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.

Healthy on holiday

Why You Shouldn’t Be ‘Healthy’ on Holiday

It’s summer, which means the influx of ‘how to stay healthy on holiday’ articles and blogs are go.

Wait, what?

You’ve worked hard all damn year, and now you’re telling me you want to keep it up at one of the only times throughout the year that you get a lengthy break from real life and responsibilities?

Let’s take a proper look at this

Is there anything wrong with wanting to stay healthy on holiday? Of course not. If you fancy going to the hotel gym, go for it. If you actually want fruit for breakfast instead of the selection of pastries your all inclusive hotel has, that’s fine. I’ve been on runs on holiday before breakfast and chosen to have fresh fruit instead of any of the fried or chocolate-filled options available.

But, if you’re going to the gym every day and not spending time with your family or friends, that’s a little strange. Or if you choose fruit and salad and say no to the treats you actually want, then that’s surely restriction.

Of course, if you go away all the time with work, and it’s not strictly a ‘holiday’ even if you are going to be in a different country, then naturally you’re going to want to stay healthy while you’re away. But, if it’s your summer holiday – your five days, ten days, two weeks – then is staying completely healthy and in routine something that sounds healthy?

I love summer holidays

For me, they are about relaxing and taking yourself away from your everyday life for a period of time. On my holiday this month, I ate salad and lots of fruit, but I also ate chips and ice cream and drank some incredible cocktails. I swam and walked a lot, but I also lay there with my boyfriend doing absolutely nothing but reading, listening to music and enjoying the 34-degree sun shining on me.

Going on holiday is not about routine, it’s about relaxation

Please, use your holiday as a chance to take a break from health and fitness. Don’t try and track what you eat, don’t work out every day in favour of quality time with the people you have paid to be away on holiday with, and don’t say no when all you want to do is say yes.

Make healthy choices, but make unhealthy ones. Have full fat, fizzy drinks if you want them, definitely choose the cocktails and the overly large glasses of spirits they always give you abroad (why do the UK measure it out and no one else does?) and if you really want the chips and the chocolate croissants, please pick them.

There is always choice

I could have had a fry up every day, but I chose healthier options. But I also chose to have chips and paella and mojitos. Make your choices healthy if you want to, but please also make sure you treat yourself and relax a little.

Life is too short to spend your whole life in the health and fitness bubble and forget to actually live it. You did not spend all year working out in the gym and sticking to a regimented diet, to go on holiday and do exactly the same thing. Give yourself a break, you have definitely earned it.

Summer

Summer Body? How I Prepped For Holiday

It’s a given that everybody wants to look good on holiday. They want to put on a bikini with confidence, go to the beach and feel happy in their skin, and have photos and memories to look back on that they love.

A summer body or being ‘beach ready’ is different for everyone. Naturally, we are all bikini body ready. We have a body, and the ability to put a bikini on it. But there is nothing wrong with setting yourself a goal to get in shape you’re happier with for your holiday.

What did I do?

I bulked from December to April – not with the intention to put on muscle mass purely for my holiday, but to put on more muscle and build a body I knew would look better when I eventually cut down.

Eight weeks out from my holiday, I began a gradual cut. We cut my calories, mostly from fat and then another large amount from carbs, keeping my protein the same. I added in two cardio sessions of 30 minutes LISS each every week, to further place myself in a calorie defect.

What actually changed?

Because my metabolism is pretty decent, we didn’t need to cut my calories too much in the first instance. I dropped water weight after 2-3 weeks due to the drop in carbs, and felt a lot lighter and less full – while I was on my bulk, I often felt bloated and quite full in the evenings because I was eating 2,500+ calories. For a 5 ft 1 human, that was quite a lot!

I also found that I felt healthier. Doing only a couple of cardio sessions a week, I was able to up my cardiovascular fitness, which used to be incredibly good. Cardio is one element I will keep on my programme even after I have finished my cut. Although I don’t find it particularly enjoyable, the effects have a positive impact on my life and my wellbeing.

Glutes

Did I get the body I wanted?

100%? No. I still have a problem with losing the last layer of fat from my lower abs – if I put on weight, it all goes there, and not to the rest of my stomach, so when I cut my top four abs coke in and my lower ones are still in hibernation mode.

I did, however, manage to hold onto some size on my glutes and quads. My quads feel more muscular than they ever have been, and my glutes are definitely bigger. Sure, I still have cellulite and stretch marks, but the majority of girls will walk onto a beach like this – even those who put in tremendous amounts of effort at the gym to work on their lower body.

I am particularly pleased with my upper body. It leans out a lot quicker than my lower body, and it makes my whole appearance seem a lot more athletic. Girls, if you want the look, it’s best to keep in mind that big shoulders = smaller waist, and give a more muscular appearance overall.

What would I do differently next time?

Next winter, I am definitely going to go on a longer bulk, and then a slower cut; possibly about 12 weeks, depending on how I look and feel, and when I book my holiday for – if I’m even going on one!

I would also have my protein a bit lower throughout. I haven’t felt hungry at all during my bulk or cut, but mainly I think that’s because of the high levels of protein. Which, is obviously a good thing. But at the same time, I think dropping my protein would allow me to feel a little less sluggish and full, especially during my bulk, where it became hard to fit in all the food – especially protein.

