healthy-workplace-presents

 

A year ago when my sister started a new job, I wanted to get her a present. I decided that rather than champagne or flowers, I would think of all the ways that working in an office has slowly broken me over the last eight years and give her things that would hopefully prevent the same thing happening to her. I thought that this was a brilliant idea but then decided to check in with my sister a year later to see if the things I’d given her were actually any use. 

Deuter Speed Lite Backpack 10L

Of all the things I wish I hadn’t done, wearing an overloaded handbag over one shoulder (or forearm) is top of the list. I have so many problems with my right shoulder and I suspect that a large number of them are down to my choice of handbag. Yeah, ok, shoulder bags do look better but if you want to avoid wonky posture like me, get a backpack. 

The Deuter Speed Lite is the perfect size for work. Mine comfortably fits all the handbag essentials (purse, phone, keys) plus my lunch, water bottle and coffee cup. It’s also great as a run commute bag because of the tapered shape and adjustable straps at chest and waist height.

My sister says: This is my favourite item. I used to wear a handbag across my body to work and cram everything into it and then carry my lunch in a carrier bag. I could feel my posture slumping and carrying too many things is not ideal for a London commute. The backpack gives me much more freedom, my shoulders feel less tense and I don’t feel like I slouch as much. I wear this bag everywhere, work, days out and even to the hairdressers where it received compliments for looking very stylish yet practical! I think this bag is a great compromise for women who want something practical without looking like a school kid.

Garmin Vivofit

I think the worst thing about working in an office is how much time I spend sitting down. I try to get out for a walk every day but the busier I am, the harder it is to get away from my desk. I’ve had my own Garmin Vivofit for just under two years and it has been brilliant. It’s unobtrusive, tracks everything I need (I only really look at my steps, oh, and the time) and it works with my other fit tech (Garmin running watch and heart rate monitor). It has actually motivated me to get up and move more during the working day, and I like that my steps target for the day adjusts based on previous day’s activity levels (currently it’s about 3000 more steps than I’m used to because of all the Pokemon GO hunting I’ve been doing).

My sister says: I don’t know how I ever lived without this. Job searching can make you lacklustre and lazy and this device helped to get back the get up and go I was lacking. It really helps to get you moving and burn those calories off. When I started my new job I was constantly volunteering to go up and down the stairs for any errand so I could achieve my daily goal. Everyone should have one!

Contigo Grace Water Bottle

I’m constantly guzzling water now, so it is a bit surreal to remember the days when I was chronically dehydrated at work. I used to drink lots of tea and coffee and hardly any water, and I wondered why I always had a headache! One year, I made a resolution to drink at least 2l of water throughout the day and after a few weeks my headaches disappeared, I had a lot more energy and my skin started to look much better. It can be difficult to keep track of how many glasses I’m drinking though – especially if I’m busy – so when I noticed the headaches and lethargy creeping back, I invested in a Contigo Grace Water Bottle. I really like this bottle because it’s got markings so I can see how much I’m drinking and if I’m on track for the day. I wanted a water bottle that I didn’t have to unscrew every time I wanted to take a sip and that would not leak if I threw it in my gym bag.  This water bottle is auto sealing, you press a small button to release it to take a sip. It doesn’t leak (although I did read a few reviews that said it leaks when not upright, perhaps this varies from bottle to bottle). It’s very robust, I’ve knocked it over and dropped it several times and it doesn’t have a scratch on it. The only down side is that the lid can be a bit fiddly to clean but other than that, great bottle.

My sister says: The only water bottle I’ve had which doesn’t leak and has saved me money on buying water from the shop every day. Handy to keep on a desk and lightweight enough to carry around with you when full.

Contigo Autoseal West Loop Travel Mug

Working in an office within stumbling distance of Starbucks, Costa and Nero means that I used to spend a lot of money on coffee. A lot! I don’t even want to add up how much I used to spend per month because I think it would make me feel sick. As I got more into my coffee and started appreciating the taste of the actual coffee (rather than the taste of the syrup in a bucket sized Caramel Macchiato) I realised how bad most of my takeaway coffees were  – burnt coffee, burnt milk or both. Not to mention expensive. I could buy a whole bag of my absolute favourite but very expensive coffee (Hawaiian Kona, just in case you want to send me a present) for the same price as five days of bad to mediocre takeaway coffee. AND I could make it exactly the way I like.

