Friday, 30 October 2015

What to do when your gym is closed...


My gym closed recently for nearly 3 weeks for "vital maintenance"! The one that I visit at least 5 times a week for my weight lifting, circuit training, Boxercise, PiYo, kettlebell classes, even the swimming pool was closed. I was convinced I'd get lazy and fat without my routine - it was either a chance to take a break or a chance to mix up my training! I struggle to motivate myself at home, and end up distracted - "I'll just do this load of washing... walk the dog... catch up on 3 hours of Emmerdale..." My best advice is to choose something you look forward to and workout first thing in the morning, before you've had a chance to think about anything else or find an excuse to skip it! Here are some ideas of what you can do to stay active when your usual options are unavailable...



1. Get outdoors
Run, walk, cycle, hike, climb a mountain... The world is your oyster! It's free and you get to be "at one" with nature, soaking up the fresh air and any vitamin D that October has left to offer. Be adventurous. Bonus points for scenic instagram snaps.

2. Check out other facilities
Look into short term memberships at other gyms, discover new classes or even try your usual class with a different trainer! You'll be supporting local businesses and might even fall in love with something new. Maybe there's something you've always fancied but not been able to fit in with other commitments? Personally I couldn't afford to fork out a membership fee but I managed to try out my friend's new Kettlebell class, which was only a half hour long and a completely different style to my usual one. It was also the perfect opportunity to check out Macbi - a fairly new centre in a nearby village that I've been meaning to visit since it opened! They offer a huge variety of classes, membership free, from yoga to insanity to boogie bounce. I managed to get my usual kettlebell fix as my trainer was covering a class there, and finally experienced my first spin class tonight.


3. Use your home
I'm lucky that Gordon has a small collection of weights in the garage. I moved them inside (it's cold out there!) and made myself a mini gym in my living room. It's only a bar bell and a set of dumbbells but it's all I need. The weight can be varied and there's a whole load of exercises I can do with them to target different parts of my body. Over the years I've accumulated a collection of kettlebells so they came in handy, along with my yoga mat, some cheap ankle weights, an ab roller (from Lidl of all places) and a Swiss ball I borrowed from my Mum!

Not everyone can afford to kit out their home with lots of weight equipment or cardio machines though, and you don't even need them anyway. I've been warming up by sprinting up and down my stairs! If you don't have stairs then simple bodyweight moves are just as good - burpees, high knees, jumping jacks, plyo lunges, sprinting on the spot... anything that gets your heart rate going! Steps are also handy for Bulgarian split squats, box jumps or you can hold a squat against a plain old wall or whack out a few tricep dips on a chair. There's so many exercises that don't need any equipment at all - push ups are a no brainer and planks, crunches and flutter kicks are all good core moves.

4. Try a DVD workout
Insanity and PiYo are 2 classes held at my local centre that you can do in the comfort of your own home. T25 is handy if you're short of time, KettleWorx has some short but effective workouts and I've heard good things about Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred. If you don't want to splash out on the discs yourself, ask around and see if anyone has something you can borrow or even have a look on YouTube! I've seen people get some great results from DVD workouts, especially the Beachbody series. Take some before and after pics to prove to the world (and yourself) what you can achieve in your own living room.


5. Be creative
I took the opportunity to practice some things I've been meaning to master but am too self conscious to try and fail in front of people in the gym. I'm working on my head stand skills and have perfected my plyo push ups! I've been doing them for a while but didn't realise how far down my head was when I do a push up - something I've now corrected. Filming your workouts is a handy way of checking your form and something that I wouldn't be brave enough to do in front of people. My gym only has one tiny mirror that you practically have to fight for so it's not always possible to see how well you're performing every exercise.

video


There you have it; 5 different, inexpensive ways of working out when you can't get to the gym. Most importantly, stay active, stay motivated, stay strong and have fun!

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Burr & Co, Edinburgh


A happy accident. Three little words to sum up our visit to Burr & Co in Edinburgh. On the morning of Gordon's abseil we needed to find somewhere that served breakfast early. We strolled along George Street the evening before, checking out opening times everywhere from The Dome to All Bar One but nobody opened before 9am. Eventually Gordon spotted a big "OPEN FROM 7AM" sign on the door of a shiny looking cafe. We didn't bother to look for a menu at the door, thinking we'd be clever and look online! In the end we couldn't even find them on Google but it was the only place we knew of and we made a beeline for Burr & Co in the morning...


