found your gym-attire sweet spot, go and stock up!

4) Make it Social!

Find your tribe and help keep each other accountable. It might be that you regularly attend the same class and when you don’t, the other regulars ask why you didn’t come!

It might be that you use social media to connect with others on the same journey as you. When I was marathon training I connected with other runners across the globe and we found motivation from each other, even if the pain of training was the only thing we had in common!

The benefits of gym-buddies have been explored before. Check out this article for a more in-depth examination of how and why gym-partner accountability works.

15 tips for new gym goers

5) Beware of Gym Germs!

I often see people coming out of the gym conscientiously snacking on an apple or satsuma. Whilst this might seem like the perfect way to end a weights session, I can’t help but think of the germs they’re ingesting along with their Granny Smith!

Gyms are the perfect breeding ground for germs. Make sure you wash your hands before eating following a gym session.

Not convinced? I once followed a guy on the squat rack who had been cupping his balls in between sets.

If you’re a germ-a-phobe like me then follow these top tips to avoid germs at the gym!

6) Leave The Rings at Home or Your Abs Won’t Be The Only Thing Getting Shredded

Those cross-cut metal grips on the free weights will effectively shred and file your beautifully delicate jewellery. Remove jewellery and leave it somewhere safe at home, or locked away in a safe place.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j97SSGsnCAQ

The Wedding-Ring Shredder!

7) Don’t Interrupt People Mid-Set

It’s simply bad etiquette to interrupt someone when they’re focussed on their set. When you’re mid set and putting all your efforts in to those last few reps you really don’t have the energy to reply.

Instead wait until the end of the set before conversing (if you must at all)!

15 tips for new gym goers

8) Learn the Lingo

I was in the gym with a friend many years ago and guy came over and asked “how many love?” so my friend looked down to the check the amount of KG’s she was lifting and the the guy interrupted “How many sets?”.

For us, this was pretty funny. If you’re the type of person who feels foolish in an exchange such as this, then make an effort to learn the lingo!

If you don’t know a burpee from a mountain climber or a downward dog from a sumo squat, and you’re the type who’s too afraid to ask, then get googling. YouTube fitness aficionados will happily demonstrate for you!

9) No Heavy Petting!

Remember those old-school signs from the swimming baths that said “No Petting”? The ones alongside the bit that tells you not to run, jump, dive or do anything else fun in the public baths – yup.

Well it seems they could do with getting some of those in the gym. Nobody wants to see heavy fondling and ass grabbing in a public place not matter how good that butt is!

If you’re going to the gym with your partner, save the bedroom eyes and slushy smooching for when you get home.

10) Don’t Station Hog

Don’t be the person who does 1 set of 8 exercises then sits on the machine for 5 minutes telling Instagram about thier ‘gains’. Don’t be the one who sits in the squat rack doing bicep curls when you could be doing them anywhere else in the gym.

Equally, doing circuits is a great way to train, but don’t expect to turn up at the gym at 8pm and lay claim to 5 weights stations. Just because your jacket is on the seat and your water bottle is in the holder doesn’t mean you’re ‘using’ that station!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j97SSGsnCAQ

11) Keep Your Private Parts Private

Male and female changing rooms at the gym are where the real ego show takes place. Proud owners of pumped and primped and preened bodies parade around with little care for the shame or embarrassment of the more reserved characters that have to share the room with them. I’m no body-shamer and think it’s great people are so happy in their own skin, but I simply don’t wish to see it.

I don’t care if you have a designer vagina and a brazilian and the most gravity-resistant tits on the planet – I don’t want to see it! My male friends have spoken of times where guys have had full conversations with them in the changing rooms whilst practically wafting their man-parts in their faces!

Save the awkwardness and the potential bad reputation. Cover yourself up!

12) Make the Most of Your Membership

One of the best ways to get the most out of your gym membership is to use the expertise of  your trainers. Sign up to classes, speak to staff and use as much of the equipment as you can. If you’re not sure how – ask!

13) Remember to Rest and Recover!