I think I’ve successfully made the case for home made coffee, so why the Contigo travel mug?  Well, firstly it keeps my coffee hot for a good amount of time (5 hours, give or take); I don’t need to unscrew the lid to take a sip so it’s perfect for my morning commute; it doesn’t leak and it looks good. It holds 470ml of liquid which is about the right size for my morning filter coffee! I really like the stainless steel but sadly I’ve dropped my mug a couple of times so mine is little scuffed (no dents or splits though), I bought one for my sister and one for my husband and theirs still look pristine.

My sister says: Again, this did not leak and kept my drinks warm until my morning break and even through til lunch time. It is also lightweight so I could carry both this and the water bottle without it weighing my bag down. This is a great way to save money and avoid spending £3-4 daily.

Happy Jackson Lunch Box and Happy Jackson Snack Box Set

The other thing I wasted money on when I started working was food. Not that I’m suggesting that buying food is a waste of money, but the lunchtime options available near my work are expensive and boring. I like bringing my own lunch with me because I can pack something that I’ll really look forward to eating and I know I won’t be spending upwards of £30 a week.

I have a bit of a thing about lunchboxes. I’ve own approximately 607 of them and I’m always on the lookout for more. I think a good lunchbox can turn a packed lunch from the lesser option of another slightly squashed cheese sandwich to something that I’m really looking forward to opening. I picked these because I love the cheeky design and I thought that the smaller snack boxes would be good for snacks, while the bigger lunch box could provide a home for all the others and have some space left for sandwiches. Possibly I’ve overestimated the amount my sister eats for lunch.

My sister says: There were two sizes which were used the most for my lunch needs but I really love the design of these. The lids are secure which is reassuring when you are taking salad and hummus in your bag for lunch. The smaller container was perfect for snacks such as cashews and apricots and the size helps with portion control.

 

Big thanks to my sister for providing the extra reviews for this post, she doesn’t have a blog but you can catch up with her on Instagram @snapsanne185 

Boozy Barbecued Nectarines

I love a barbecue. I’m a card-carrying carnivore so I love anything that gives me an excuse to eat multiple meat dishes and my vegetarian husband has been on a mission to cook the perfect grilled cheese sandwich on the barbie ever since he saw this video by Alton Brown. Dessert, however, is typically a bit of an anticlimax – we just dig though the freezer for a half eaten tub of ice cream. When my in-laws invited us over for one of their epic barbecues this summer, I decided to try adapting one of my favourite dessert recipes for the grill and it was A-MA-ZING!

I used the following ingredients:

Four nectarines
One large orange
2 dessert spoons agave syrup
One large slug (around 2 dessert spoons) of Contrieau orange liqueur

I grated the zest from the orange and then juiced it. I combined the orange zest and juice in a bowl with the Contrieau and agave, mixed well and then left in the fridge for 90 minutes until we were ready for dessert.

When it was time for dessert the coals were not super hot (the last steak was cooked about 40 minutes before that). I halved and de-stoned the nectarines, then grilled for 3-4 minutes on each side. Then I transferred the nectarines to a sheet of baking foil and drizzled half the orange syrup mixture into the centre of each nectarine half and grilled for a further 3 minutes.

I served with Greek yoghurt and the other half of the orange syrup to be used as a dressing. Delicious!

Review Good Vibes Fitzrovia Cycle Beginner Improvers Class The Workout LifeI have been meaning to go to a spin class for months. Back in the good old days when I was a member of a gym five minutes away from my office I’d often be found sweating away in the spin studio during my lunch break. Sadly the closure of the gym and the fact that I no longer really have a lunch break have put the halcyon days of thrice weekly spin classes behind me. I used to love those classes, the sweat, the music, the fact that it all took place in a darkened room so no one could really see me huffing and puffing during the climbs. As it’s been a while I decided it would do me no harm to brush up on the basics and finally learn the proper way to set up the bike at the monthly Beginner Cycle Class held at Good Vibes Fitzrovia.

I talked Mr WorkoutLife into coming along with me and this is what we discovered.

