This (Bristol) Girl Can

This is an article I wrote for our student newspaper here in Bristol, about the national ‘This Girl Can’ campaign and our very own week of activities at Bristol uni. I’m always looking to inspire people to exercise in whatever form suits them best – I know not everyone enjoys the gym or pounding the pavement like I do, but I think it’s impossible NOT to enjoy exercise once you find the right one. The benefits for your mind and body far outweigh any initial qualms you might have.

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Amalia and I repping Playerlayer (playerlayer.com) outside zumba (check out those personalised leggings!).

 

“Two weeks ago, Bristol University saw the return of the national campaign ‘This Girl Can’ to its campus and Flora Beverley reviewed a very successful week.

‘This Girl Can’, developed by Sport England, is an organisation that provides funding to help people across the country take part in sports at all levels. The ‘This Girl Can’ campaign was born to encourage women of all ages, sizes and backgrounds to get involved in a sport. The initiative also highlights the reality of sport; people sweat, jiggle and may not look their best whilst they exercise, but the message is that this doesn’t matter. 75% of women say that they would like to be more active, yet only 31.7% of women exercise at least once a week.

‘This Bristol Girl Can’ week is aimed to encourage those at the university who might not normally take part in a sport to have a go. This year, a whole week of free activities took place, mainly in the Students’ Union. 15 activities were on offer during the week, including kickboxing, swimming, zumba and self-defence classes, which meant there was something for everyone.

There were two main events: the Maroon Wednesday up at Coombe Dingle and a mass participation Zumba class on Thursday evening. Maroon Wednesday consisted of seven hours of games at Coombe Dingle, showcasing both the men’s and women’s sports teams (including hockey, lacrosse, football and rugby).

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Zumba attracted over 200 students and staff, and wasn’t as horrific as I was expecting (some might even say I had some fun!)

The headliner was, of course, our amazing Women’s Rugby team versus Cardiff Met at 7:15pm. Despite a loss, the girls played extremely well, encouraged by vocal support from teammates, friends and other students on the sidelines. PlayerLayer playmakers were also at the event, handing out personalised leggings to the man of the match and lucky spectators.

The Zumba on Thursday started with a huge queue outside the Anson Rooms in the Students’ Union with lots of students, looking both excited and apprehensive. Over 200 spaces were booked, filling out the Anson Rooms by 6pm. The class was led by two dancers, encouraging everyone to take part in a manageable dance routine, which changed for every song.

For a non-dancer like me, it was hilarious, and I shook my hips and waved my hands around, somehow looking like I was drowning rather than dancing, but the event was the most fun I’d had that week!

Lisa Daley, the official organiser of the week, commented: ‘“This Bristol Girl Can Week” was our celebration of all women participating in Bristol University sport, from complete beginners to elite performers. The whole week was a great success with masses of interest and participation, all tying into the main “This Girl Can” national campaign which aims to promote females to take part, with no worry of how well they do it or how they look doing it.’ The Students’ Union and the department of Sport, Exercise & Health put together a much bigger programme compared to last year. The aim was to offer a wider range of activities that catered for all, helping to reach out to more students than ever before. It was fantastic to see the BUCS Women’s Rugby 1st team in action on Wednesday evening, putting in a strong, passionate and determined performance, proving themselves brilliant role models for ‘This Bristol Girl Can’, alongside our other incredible female BUCS athletes competing in sports from Lacrosse to Volleyball. The active and fun atmosphere was contagious; a true reflection of the whole incredible week of #ThisBristolGirlCan. For anyone interested in getting involved, the fun does not stop with this week. There is still a full range of classes which run every single week, which any student can attend. Find them by following this link: http://www.bristolsu.org.uk/societies-sport/get-active.

So for those of you who enjoyed the week, and for anyone who didn’t get a chance to take part in the events, it is possible to book even more classes to change the statistic that only 31.7% of women workout at least once a week. The benefits of exercise are huge, and it doesn’t mean slogging away in the gym everyday, as the ‘This Bristol Girl Can’ week showed in abundance.”

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Guest post – Ally

 

Alice Miller runs the instagram @kaylaitsines.transformations. She wrote this article to answer the multitude of questions she gets asked on a daily basis (IG:(@kaylaitsines.transformations).

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Ally Miller is a keen advocate of BBG and has been doing it since 2014

“Hiya!

My names Ally, I’m a fitness instagrammer and affiliate for Kayla Itsines. If you aren’t familiar with who Kayla Itsines is (and have been hiding under a rock instead of paying attention to social media), let me get you up to date!

 

WHO IS KAYLA ITSINES?

Kayla Itsines is the face of a fitness brand created by herself and her partner, Tobi Pearce. This ‘brand’ has been changing women’s lives since their Bikini Body Guide’s (BBG) were released in 2014. Kayla and Tobi took an active role in the emerging health trend of ‘strong not skinny’ and produced workouts to help women build lean muscle; the BBG focuses on FITNESS, HEALTH & STRENGTH.

 

WHAT MAKES BBG DIFFERENT FROM OTHER GUIDES?