Recovery is something which is often overlooked but true athletes understand the importance of it. There are many reasons why it’s important, many of which are neatly outlines in this article by Elizabeth Quinn.

There’s lots of ways to ‘recover’ from exercise such as stretching, foam rolling, walking, icing, massaging and jogging. Sometimes it’s as simple as getting more sleep.

Your recovery will depend on your fitness level and the activity you’ve engaged in so you’ll need to tailor it a little. This article on Bodybuilding.com offers some top tips for maximising your recovery.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j97SSGsnCAQ

14) Get the Nutrition Right

Fitness isn’t only about putting in hours in the gym or the miles on the street. Nutrition plays a huge part in the transformation of your body and taking fitness to the next level.

I’ll be writing a blog post soon with some simple nutrition tips based on what I’ve learnt through my training as a Sports & Exercise Nutritional Advisor. Keep an eye on the fitness page on the blog and my Instagram page for more updates!

15) Recognise Your Achievements!

Recognise your own achievements and be proud of them however small, as that’s what will keep you motivated!

Good luck!

F x

 

 

 

4 Reasons to Embrace Learning

In the weeks following completion of my Chartered Accountancy exams I made my now-husband promise to remind me of how painful they were if I ever expressed the desire to learn anything ever again… in my whole life.

I hated those exams so strongly that it had ruined my opinion of learning generally. Learning  had become a chore – something necessary to be able to keep my job and pay my mortgage. A process I used to enjoy had become a complete drain.

Several years later I’ve returned to learning and this time I’m embracing it rather than resenting it. Here’s why you should too…

IT’S MORE ACCESSIBLE THAN EVER

Gone are the days when you’d have to pay thousands of pounds to sit in a classroom and be  taught how to pass an exam for that all-important accreditation. The internet has levelled the playing field. Anyone with a desire to learn and access to a computer

 

IT CAN BE FUN

Learning doesn’t have to mean reading a non-fiction book or becoming accredited in something. I’ve been having ski lessons lately and

CLASSROOM TEACHING ISN’T ENOUGH

 

 

YOUR COMPETITION IS AHEAD OF YOU

 

 

IT’S NOT AS TABOO AS IT USED TO BE

 

 

 

quarter life crisis

14 Ways to Recognise You’re Having a 1/4 Life Crisis

You don’t need to find a toy-boy, buy a motorbike or go all ‘eat-pray-love’ to be suffering from a mid-life crisis. Hell, if you make it to ‘mid-life’ without experiencing some form of existential crisis these days then you’re doing pretty well.

Consider for a moment the number celebrities who’ve gone off the rails, taken all the drugs and ended up in rehab for ‘anxiety’ all before their 25th birthday. Celebrity cases may appear extreme, but in a world where you can never really ‘switch off’ the quarter-life crisis is coming into it’s own. The only way to deal with it is to face it head on. 

So how do you see it coming? If you empathise with most of the below, then you’re probably in the midst of the crisis right now, my friend…

1. YOU THINK THE POP STARS LOOK LIKE CHILDREN

You switch on the music channel for some ‘background noise’ whilst you’re preparing for your dinner party and Justin Bieber is on again. Whilst his music is not particularly offensive (and you at least know who he is) he was actually a child when you first started your graduate job.

2. YOU’VE DECIDED IT WOULD BE ‘DANGEROUS’ TO BE AT YOUR ‘COLLEGE WEIGHT’ NOW

You realise one day that your ‘base weight’ has increased incrementally between the day you left college and this morning. To achieve the weight that was desirable when you were in college would now mean sacrificing a limb, and even then you’d probably have to give up bread for the rest of your life to maintain it.

3. YOU HAD TO GOOGLE ‘HOW TO USE SNAPCHAT’

All the cool kids are using a new app. It’s 6 months before you even find time to download it and even then, there are no labels on the buttons so you don’t know how to use it without comprehensive instructions. FML.

4. YOUR REFERENCE TO ‘ASK JEEVES’ IS MET WITH UNIFORM SILENCE

ask jeevesWhen the internet was first available at home (yes, I’m that old now), I recall searching on ‘ask Jeeves’ rather than Google. Given Google’s dominance now, this seems a little odd. On the couple of occasions when I referenced dear old Jeeves, people looked at me like I had just revealed I was feeding their nan ‘special’ chocolate brownies. Cue change of conversation.