The Basics

A 35 minute class designed for beginners or improvers looking to brush up on their indoor cycling skills. This class runs on the first Wednesday of every month at the Fitzrovia studio.

The Workout

The description on the Good Vibes website states that this class is for beginners or anyone wanting to sharpen their technique. The website also says, in bold, that “everyone is in control of their own ride … nobody but you will control your resistance dial or your pace”. This was very reassuring for a lapsed indoor cyclist like me!

Our cycle coach Nadine was brilliant. She came round to every person, introduced herself, asked about our cycling background and helped set up our bikes correctly while explaining what she was doing and why she was doing it. She was super patient during this stage, I was one of the last to get their bike checked and I kept thinking “oh no, I’m too late, she’s going to have to start the class before she gets to me” but she did come to me and helped me get the right set up that was both safe and comfortable. I’ve never had proper personalised guidance on how to do this during a spin class and to be honest, as this was one of the main reasons why I took this class I didn’t think that I would have much to learn (ha!) once this had been done.

She also explained about the cadence (RPM counter) on our bikes, how to adjust the resistance, keeping good posture during the class, how to safely come out of the saddle for a climb and what the different stages of the ride should feel like. This isn’t a full indoor cycling class, but it is a great primer for moving on to those classes (there is one straight afterwards, if you fancy it). Nadine gave me lots of pointers on my posture while cycling and which felt a lot more efficient and targeted my glutes much more effectively when compared to my previous collapsed across the handlebars posture.

What I really, really like about this class is that it focuses on cycling. It sounds obvious but there are so many cycling classes out there that promise to deliver a full body workout by shoehorning in upper body workout sections that it is becoming quite unusual to find an indoor cycling class that doesn’t do some half-arsed moves with 1kg dumbbells or “push ups on the bike”, let alone a studio that actively promotes their purist attitude to indoor cycling. Good Vibes gets a huge tick for this!

Instructor

Nadine was the perfect instructor for a beginner’s class – she delivered everything I hoped for and some things that I didn’t know I wanted before class! I would go as far as to say that Nadine is the best instructor I’ve had in an indoor cycling class.

The Fit Crowd

Including us, the class had 10 people (7 women and 3 men), which made it a “very popular beginners class” according to Nadine. Everyone was friendly and chatty, there was a distinct “we’re all in together” vibe in the room and if people were a bit nervous we helped each other through it.

Sweat Factor

Pretty sweaty. This isn’t bright-red-and-dripping-sweat-on-the-bike class but it’s definitely more than a quick-babywipe-and-go-back-to-work class.

Repeat Performance?

This class is excellent for beginners (or might-as-well-be beginners like me) and I think that more advanced cyclists would get something out of the class. I’m thinking of going back in September for a skills tune up and every few months thereafter to make sure I haven’t slipped into bad habits.

I’m really keen to try Nadine’s other classes and some of the other classes on offer at Good Vibes as I had a really positive experience of the studio. However, this  would be more of an occasional treat rather than a regular addition to my workout schedule. Fitzrovia isn’t the most convenient location for me and I’d have to make a concerted effort to get there more than once every couple of weeks which wouldn’t make any of the money-saving membership options viable for me.

Know Before You Go

The bikes have cages not clip-in cycle shoes so bring trainers.

You’ll be given a small towel free of charge if you are doing an cycling class and you can hire large towels from reception for £1.

You’ll need a £1 coin for the lockers and I found the locker rather small. I managed to fit my backpack in one locker but if I had a winter coat or anything bulky, I would have needed two lockers.

Bottled water and healthy snacks (I spotted Bounce Balls and Pip&Nut sachets) are available to buy from Reception. I discovered you can also use account credit to pay which was great because I didn’t bring any cash and actually had £6 credit on my account so I could buy something to scoff on the journey home.

Good Vibes operates a 6 hour cancellation policy. I think that this is really generous, if I realise I’m going to be swamped with work and there is no way I’m finishing on time, I’ve got until lunchtime to cancel the class. Much more forgiving than 24 hour or 12 hour cancellation policies at other studios.