The true secret behind BBG becoming so HUGE (10million+) is, hands down, social media. The community that has evolved on instagram is immense; often referred to as “Kayla’s Army” you will see many women of all ages with handles including the abbreviation “BBG”. It truly is the most supportive and encouraging community you will ever be a part of. Women often tear each other down and in day-to-day life there’s a lot of negativity and judgement; however within the BBG community only positive vibes are tolerated. Many girls find that in their family or friendship groups they don’t have the necessary support required to stay determined with their new fitness lifestyle, and the BBG community provides this. Worldwide there are BBG meet-ups where girls can attend workouts and meet others with similar interests. Yes, instagram friends turn into REAL LIFE friends. I know personally that when I moved to Bristol it was amazing to have a group of girls to go and meet up with, originally I didn’t know anyone apart from some family and who I am living with, but due to BBG I’ve met some incredible girls (shout out to the BBG Bristol Squad).

 

I have been a member of the BBG community since July 2014 so believe me when I say I’ve heard every question under the sun, so here’s a quick FAQ for you guys!

 

WHAT FORMATS ARE THE GUIDES AVAILABLE IN?

The guides are available in PDF format for use on phones, tablets, pc’s and thus can also be printed if you wish. When you purchase the PDF format of the guide it will be immediately emailed to you to do with as you wish. I personally chose this format as I like to have access to it on iBooks (iPhone app), and being able to print the programme allows me to annotate my progress actually on the guide. The second format the guides are available in is through the apple or android App Store. The app is called “Sweat with Kayla” and allows you access to the workouts, nutritional information and extra little things such as a weekly progress photo journal.

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DO I NEED TO JOIN A GYM?

Absolutely not, and this is one of the main reasons I love this programme. You don’t need any fancy gym equipment, however you will need to purchase a few small things such as a yoga mat (thicker is best for back support), a medicine ball and a pair of dumbells (weights are shown on the guides themselves). Anything else in the programme you can easily find substitutions for in your home. I would also highly recommend purchasing a foam roller to aid recovery and reduction in muscle soreness.

 

WHAT IF I CAN’T DO ONE OF THE EXERCISES?

If you can’t do one of the exercises do not worry! It is a tough programme and it is built to challenge you. All you need do is use a modification, for example the most common people struggle with is push-ups, so to make the move easier you can do these on your knees instead. Once you have built your strength up you can then begin incorporating some full moves amongst the modified version until you can complete all the reps with the full move.

 

WHAT SHOULD I BE EATING?

A full BALANCED diet. This is a new lifestyle so it needs to be sustainable, don’t focus on restriction just focus on keeping your fresh foods higher and your processed food consumption lower. If you feel you need extra advice in this area Kayla has also created a nutritional guide called the “H.E.L.P Guide”.

 

HOW CAN I LOSE WEIGHT ON X PART OF MY BODY?

Suuuuperrrr sorry but you can’t pick where you lose body fat. It’s a concept called “spot reduction” and it is a total myth. Fat loss will occur over your whole body and dependent on the individual it may be lost in some places more than others, however there is no way to know this until it has begun. (RIP boobs & bum)

 

WHY DO I STILL WEIGH THE SAME?

The BBG focuses on building muscle, and boy muscle weighs A LOT. Therefore unless you have a very high volume of fat to lose it is likely your weight will remain the same or potentially it may go up. Original weight – fat loss + muscle gain = similar weight (typically). This is precisely why in BBG we take progress photos instead of using the scales. Quick tip: take your progress photos in your underwear/ a bikini and in good lighting so you have really clear comparison photos, also take these of your full front, full back, full side and any extra areas you want improvement e.g flexing arm muscles etc.

 

WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I HAVE MISSED A WEEK?

At some point everyone gets ill or has a commitment that stops them for a week or so. It is advised that you go back as many weeks as you have missed. E.g. if you completed week 6 and fell ill for a week you should restart at the beginning of week 6, or if you were ill for 2 weeks then you should restart at week 5.

 

I’M NOT SORE, AM I NOT WORKING HARD ENOUGH?

Soreness does not directly correlate to how hard you have worked out, so don’t worry! In the first few weeks of the programme it is likely you will be veeeery sore due to all these new muscles being used, and then after a while your body will adapt and begin to get used to the increased level of exercise. This results in a mega reduction in soreness.”

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My (Flora) BBG transformation after just over 1 round

Rest days – why and how ?

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Put your feet up and relax – you’ve earned it!

For those of us who train hard, it’s often difficult to force ourselves to rest, especially if we’re not feeling overly tired or stiff. However, going without a rest day can cause injuries, exhaustion and other symptoms of over-training. A lot of us have the mind-set of all or nothing – it’s so hard to push ourselves to go to the gym everyday, that once we’re in a routine we don’t want to break it, and therefore taking a day off can feel like you’re falling behind. However, first hand experience has shown me that rest days are PART of an exercise routine, not just a day off. Here’s why:

Rest prevents injury

Our bodies are only built for a certain amount of strenuous activity. This level can be built up over time, but try to build it up too quickly and you’ll likely injure yourself. This is for a number of reasons, from the increase of tiny muscle tears that aren’t given time to recover, to the loss of form of a tired body. After intense exercise, our main muscle groups become tired and lazy, meaning poor form in further exercises. Poor form can lead to injury. On a side note, this is how I managed to get IT band syndrome on BOTH my legs only 4 months apart, putting me out for around a year off and on. Whilst I wasn’t training as much as others, the intensity of training was too much too soon, and caused my form to get worse, causing long term injuries. You really, REALLY don’t want this.

