Leatning to fail

Learning how to fail

We are taught rules as children. We learn right from wrong, and we find out how to act in society in order to be deemed acceptable.

One rule we are taught is not to fail. We take part in sports days from five years old where we are rewarded for winning, and get nothing if we lose. We get into sports that show us coming last means consequences like relegation or being knocked out a cup. At all costs, we must not fail.

As we get older pride also takes over. It isn’t just a matter of not failing at something, it’s doing well enough so that our pride isn’t tarnished. It’s not as simple as first and last anymore. As children, we get over it instantly and pick ourselves back up. But now, it’s first or nothing. Success, or a kick in the teeth and diminished pride.

But really, it’s not as black and white as that

It is so ingrained in us that failure is a bad thing and is something we must avoid, that we forget that, ultimately, failure teaches is a lot about ourselves.

Failing a squat enables us to realise that weight is a little too heavy for us. Tripping up as we walk into a weights room (hands up, who’s been there?) tells us we need to pay a little more attention. Having a really poor workout and failing at a lift or two helps us to realise that not all training sessions will be perfect.

Failure is a lesson we need to learn

Failure is something we need to embrace.

Does that sound stupid? It shouldn’t do. If we fail and squat and we get mad, what does that do to our mentality? It probably makes the rest of the gym session poor quality. But if we appreciate the fact we even had the courage to try that higher weight, then it gives us a sense of belief and empowerment that we will get there eventually, even if we fail again along the way.

Getting knocked down like that is one way to help inner strength. It’s realising that not everything is a success, but that in failure there is something to be learnt. It shows us that we are brave for even trying. Trying a new exercise that’s completely alien to us and not quite getting it, going for a PB and just missing it, or even walking into a weights room for the first time and not quite feeling comfortable enough to do much.

Learning to fail will help you succeed

We need to forget what we were taught as children. Success does not mean greatness. Just like failure does not mean abject. It’s better to fail at a lift one week and nail it the next, than to not have the courage to up the weight because you’re happy in your comfort zone where you always succeed. Break out the box, embrace failure and gain even more success.

You learn so much more from picking yourself up than never having known that it’s like to fall down in the first place.

Girl Gains: Spartan Bootcamp

Tyres, a hill and torrential rain. A lethal combination, but one the Girl Gains ladies completely smashed when we took on the Spartan Bootcamp last weekend.

Nine of us took on the challenge, organised by Beth, our lovely Girl Gains ambassador for Birmingham, and lead by the brilliant Elie. It was completely different to any work out I’d ever done before: I am used to cardio and I’ve done my fair share of heaving lifting, but to combine the two and throw in objects that were completely foreign to us (have you ever bear-crawled up a hill dragging a tyre with you?), it was a new challenge that tested the strength, endurance and power of every single one of us, and the hardest workout I’ve ever done.

I learnt throughout the day that I was stronger than I thought. From being mentally strong to continue the challenges to being physically strong enough to have a go at flipping a 80kg tyre. And it was incredible to see all the brilliant girls around me completely smashing it both mentally and physically, too.

We began with squat jumps up a hill, with squats and pulses at the top. That was pretty hard, but the easiest task when we realised what was to come: backwards bear crawls up the hill, pulling tyres along with us. Smashing the tyres off the ground fifty times, and throwing them back down the hill until we got to the bottom followed.

Tyre flip

Next up was the main event: tyre flips! And the torrential downpour that ensued while we were halfway through only sought to push us on even more; everyone was cheering each other on, helping each other out and motivating us all to reach the top.

Through the Girl Gains movement, we have all been able to connect with people who share the same interests and have faced similar struggles throughout our health and fitness journey. Events like this just reinforce the importance of communities like Girl Gains; having strong woman surrounding you, cheering you on is one thing – one brilliant thing – but to also be around girls you had only just met, but felt like you had known for years, is really something else.

We finished with core, stretching and a lot of chats, and left us all excited for the next event. It’s empowering to be in the presence of such fantastic, strong women both inside and out, and a real pleasure to have had the chance to meet people like this through #GirlGains.