We arrived to a warm but slightly flustered, almost surprised, welcome. I was too busy drooling over the marble table tops and black and white flooring to think much of it. It wasn't until we went to place our order that we realised what was going on... that big sign on the door actually said "Opens Monday 19th October". And here we were on Sunday 18th, through the door before they'd barely even switched a light on! The staff were more than happy to have us though and explained as this was their soft launch period we'd enjoy a cheeky 50% discount on our order. Then the till wouldn't work so they told us just to enjoy our breakfast on the house! Happy days! (I felt bad and was so impressed with the customer service that I left the money on the table for the girls anyway.)


Gordon devoured the prettiest bacon roll I've ever seen. I asked for porridge but (seeing as they were just through the door themselves!) it wasn't ready and so I opted for granola instead. The granola, yoghurt and honey is served in handy little pots ready to take away if you need to. But why would you want to eat somewhere else when the tables are just so damn instagrammable?! The interiors remind me of a fancy decadent London restaurant, like the Ivy Chelsea Garden or Bob Bob Ricard. Even the toilets are all pretty and marbley! If I had to sum up Burr & Co in three words, I'd go with Pinteresty breakfast heaven.


If you're looking for a quick and tasty breakfast, some coffee and cake (or the perfect Instagram snap!) Burr & Co is worth a visit. Their sister restaurant The Printing Press looks just as dreamy and is top of my list of places to eat next time we're in Edinburgh!

Monday, 26 October 2015

Arthur's Seat


Every time we've been in Edinburgh over the last year, I've wanted to climb Arthur's Seat. I got to do a bit of it as part of Survival of the Fittest last year and that just made me even more keen! We finally got around to doing it when we were in town for Gordon and Laura's abseil off the Forth Rail Bridge...


As you can see, Gordon was not so keen! It took a lot of driving in circles, trying to figure out the best route before we eventually decided just to park at the very first car park we'd drove past and take the "long" route up. It's a pretty good route to take as you can see Calton Hill and Edinburgh Castle for the majority of the first leg.


Arthurs Seat is a 251 metre high extinct volcano that towers above the city from Holyrood Park. The route we took is reasonably easy but still a decent leg workout! You climb gradually past the Salisbury crags, before the path starts to descend back down. This was as far as I got to experience at last years race but this time we veered left, and the walk got a little tougher as we climbed the steep stone steps higher up the hills. On the way back down we took another, much gentler route down past the ruins of St Anthony's Chapel - I'd recommend this path to anyone who's fitness levels are lacking!


The view from the top makes all the climbing worth it! You can see the whole of Edinburgh city as well as a good view towards Leith and across the Firth of Forth. In total the walk took us about an hour and a half. Like I said though, we took the longer, slightly tougher route and stopped for lots of photos on the way. If you ever have some time to kill in Edinburgh put on your trainers, grab your camera and head for the hills :)


Tuesday, 13 October 2015

#DestinationDeen - A Spa Weekend @ Ardoe House


Last Friday Gordon and I packed up a suitcase and disappeared for the weekend, spending 2 nights in the Granite City's gorgeous Ardoe House Hotel*. They say moving home is one of the most stressful things you will do in your lifetime, and after the last couple of months, a relaxing spa break was exactly what we needed.


Ardoe House is a 19th century manor house surrounded by 30 acres of land in Aberdeen's Royal Deeside. It's only a short drive from the city centre but it's like a whole other world. We didn't leave once the entire weekend. The building houses 120 traditional rooms upgraded with modern amenities (hello WiFi and Nespresso machine!), a restaurant, brasserie, 2 bars, function suites, a fitness centre, indoor pool and spa. The high, ornate ceilings and period features add character and we felt like King & Queen of the castle!