This class was £16 and there are various memberships and block class packs available. If you are new to Good Vibes, you can take advantage of their Intro Offer which applies to both the Fitzrovia and Covent Garden studios both studios and all activities (Glow Yoga, Pilates and Power Plate classes in addition to Indoor Cycling). At the time of writing, the Intro Offer was £45 for 30 days.

Last tip, save a tiny bit of energy to stagger up the stairs afterwards (and try to avoid the temptation to stagger straight into the fish and chip shop over the road!)

Readjusting My World View

I am trying to lose weight at the moment. And I’m trying to be healthy. And in the past those two things have never sat together easily for me.

I’m trying to lose weight because over the past couple of years I was increasingly exhausted, suffering horrendously painful periods that kept me off work for days and gradually gaining weight. I went back to my GP again and again, and then eventually (after insisting that actually there was something wrong I wasn’t just tired from work and no, actually very woman doesn’t feel like this bad every month) was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and endometriosis. I’m working with my new GP (needless to say I left the old one) and specialists to get both of these conditions under control, but that hasn’t made the weight magically disappear – apparently I have to sort that bit out “the old fashioned way”. The difficult bit comes when I’m asked to set my goal weight, I think about the lightest I’ve ever been and reluctantly add enough kilos so that weight will acceptable. And that when I think about diets, about healthy eating plans, about clean eating, I start getting stressed and panicky. And when I think about “the old fashioned way” I go back to the darkest point in my life.

I have had problems with eating disorders since I was thirteen ears old and that by far the worst time for me was the period between age seventeen and twenty five. There were a couple of years while I was university that were the very worst time in my life, when I clung to my disordered relationship with food and my completely dysfunctional relationship my own body in an attempt to cope with everything else that was happening to me.

Even though I know that my mindset was not healthy at all and that my size and weight at this time were not healthy or unsustainable by healthy means, there is a dark corner of my mind that has always believed that being so thin was the biggest achievement of my life. There is also a  part of my mind that tells me that I never really had an eating disorder. Never mind the years I wasted by starving myself, forcing myself to be sick every time I caved in and ate something and obsessing over the fact that I wasn’t good enough (which invariably equated to not thin enough). Never mind the entries that were entered on my medical record – anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and depression – during a time when things were so bad that I nearly dropped out of university. Never mind that at the time that I was so thin, I always thought that I was too fat and had so much self-loathing that every day was a struggle. This voice argues that I was never really thin enough to have an eating disorder. I was never so thin that I was hospitalised, never so thin that I was force fed, so therefore, that voice tells me, I was never really ill. In fact, it whispers sometimes, maybe what you need to do is stop pretending you were ill and find the self discipline to go back to that weight and those behaviours.

But something happened recently that has challenged this voice. A couple of weeks ago, I was sorting through some boxes and the old computer at my parents house because I wanted to make sure that I kept my old modelling portfolio and all the photos from when I was at university before they made good on their threat to throw out all the stuff I abandoned when I moved out.

I was looking through my portfolio and kind of lost down memory lane remembering the hilarious hairstylist on this shoot or the terrible freezing cold studio on that one. My portfolio is full of the very best photos from these shoots, taken after a whole team of professionals paid to make me look my very best before the camera, and a whole team of professionals armed with Photoshop to make the resulting photos look even better. My portfolio got the same old wistful “I was so slim” feeling. But it wasn’t my portfolio that got the biggest reaction from me.

It was the outtakes – the hundreds, even thousands of photos that didn’t make it into my portfolio – and the goofy pictures when we were testing the lighting, the selfies I took in front of the sets and the pictures from nights out afterwards. Some of the things I saw in those pictures really disturbed me, and the reaction they got was disbelief and sadness. The outtakes from my favourite photo shoot (that supposed pinnacle of achievement of thinness) are nothing like the picture my agent chose to be printed out and put in my book. In the majority of the pictures from that day I look gaunt, tired, unhealthy and too thin, far too thin. I’ve never deep down believed that I was ever too thin, so for me to admit this even to myself was like a seismic shift.