GirlGains

Find out more about The Girl Gains movement here, and follow the Instagram account.

Gratitude Journal

I started a gratitude journal

I loved diaries when I was younger. I loved writing in any form. Short stories, actual diary entries from my day, poems or jokes; I would go through notebook after notebook writing down whatever I felt like that day. My love for English and our language blossomed long before I could ever think about what I wanted to do for a career, and it all started with writing down what I thought at that moment.

As we get older, we lose that a little bit. I lost it. I lost the will to write down thoughts and feelings; preferring to bottle them up, and not bore anyone – especially myself – with what I was thinking.

A while ago, I heard about gratitude journals. I saw more and more bloggers endorsing the idea of writing down what they were grateful for in that day, and then noting down something they could improve on. How could that work? How could it make them feel better? I just couldn’t see it. Even though five-year-old me could see the value in writing it down, I had completely forgotten about it.

A couple of weeks ago, I relented. I might as well give it a go. I have a handful of notebooks that lie empty in my room, I should fill them with something, and what better than to fill them with positive thoughts?

It came to me easily. A tool I had forgotten that I had. Writing down not only your thoughts but reflecting on what you were grateful for that day, what made you happy, helped me more than I could imagine.

I watched Zanna Van Dijk’s mindfulness series on YouTube recently. Her lust for life and her complete sense of mindfulness and, in turn, happiness made me want to feel like that about life, too. And a gratitude journal is the perfect place to start.

Reflecting allows you to pull out little moments from your day. Whether it was stepping outside into sunshine and cool air first thing in the morning, or getting to spend time with a loved one. It can be a little moment of happiness or a long period of pure pleasure, but looking back and thinking about how you felt at that very moment brings waves of happiness.

As Zanna notes in one of her videos, it also makes you feel more present in your day-to-day life. You actively think more about what you\redoing, and how you go about it, instead of being on auto-pilot. If you have a bad thought, you step back and think about how you could act differently next time to not let something bother you. Or if you’re in a happy moment, you appreciate it more because you want to be there for as long as possible.

There are plenty of ways to go about a gratitude journal, but I use the process of writing down:

Three things I am grateful for
One thing I could improve on

If you’re like me, and you doubt whether it really works, give it a go. The power of words is something we often disregard, but they allow us to reflect upon the power of our actions, and how we can change to make them better ones to be the best version of yourself as possible, and the happiest version, too.

Routine

Getting Into A Routine

There’s only one thing I love more than a routine, and that’s organisation. So it shouldn’t come as a shock to you that the two go hand in hand.

People often ask how others get the time to meal prep or to go the gym, and how they have the motivation to do it as well. The secret? There isn’t one, unless you could a routine as a fitness secret.

It’s all in the planning

What I’ve found paramount to an effective fitness lifestyle is having a routine; forming habits, almost, that I get into and that allows me to maintain the ‘fit and healthy’ lifestyle that others crave.

And there is nothing secret, special or even hard about it. It’s simply finding what works for you and sticking to it, rather than not attempting to get yourself into a routine and ultimately either not reaching your goals at all, or finding yourself falling off the wagon more times than you’d care to count.

Let’s start in the kitchen

You’ve all heard that really boring, arduous saying that ‘abs are made in the kitchen.’ But they are. Sorry about that. And your meal routine is just as important as your training schedule. Get this right, and your training sessions will:

  1. Improve – because you’re fuelling your body efficiently
  2. Provide better results – because you aren’t over or under eating

For me, meal prepping helps me achieve my goals and saves me a large sum of money, too. I work Monday-Friday, which means that I will meal prep on a Sunday for Monday-Wednesdays meals, and then again on Wednesday (usually my rest day) for Thursday and Friday’s meals.

If I’m out at the weekend during meal times, I’ll also make sure I prep what I need then, for example, if I’m traveling somewhere on the Saturday, you better believe I have my lunch with me.

Yes, it takes time. But it means I have food prepped, as well as snacks, for while I’m at work throughout the week, and that means I know that I won’t be hungry, I can eat at the times I want to, and I save money by not buying a meal deal every day, too.