The Room


Our room had a huge, comfy bed with perfectly plump pillows and super soft lambs wool blankets! The bathroom was well stocked with Arran Aromatic goodies and the walk in shower was ace. My only criticism is my pet hate in hotels - no mirrors anywhere near the sockets! Good hair is hard to achieve when you can't see what you're doing! Usually we don't spend much time in the hotel room when we go away but this was just too comfy... On our final night we were back in the room by 9pm, watching Taken 2 and ordering room service. They had a wedding on that day and seemed really busy in the other restaurants so our pizza and sweet potato fries took almost an hour to arrive - however, they did advise us of this when we ordered and it was worth the wait!

Breakfast


Breakfast was served buffet style in the hotel's Blair's restaurant. You can choose from fresh fruit, yoghurts, cereal or create your own full Scottish from the selection of hot food - sausages, bacon, black pudding, hash browns, eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms... Everything seemed to be topped up and refreshed regularly. Toast will be brought to the table and other dishes can be ordered from the menu at no extra cost; think smoked kippers, eggs benedict and omelettes! I fuelled up for Sunday's gym sesh with porridge, banana, honey, cinnamon and mixed seeds - yum!

Dinner at Soapie's Brasserie


For Friday night's dinner we shunned the fine dining experience at Blair's and decided on a more relaxed, informal (affordable!) evening at Soapie's Brasserie. The menu was more up our street with its offerings of steak, Jacob's Ladder ribs and Peterhead fish and chips. We shared haggis bon bons in a whiskey sauce to start, followed by sirloin steak for Gordon and the Wagyu steak burger for me. I'm not a fan of buns being bigger than the patty but the gooey melted cheese and crispy bacon made up for it! The sweet potato fries were perfectly crispy and so good we ordered them from room service the next night^! Dessert was a chocolate and praline cheesecake, which was just the right size and not creamy enough to hurt my belly! I'm not usually struck on sticky toffee pudding - I just don't get the hype! It's a staple on any dessert menu so if you're going to do it, you have to do it right. Soapie's did it exceptionally well!

Afternoon Tea in the Drawing Room

Saturday afternoon was spent in the drawing room stuffing ourselves full of cake! Afternoon tea is the ultimate indulgence, even more so when you're enjoying it from opulent sofas next to a grand fireplace, and surrounded by rich wooden paneling, fancy artwork and chandeliers. The drawing room is a relaxing space to enjoy some quiet time or a little lunch. We ordered the regular afternoon tea as well as the chocolate version and (after a little service confusion and fairly lengthy wait!) shared sandwiches filled with smoked salmon and roast beef, followed by a scone and chocolate tea cake, and more cakes than I thought I could handle. Between us we finished the lot, bar half a carrot cake! Unlimited teas and coffees were included in the price (which worked out at £40 for two) and a glass of champagne can be added for £9.50 per person. The whiskey scone, fudgey chocolate brownies and white chocolate traybake were the highlights.

The Whiskey Bar


Both Gordon and I fell in love with the hotel's whiskey bar. Unfortunately it was closed throughout the weekend as they were so busy but the friendly bar staff were happy to switch the lights on for us to have a nose at the famous Scottish portraits which line the wall. I admired the fancy decanter shaped drop lights and stainless steel bar, while Gordon eye'd up the whiskey offerings. Although the bar was unmanned they did offer to seat us there if that was what we wanted, and were just as happy to bring bottles through to serve to us in the Laird's bar. He enjoyed a nip or 2 of Balvenie while I made my way through the cocktail list at Laird's. Their strawberry basil grande was my favourite!

Spa Naturel


After breakfast on Saturday morning we had a wonder around the hotel grounds and then made our way to Ardoe's "Spa Naturel Fitness". We spent our entire day here, starting with a workout in the gym. Most hotel gyms are tiny rooms with a smattering of dumbells, a weight bench and a treadmill if you're lucky. This gym however was packed full of cardio machines, various weight machines, a couple of benches, barbells, dumbells, swiss balls, bosu balls and kettlebells. Classes are offered in the opposite fitness room and I love the motivational quotes and healthy recipes at the entrance! I managed to get in a decent workout two mornings in a row and felt good for it! After Saturday's chest and bicep sesh we headed down to the poolside.