Even worse are the pictures a few days later when I’m hanging out with my friends, no makeup, no professional lighting, no Photoshop. I’m shocked at how unhealthy I look compared to the other people in the photos. For the first time in my life I’m not thinking “I wish I looked like that now”, instead I’m thinking “I look terrible, why didn’t anyone say anything to me”. The very worst thing about this cache of photos is that I clearly remember that on the day these pictures were taken, I thought that I needed to lose weight. Today I look at these pictures and think the girl in them was clearly ill and in need of help, not that she has something I wish I had now.

I know that I don’t want to go back to feeling like that or looking like that, but I also feel a bit like the rug has been pulled out from under me. My view has changed and that magical, in-my-wildest-dreams-I-might-get-to-that-again weight has suddenly become undesirable. That destination, that perfect weight that would make me happy, doesn’t exist.

I still want to lose weight, but its because I want to improve my health not damage it in a different way in pursuit of that “perfect” weight. That feels liberating, but it feels a bit scary too – before I knew what the destination would be and now I don’t know where I’m headed because I’m going to have to learn what healthy is along the way – and I feel angry, that I’ve been berating myself for my entire adult life for not maintaining something that was so bad for me.

 

 

 

Steal Her Workout Style Elle Linton Keepitsimpelle

 

Welcome to the second edition of Steal Her Workout Style, a series of interviews with amazing women who have their own unique sense of fit-style and put their fashion choices through their paces by wearing them during real-life workouts (complete with real-life sweat!).

My subject for this month is the lovely Elle Linton, a Personal Trainer, Sport Development Professional and Health & Fitness Blogger at Keep It SimpELLE  and the creator of the London Bloggers group. Inspirational is a word that gets thrown around a lot within blogging circles, but for me, Elle really is inspirational. She seems to live at a million miles a limit (I love reading about all her fitness adventures and vicariously getting my fit-thrills!) and yet she is always a bundle of positivity and is incredibly generous with her time and energy.

 

Elle Linton Keepitsimpelle

Photo Credit: Georgina Ellis at Fitcetera 2015

Describe your workout style in three words
Simple, classic, tight

What is your favourite piece of fitness apparel and why?
Has to be my footwear. I always ensure I’m wearing the right footwear for the workout whether it be running, gym, CrossFit etc. Footwear is designed to work with your feet – so for running, the shoes will support you in a forward motion only. This means if you wear your running shoes to go to Zumba you won’t be supported for the sideways movements and all the jumping. The right footwear ensures you get the most out of your workout and can perform to your maximum!

What one item/accessory has made your workout life easier?
A huge bag with compartments! My bag needs to fit everything I need for the day, from clothes to extra shoes, my lunch and snacks, my diary, laptop …then for when I go swimming or have a particularly sweaty workout, it needs to hold all that gear and protect my dry stuff! Having a bag that can fit all this makes my workout life so, so very much easier!

How does your training routine affect your fashion choices (if at all)?
I basically live in sweat wicking, fast drying clothes! I try as hard as I can to mix it up with a few normal pieces every now and again! So my training routine definitely affects my fashion choices! I need to know that the outfit I chose for that day can get me through work (either in store or in and office at a studio) through to teaching, maybe my own workout and then socialising (casually) at the end of the day! I think that’s quite a lot to ask for?! Sometimes I just have to swap / add a layer and maybe change my shoes and it works!

If you could only wear one fitness brand for the rest of your life, which would it be and why?

This is a tough question! I think I would pick either lululemon or Topshop! If I had to choose an athletic wear brand it would be lululemon based on the fact that they have an awesome ‘to & from’ range which are “normal looking” clothes made with technical fabrics. If it wasn’t a sportswear brand that I had to choose but to wear for being active it would be TopShop – they always have great simple pieces in that you can sweat in and look like you walked straight out of the trendiest studio in East London!

Where is your favourite place to shop for fitness clothing and why?
One place I think that is a hidden gem for shopping for fitness wear is NEXT. They have quite an extensive range of stuff both branded and their own label! Sometimes they even have exclusive stuff you can’t find on the high street!

Function or fashion – what drives most of your fitness clothing purchases?
FUNCTION. Every second, of every day!!!

Complete these sentences:
I splurge on …. bags and jackets!
I save on …. tops and vests!
I always have …food and snacks… in my gym bag
You will never catch me wearing …. the colour red!