And now work out your training plan

Different people work in different ways. For me, I don’t usually pre-plan my full workouts. I ensure I plan my splits and what days I’m training on a Sunday, but my general workouts are more off-the-cuff rather than planned.

But, a lot of people will benefit from writing down the actual exercises they’re going to do, even down to sets/reps before entering the gym. It means you’ve got a game plan and you can’t say no to the leg press if you’re feeling a little tired…

I recently bought a Gympad to write down my workouts in, as I’ve just started a bulk and I want to improve my strength, especially on compound lifts. Tracking my workouts mean that I can watch weekly where I am improving or, if I’m stagnating, where I need to work harder to improve certain lifts.

It also allows me to remember what weights I can do on certain lifts or exercises – this is a great tip to help you get into a gym routine as you know exactly where to start and if you have improved on the previous week.

What you do outside the gym is just as important

There’s one thing you must minimise in order to ensure the work you’re putting in in the kitchen and the gym is as effective as possible: stress. Keeping stress levels low mean that you will keep your cortisol levels down and that means you won’t bloat as easily, hold onto fat as much, and generally feel better about yourself. A routine is one of the best ways to minimise and control your stress levels.

Do you have a bedtime routine? You should think about one. Get into bed at least an hour before you need to go to sleep. Try reading, staying off your phone, writing a to do list for the next day, or even writing a gratitude journal to unload your mind and really relax and really grateful for the day you’ve just had.

What about in the morning? Do you snooze your alarm five times and end up running around the house, getting stressed, every morning? Get into the habit – the routine – of waking up when your alarm goes off, or giving yourself enough time to snooze it a couple of times but still have enough time to get ready before you need to go.

Fitting it all together

A good routine needs a to do list, or at least a mental to do list in order to hone in on your organisation and make sure that you’re staying on track.

Make yourself a to do list – I use notes on my iPhone, and I will plan each day:

  • What time I’m going to the gym and what I’m training
  • Anything I need to buy on my lunch break at work
  • If I need to get any meat etc. out the freezer for meal prep
  • What meals I’m taking to work that day

It sounds hard. But it works. I have built myself a routine that works for me, with two meal prep days, five training days, a bedtime routine, a morning routine, and a life with minimal stress because I am organised with my life.

You see, it’s really not hard to live a healthy lifestyle. The only part that is difficult is deciding to leave your bad habits behind and make an effort to get yourself into a routine that will allow you to reach your goals and live a healthier, happier life.

Positivity

How To Be Positive

I had always been a positive person. You know those little things, those imperfections that really get to you? They never did with me. I always found a reason to smile, and my cup was definitely always half full.

Somewhere, that changed. Things became really bad. Everything got to me, and, suddenly, the little things that I used to be able to get over became huge problems that weighed me down.

I knew I had to fight it, and I am still fighting it. I had to start from scratch and I had to re-learn a positive mindset. It wasn’t particularly easy, and there are still days where I let negativity and problems consume me. But I am really trying to make it work, and you can too.

Positivity can be found anywhere if you want it hard enough, and here are some tips to help you find it:

Cut the negativity out

A lot of the time, we are brought down by the people around us. Negativity breeds negativity, and if you surround yourself with people who ooze that shit, how is that going to benefit you? As you get older, you’ll realise that cutting people out your life, as harsh as that may sound, is actually quite easy. You don’t need those types of people making your life harder.

Do what you want to do

A big part of positivity is happiness. If you don’t like what you’re doing, and you repeatedly do it, positivity is ultimately going to wear thin. I’m not saying quit your job, but I am saying think about what makes you happy and what you really want to do. I’m also not saying that you should say no to everything just because it’s not your cup of tea, but, at the same time, if you don’t feel comfortable doing something and you’d rather be somewhere else, then go for it. Don’t do something to please other people when it’s not going to please you at all.

Find what you love, and do it often

This leads on from the above. Find what you do love doing, and make sure you turn it into a habit.