We had a little swim and made the most of the sauna, steam room and jacuzzi. The pool is a bit dated compared to the rest of the hotel, but it was perfectly clean and the ideal place to chill before our spa treatments. Gordon was tortured treated to a deep tissue back and shoulder massage. He said it was hell, but spoke about booking another so it can't of been all bad! My hot stone massage was just what I needed. Ros was my therapist for the day and explained the whole process and benefits of the stones, putting me at ease before going ahead and working the knots out of my back and shoulder muscles. She also spent time on my lower back after I told her I suffered from pain there regularly. Although slightly uncomfortable at some points, the pressure was needed and I've felt better for it since! I really enjoyed the massage and would highly recommend it.

Overall our experience at Ardoe House lived up to the 4 star reputation. All staff were friendly, did their best to help in any situation and made us feel welcome at all times. The food, drink and spa were up to a high standard and we'd go back in a heartbeat. They offer various overnight packages starting from £145 per night. Ideal for a girly weekend, mini-moon or spontaneous romantic break! 

Have you ever indulged in a spa break?

*We were invited to stay at Mercure Aberdeen Ardoe House Hotel in exchange for an honest review. As always, all views are my own and 100% genuine.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

What 1200 Calories Actually Looks Like

Over the last couple of months I've put on a bit of weight. My lean body mass dropped and my body fat % rocketed. I'm not sure how much exactly (I asked my PT not to tell me!) but it was enough to need a dress size up in my work uniform and not be able to squeeze my ass into my old faithful jeans. ("These sweat pants are all that fit me right now!") I wrote back in July about trying to find a healthier balance in my lifestyle but not tracking my diet meant that I just didn't stop eating! I'm a comfort eater and a serial (sometimes cereal!) binger, and I really let things get on top of me.

After the SFN Expo I was ready to get back on track, so I booked a sesh with my PT and got myself back in the gym. The training isn't usually something I struggle with as I actually really enjoy it - I like getting sweaty and building my strength, along with the social aspects of the gym/exercise classes. Plus, feeling like a bad ass after you smash your workout and leave the gym high on endorphins!


As part of the plan to get back to my usual body composition my PT reset my calorie/macro goals... To 1200 calories (You mean breakfast?). Yep I've gone from a 1700-3000 calorie carb cycling plan to 1200 calories per day on a 40/40/20 macro split. In all fairness, I wasn't sticking to my original plan anyway (it worked when I did!) - I was working more of an eat as much as you can til you feel sick kind of method. Which resulted in that extra dress size, naturally.

Anyway, 1200 calories. I bitched and moaned from the second he announced this idea and adjusted MFP on my behalf. While I wouldn't normally advocate such a low calorie diet, especially for an active person, it's only temporary and drastic measures were needed! To lose weight you need to be in a calorie deficit and I was overeating and under training. If you are going to drastically reduce your calorie intake, you have to be clever about it. You can either have one cheeseburger meal for the whole day (if you're lucky) or you can have 3-6 well planned, tasty, nutritious meals spread throughout the day to stop you going hungry! Good nutrition will also help you drop fat rather than muscle mass and/or water weight. Here's what my 1200 calorie diet has looked like so far...

(1213 Calories - 42% carbs, 40% protein, 18% fat. Circuits & kettlebell class.)
(1194 Calories - 42% carbs, 40% protein, 18% fat. Weight training.)
(1191 Calories - 40% carbs, 42% protein, 18% fat. PiYo.)
(1202 Calories - 41% carbs, 37% protein, 22% fat. Weight training.)

It isn't as bad as I thought it would be! I'm not starving! I think I'm just used to eating a shit load of calories so I was eating them even when I wasn't training, despite the fact that I wasn't hungry and my body didn't actually need that much fuel. Although I have to admit to feeling weaker in the gym and especially at my kettlebell class, In the first week I lost almost 2lbs and that was entirely body fat, so I feel it's worth it! I did fuck up slightly the next couple of weeks but I'm back on it, sticking to my 1200 calories, hitting my macros and timing my carbs around my training... Wedding body here I come!

Could you survive, happily, on 1200 calories a day? What would you eat?
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