Massive thanks to Elle for being such a fabulous Steal Her Workout Style interviewee. You can catch up with Elle’s adventures at www.keepitsimpelle.com or follow her on Twitter and Instagram

Black and Gold Winter Outwear

I’ve been shopping. I was hoping that I could squeeze another year’s wear out of my old winter coat and boots but they are fairly knackered when you look at them in the cold light of day. Then I optimistically wondered if I could put off the purchase until the pre-Christmas sales (or ask for a couple of things for Christmas) but last Friday I spent an hour shivering in my seasonally inappropriate mac and Converse while waiting for a delayed train connection, so I bit the bullet and tried not to think about my credit card balance while shopping.

The Coat

Ted Baker Lorili Long Wrap Coat I wanted something really smart for work that was also a little bit stylish and could be worn over the top of party dresses without too obviously looking like I only have one posh winter coat. I picked this one because the shape is very flattering to someone with boobs and a bum (I spent all my teens and most of my twenties wishing that my boobs were bigger, they went through a growth spurt in my late twenties and now I find that I wish they were smaller – some of my favourite styles, like a double-breasted military style coat or a classic trench coat, look a bit matronly on a larger bust). I love the fancy lining and the gold hardware, it comes in several other colours including a classic taupe and a gorgeous bright purple – if I had the money I would buy it in a few different colours. Sadly I don’t, so classic black it is.

(This is the most expensive winter coat that I have ever bought, but on the basis that I’m going to wear it at least 5 days a week, 5 months a year for the next 2-3 years, I think I can justify the cost-per-wear).

Ted Baker Lorili Long Wrap Coat – £299

The Boots

Steve Madden November Black Leather Ankle Boots Ordinarily, biker boots are my go-to choice of winter footwear. I’ll buy a pair every couple of years and wear them to death (5-7 days a week, 5 months a year) and then have a period of mourning when they really become unwearable and I can’t find an exact replacement. This year I have decided to invest in two pairs of winter boots: a replacement pair of biker boots (also Steve Madden and available here) and the November boots – a posh pair of leather ankle boots with a low heel – to wear to work. Apart from ticking all the boxes for practical ankle boots (low heel, leather not suede for durability) I chose these because the gold zips and trim on the heels mirror the gold accents on the Ted Baker coat.

Steve Madden November Black Leather Ankle Boots – £99.99 (but reduced to £59.99 at the link above)

The Bag(s)

Gymtote Sophia Tote Bag This is a bit of a cheat as I’ve had this bag for a good few months but haven’t had the occasion to use it. I bought it specifically to use on days when I need to carry a lot of stuff with me (including my gym kit!) abut where carrying a rucksack would be a bit of a fashion faux pas – meetings with clients, conferences, checking into posh hotels.

I used it for the first time this week when attending a Social Media & The Law conference followed by two yoga classes at Good Vibes. I was really impressed with the practicality of the bag, everything I needed for yoga fit nicely in the large ‘gym’ compartment and all the stuff I’d normally carry around fit in the ‘handbag’ compartment on the top, with a bottle of water and a selection of snacks in the side pocket. I was also impressed with how nice it looked, particularly in combination with my new coat and bag (gold hard wear on the bag matching those on the coat and bag – I’m sure nobody apart from me notices this but it adds a little spring to my step). I am going to use this as my handbag on business trips as it is very spacious and a sneaky way to get extra storage in hand baggage.

If I could make any improvements to the design of this bag, I would have it remade in leather – it is made of polyurethane and the handles are really, really squeaky (I discovered this when trying to quietly get something out of my bag during one of the key note speeches). I would also add a cross-body strap, because I can happily load it up with a multitude of gym and work items until its really too heavy for me to carry on one shoulder.

GymTote Sophia Tote Bag – £135

Osprey London Leather Across Body Bag My second bag is a small, leather handbag with a cross-body strap and just enough storage space for my purse, Oyster card, iPhone, Blackberry and Kindle. It is also black with gold accents and the cross-body strap is skinny enough not to spoil the line of the coat. I bought it from TK Maxx a couple of weeks ago, they had a good range of colours then but only seem to have it in bright red and khaki online.

Osprey London Leather Across Body Bag – £39.99 Black (in-store at TK Maxx) or £29.99 Red (online at TK Maxx via link above)