Tuck yourself up in bed and read a book. Watch series after series on Netflix. Go to the gym, or go for a run. Find a hobby, something that you’re passionate about, and you’ll find positivity along with it. If it makes you happy, it’s going to increase your positivity daily because you’re going to be looking forward to doing it. It’s that simple.

Take time out

For me, this has been the biggest help in changing my mindset back to a positive one. Whether it’s putting your phone away for a couple of hours or going for a walk on your own, taking time out your life to just relax is the ultimate game changer for your mindset.

Give yourself some thinking time, take yourself away from negative sources of energy, and just spend some time by yourself to learn about yourself.

most importantly of all: please yourself, not others

Our lives are spent trying to appease others and make them happy. We don’t think about doing this for ourselves. We don’t think that, while trying so hard to please others, we are actually getting more and more tired and fed up and demotivated. The above points are encompassed in the idea that you should put yourself first. It isn’t selfish to want to be happy, as long as that happiness is then having a positive effect on other people in your life.

Don’t be so selfish that you are the only happy person in your circle, but be selfish enough to put yourself first in order to regain your positivity. Because positivity breeds positivity, just as much as negativity breeds negativity. And we all know which outcome makes us happy and fulfilled.

What I Eat, Why I Eat It, and When I Eat It

Why do you eat what you do?

Taste? Pleasure? Health? Survival? For a sustainable lifestyle and a maintainable diet, it has to be because of all four. It’s got to taste nice enough for you to eat it every day, it has to give you the pleasure and satisfaction after the majority of your meals, it has to keep you fit and healthy, and, ultimately, it must be the right amount of help you survive. That, after all, is the main reason we actually eat at all.

A diet doesn’t mean a diet

Everyone has a diet. It’ doesn’t mean they’re on a restrictive diet. No diet is perfect, either, but we should all strive to make it work for us. I’ve found that, for the majority of the time, IIFYM works for me. Intuitive eating also works for me. Eating fruit and vegetables works for me, especially because I suffer from acne and need plenty of the good stuff in my diet.

I also know what doesn’t work for me. Eating ‘treats’ every day doesn’t interest me. Sugar doesn’t interest me, nor work for me. Alcohol every week certainly isn’t something I choose to partake in anymore. But, all of this in moderation does. Sometimes, I’ll pop some chocolate into a meal, or have some cake at work when it’s someone’s birthday. A sustainable diet is one that is rich in balance, and it’s what a lot of people, including myself, thrive on.

So, what does my ‘what I eat in a day’ look like?

Meal 1: Porridge
When I’m on a bulk this is a pre-breakfast snack, but at the moment where I’m just coming out of a cut, this means breakfast. It’s usually 70-80g of porridge oats, mixed with water and sweetener and cooked on the hob (you can microwave it, but you cannot tell me it tastes as good). I take it to work in a food flask (because I love porridge and needed a way to eat it on the go) and it’s the perfect, high-carb, filling start to the day.

Meal 2: Scrambled eggs
I’ve got into a routine over the past 6 months or so, and now my second meal is usually eaten between 10.30-11.30. I’ve loved having scrambled eggs for a while now, sometimes with ham if I need more protein. Fats and protein fill you up and keepings you going, it’s pretty simple and very effective.

Meal 3: Lunch
Eaten any time after 1pm, and it usually consists of a protein source and carbs, sometimes with a little bit of fat if I fancy it. Because I meal prep all my lunches, it’s usually something simple, but tasty. Chicken, sausages, turkey, mince, and a carb source with veggies. Recently, I’ve been loving pesto pasta with feta cheese on top. I eat it all cold because that’s how I roll.

Meal 4: Snack/pre-workout
On training days, this is my pre-gym snack, and that means it’s usually a high-carb one. I love having a cinnamon and raisin bagel, with some kind of nut butter on it. I’ll eat this around 3pm, to keep me going until the end of my working day (which is either at 4pm or 5pm, depending on what hours I decide to work).

Meal 5: Dinner/post-workout
Protein and carbs, with a little bit of veggies. Anything simple and easy to eat, from chicken wraps, to sausages and pasta, and even tuna and rice (apologies to anyone who gets to same bus home as me). Yes, I eat it on the bus – I’m usually super hungry once I finish the gym, and it takes me an hour to get home (the bus I get takes forever).

