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.

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.

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.