5. YOUR FRIENDS ARE HAVING BABIES… ON PURPOSE

The first planned pregnancy in a group is a game changer. This is the kind of thing that adults do. Surely we’re not old enough to be parents?! It’s at this point that you realise you’re already several years older than your mum was when she had you. Oh flip.

6. YOU START CHECKING THE WASHING INSTRUCTIONS ON CLOTHES BEFORE YOU’LL BUY THEM

Nothing more needs to be said.

dry clean only

I have no idea what these mean, but if theres a cross with the water it’s expensive to clean…right?!

7. RECRUITMENT AGENTS INCLUDE YOU IN EMAILS FOR ‘EXPERIENCED HIRES’

Sure, experience is a good thing. Experience infers some kind of wisdom and prestige. It also conjures the image of a 50+ year old bloke with a silver beard who looks like a wizard. 

If there was ever an apt reminder that you are no longer a ‘graduate’ in the job market, this is it. To be fair, you did graduate 6 years ago… which is longer than you were ever even at University. SHUCKS.

8. YOU START YOUR NIGHTS OUT WITH ‘DINNER’

‘Pre-drinks’… ‘Drinks’… ‘Getting trashed before you go out to save money’.

Whatever you call it, when you willingly swap that activity for a sensible and sophisticated sit-down start to an evening it does make you wonder whether you’re now ‘old’.

When I was 20-ish, I thought going out for a meal before a night out was stupid because I would then need to spend more in order to acquire more alcohol to penetrate the lining I had just put into my stomach. That was when my hangovers lasted 20 minutes, rather than 20 hours.

9. YOU’VE SWAPPED ASOS.COM FOR MADE.COM

The lure of a copper plated large floor lamp – despite being far too large for your tiny living room – is too much to bear. And at £189, it’s such a bargain, right?!

copper made.com lamp

It’s so pretty.

In addition to this, you go to IKEA ‘for a mooch’ every now and then and get vaguely excited when I shoe rack shares your name.

10. YOU REALISE YOU’LL ONLY HAVE TWO PHONES BETWEEN NOW AND TURNING 30

Even the phone companies are making it harder for us to distance ourselves from the big three-oh. Gone are the days of a 12 month contract, and with it the multiple phones we would have between us and the one we would be using to snap pictures of our 30thbirthday outfits.

11. YOUR GLASSES MIGHT NOT BE ‘OPTIONAL’ FOR MUCH LONGER

dior montaigne no 8 glasses

So what if I can’t see the numbers on the chart in the meeting room. So what if I accidentally waved at the wrong guy in the gym because his blurred head looked like the blurred head of your best-mate’s boyfriend?

I still don’t need glasses.

12. IT SUDDENLY FEELS INAPPROPRIATE TO WEAR SHORT-SHORTS

Those denim shorts that show the fold under your ass cheek? HELL TO THE NO. 

13. YOU CAN’T PASS ON YOUR REVISION NOTES ANYMORE BECAUSE THEY’RE SO OUT OF DATE

I had a meticulously typed up and coded set of revision notes for my accounting exams. I used to share them proudly with the next set of unsuspecting and desperate trainees, but the syllabus has changed so much that my notes are redundant. 

My notes are now of historic relevance only. 

14. YOU’RE QUESTIONING YOUR LIFE CHOICES

quarter life crisis

When you finally settle into that coveted finance job after years of training, you spend a few months wondering whether you should re-train as a lawyer… or maybe as a yoga teacher… or an oil painting artist (yes, that was on the cards until I massacred a canvas and realised an A* in GSCE art doesn’t make a good artist). 

The Good News…

Having a 1/4 life crisis is excellent practice for the mid life crisis, when inevitably much more will be at stake, such as the lives of your potentially adolescent children, the mortgage on your 4 bedrooms detached suburban house.

Think of it as a learning experience!

Over and Out.

F x