Meal 6: Final meal
This always consists of oats, and can make a great macro capper if needed. I usually have oats, greek yoghurt, fruit, peanut butter and a bit of cinnamon. If I have macros left, I can cap them with things like granola as a topping, more oats, or a little bit of dark chocolate. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but I love getting into bed after a long day and tucking into a big bowl of food whilst watching a film or catching up on soaps.

The best thing about creating a sustainable diet for yourself is that you can make it as tasty and enjoyable as you like, whilst also keeping it simple and healthy. Add in things like chocolate, have oats twice per day, eat all the nut butter… and still reach your goals.

Remember

Keep it tasty, ensure it gives you pleasure, make it beneficial for your health, and you’ll easily survive.

Knowledge

It’s Time to Train Shoulders

Upper body training is becoming increasingly popular with women at the gym, and with good reason. It’s all well having a nice pair of legs, a good set of glutes and a flat or ‘toned’ stomach, but you can’t ignore the rest of your body. How many times have you heard people making comments about guys skipping leg day. We definitely shouldn’t be skipping upper bod day, either.

One upper body part, which will give you a major advantage in terms of your overall figure, making your waist look smaller, and your bum look bigger all in one go, are shoulders. Having nice, rounded delts will have an impact on your overall package, and who wouldn’t want that?

My shoulders

Where to begin?

You’ve probably seen all the many (many, many…) booty workouts on social media, but where are the upper body videos? You’ll need to start with a bit of inspiration, and fortunately, more and more girls are now sharing their upper bod workouts, making it easier for you to get your head around how to grow those muscles.

But, let’s take it back to basics: Bodybuilding.com’s extensive database has pretty much every exercise you’ll ever need, with instructions on how to do them, and videos to go with it.

For shoulders, you’ll be looking for deltoids (delts: the main part of your shoulder, the ‘capped’ bit), and the trapezius (traps: the muscle which runs from your neck, to your shoulder and down into your back).

This is because you’ll want to be hitting all parts of your shoulders in order to see the most growth and progress – which, when you think about it, is obvious.

The front

It’s pretty simple when it comes to your shoulders: hit the front, the back, the top and the sides. Raises are great for the front of your delts, and any form of front raises will hit them.

You can do them with a plate, dumbbells or a barbell. Hold your chosen weight at arms length in front of you, and raise it upwards in line with or past your face. Make sure your stance is strong, and don’t swing when you lift the weight in front of you. The pressure should be on your shoulders, so don’t take it off them by using the momentum of the weight coming down to push it back up again.

The back

Your traps play a key role in the growth of the back of your shoulders, as well as your rear delts – which you’ll often find yourself hitting on back day, with exercises like lat pull downs. For the traps, any form of shrugging exercise helps with their growth. I have also found that deadlifts have helped to strengthen my traps – remember, a lot of muscles can grow when you’re not specifically targeting them, but they are recruited in compound lifts such as a deadlift.

In terms of your rear delts, if you want to target them on shoulder dear, bent over rear delt flyes are a key exercise. You’ll need light dumbbells for this, and they can be done a number of ways. My favourite way is this (head on a bench is optional, I never do it.).

The sides

Your best friend for the sides of your shoulders will be dumbbells and cables. You could superset front raises with side raises, which is a common exercise you’ll find in a weights room.

You can also focus on unilateral training here, and one exercise I always pick on shoulder days is cable side raises, using the handle attachment, superset with cable pull outs (having the cable, sans attachment, and pulling it out in a line across my body and back again).

The top

Get it above your head, and you’ll be hitting as essential part of your delts. The two best exercises for this are seated (or standing, if you prefer) dumbbell press or standing barbell press.

Keep your core tight and again, don’t use the momentum to push the weight back up – it’s cheating! They are the most common shoulder exercises you’ll see, and the ones you’re likely to see more progress on in terms of strength and working your way up the weights.

Learn to love upper body day – most importantly, shoulder day – as much as you love training legs and glutes. You’ll definitely thank yourself later.