Would I recommend a bulk/cut cycle?

Absolutely. It has taught me that I am stronger than I think, and also that a bulk doesn’t make you fat – or bulky. You can put on as much or as little muscle or fat as you want, it is completely down to what you eat, how you train, and how much of each of these you are doing.

It has also taught me that a cut for a holiday isn’t a bad thing – it’s not like girls you are cutting for a bikini comp. It is more relaxed, less stressful, and a lot easier to complete because you know in your mind that you already have a bikini body, you’re just working towards one you’ll be prouder of.

5 Tips

Letting Life Get In The Way

I am pretty impressed with my blog writing track record. For well over a year, I managed to write one blog per week. It was two in the beginning, but once I got a full-time job it became too time-consuming to think, research and write about two topics per week.

But finding time is hard.

Last week was the first week since I started this blog that I was unable to find the time to post something, but, in turn, it inspired this little post: sometimes, life gets in the way. And that’s okay.

The events in the world recently have made me take a step back from my whirlwind of a lifestyle and assess it. The Manchester Arena attack struck the biggest chord with me, and ultimately it made me – and a lot of people I have spoken to since – realise that we need to be living our lives. We need to be enjoying it, spending time with loved ones, excelling in our careers.

And that’s what I’ve been doing.

I went to a gig with my boyfriend, I have had an incredibly busy (and stressful) time at work recently, which meant I didn’t have the energy or the focus to then sit down and write something else in my spare time. I have also been spending time on myself, with appointments and a regimented gym schedule because I go on holiday in just one week now.

I am someone who loves to do everything. Who enjoys being busy. But I’ve realised that I can’t do it all. As much as I would like to be, I am not and never will be superwoman. But what I do know is that I am happy, successful, driven and dedicated. I also know that taking time out is important. That sometimes we have to prioritise, and if that means something we usually do gets put to the bottom of the pile, then so be it.

Not only should we let life get in the way of menial things, we should enjoy it

Recent events should have taught us all of the importance of life. I am in a place now where I understand that, sometimes, I need to prioritise things in my life. I also understand that, sometimes, it isn’t fun. It means I don’t get to go to the gym as much, or that I can’t write a blog that I love to write.

But it also means that I put everything into my career and get rewarded for it. And that I get to spend time with my boyfriend and my friends, and I am happier because of it.

So, my message to you all: live your life. Let it get in the way. Do what you enjoy, do what you have to do, and do it well.

Self Care

Realising Your Potential

Why did you start your journey?

Think about what you’re doing right now. Your career, your hobbies, your lifestyle. Why did you start it? There must have been something inside you that said, “this is what I want to do,” with enough affirmation to go ahead and do it.

Nine times out of ten, it’s because we are inspired. We see someone excelling in a career they love, and we want to do it too. We scroll through Instagram and see people doing these amazing things, and we want a piece of the action as well. We’re at the gym and we gaze at people who look strong and athletic, and we want to be like that too.

It’s important to have inspiration

Inspiration keeps us going. Whether we use someone else as our inspiration, or maybe even ourselves, it gives us the drive and the strength to keep going in whatever it is we are trying to achieve. It’s useful to use both as our motivation: to try and again the same great success someone else has worked so hard towards and to try and harness their drive, and also to use ourselves as motivation; to look back on the past and see where we came from to where we are now is the ultimate inspiration to keep going.

But what happens when the tables are turned?

We always look to other great, successful people to inspire us. But have you ever thought that someone might be looking at you in this way? Everyone, at some point in their lives, inspires another person. Whether that’s a work colleague looking to you to emulate your passion for the career you’re both in; whether it’s someone who looks over at you in the gym longingly, wanting your figure and your passion to succeed in your training… you never really know when people find you inspiring.

We must always try to inspire

My philosophy on life has always been to work as hard as I can. It’s as simple as that. I have put everything into my education, my career, my lifestyle, and the gym in order to get where I am today. I don’t necessarily do this to inspire other people, but mainly because I have always had this drive instilled in me from a young age, and if that’s something which inspires others, and if I can help even one or two people have a similar drive, then I will have made a positive impact on not only my life but the lives of others, too.

What is the point of this ramble?

Last week, I went to Birmingham Young Professional of the Year Awards,  celebrating the young talent in the second city. It was incredible to be in a room filled with hard working, driven people who are making the most out of their lives and their careers.

And it made me think, that it wasn’t only just those nominated that were inspiring – it was every single one of us in the room. We could look to the winners for inspiration, of course, but we could also look around at work colleagues and people on the tables around us for inspiration; for courage, resilience, determination, passion.

It made me reflect on what I have done, and what I can do to inspire other people. I started this blog because I don’t think the Internet can really have enough fitness blogs. Especially positive ones. When I first started my journey, I’d liked to have read honest,

When I first started my journey, I’d liked to have read honest, first-hand accounts of different things that work. To be told that it’s not one size fits all, and that you are on your own path, your own journey, and what you do doesn’t have to be what everyone else does, it just has to be what makes you happy. What you find inspiring. 

Take from this blog what you will, but if you take one thing away, I want you, the reader, to know that even when sometimes it doesn’t feel like it, you are inspiring. You are motivating. You are succeeding. Just as much as the person you look to for inspiration is.