Allows the build-up of muscle

When we workout, we cause tiny muscle-fibre tears, that can thankfully be repaired by our immune system and adequate amounts of protein in our diet. However, this takes time and rest, and as above, without this tears can accumulate, leading to bigger muscle tears and injury. Rest days are needed to build back up muscles, nerves, bones and connective tissues. This is why it’s important to stagger muscle-group workout days, not working out the same muscle group for around three days after you last worked it out.

Better sleep

Interestingly, middle amounts of exercise help sleep a huge amount, but too much exercise can actually negatively affect sleep. Over-training increases the hormone, which is not only the stress hormone, but also the hormone that wakes you up in the morning. Having too much of it will wake you up in the night and keep you awake when you’re trying to sleep. You can find out if this is happening to you by measuring your resting heart rate (RHR) on a day you’re well rested and again when you think you might be over training. A raised RHR is a telltale sign that your body is on high alert, which could be due to over-training.

Better resistance to illness

Your immune system takes a hit when you’re tired, as it has to work extra hard to repair muscles and joints, alongside its usual job of fighting off millions of pathogens everyday. More rest gives your immune system a break too, meaning it’s better able to fight off any lurgies that are around.

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Nutrition is as important (if not more) on rest days as workout days. Pack in the protein! 

The reasons why you should rest vary a little depending on why type of exercise you do – lifting weights causes different issues to running long distance, but the essential point remains: rest is essential to progress. Rest days don’t have to involve hours of inactivity – getting up and walking around is important to keep muscles warm and your heart healthy. However, if your workouts are usually light to moderate intensity, rest days can involve a little more physical activity, for example yoga, pilates, a (very) slow and short jog or a longer walk. Food wise, you’ll need a little less food on your rest day but don’t be fooled: you may not be working out that day, but our bodies still burn more calories the day after a heavy session, meaning that you’ll require more food than if you had taken the whole day off.

 

Prescription for rest day:

  • Lots of protein
  • Slightly less carbs than usual
  • No intense exercise – a light jog at most, but don’t overdo it!
  • This is NOT a cheat day: using your rest day as a cheat day won’t do your body or mind any favours. Plan it like a training day and nourish yourself accordingly.
  • Stretch and foam roll

 

Finding out what works for you may take a bit of time and fiddling, but making sure you keep a track of how you feel will mean you can ace your rest day like any other day of training.

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Sleep is life

Motion Nutrition guest post – how to avoid SAD in winter

This post was originally written by Joe and Charlie, the boys at Motion Nutrition, my favourite supplement brand. And they know a think or two about health. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is something that I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember, and from talking to lots of you, I know that I am not alone in this fact! By taking certain steps in your everyday routine, you can minimise the amount that SAD affects you this winter. Finding out what works for you means you can be a lot happier and get along with your everyday life as you would otherwise.

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Staying in bed all day certainly SEEMS like a good idea when it’s colder than you’re ex’s heart outside, but can actually be counterproductive  (photo by @ajanistry)

“It’s getting cold and it’s getting dark. We’ve had it pretty easy so far with a mild autumn. But the clocks are now set: we must brace for winter. You may be lucky enough to still catch a few sun rays in the morning on your way to work, but that glimpse of morning daylight won’t last long. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is an easy trap to fall into as we enter winter months. But it certainly is not inevitable.

Here are 4 dangerous habits you must avoid this winter to ditch SAD

  1. Staying indoors all day

Unless you work outdoors, the likelihood is that you spend almost your entire work days inside the confines of your office, gym, studio, workshop or classroom. As the days get shorter, this will mean very, very little sunlight, if any at all. So make a point of getting outside during your lunch break. The sunlight will energise you, the fresh air will oxygenate your brain and muscles. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a little vitamin D (although this is unlikely at this time of year, so you may wish to consider a high quality vitamin D supplement).

  1. Skipping your workouts

We all know the feeling. It’s warm inside; cold, dark (and wet?) outside. Who would want to ditch the blanket and step outside for a jog? It’s oh-so-easy to get lazy in the winter. But physical activity will not only ward off anxiety and feelings of winter-depression, it will also boost your self-esteem, reduce stress and improve your sleep. So get out (or to the gym) and bag yourself an endorphin high!

  1. Eating too much comfort food

There’s nothing wrong with a bubbling tray of crispy-cheese-topped mac’n’cheese every once and a while. But make sure you are not foregoing micronutrients in the winter months. Remember to pack in the fresh fruit and veg. Think seasonal, too: beetroots are great for juicing, and we’ll soon be hit with brilliant oranges and tangerines.

  1. Not getting enough sleep

What would happen to our sleep if we went back a couple hundred years to when we didn’t have electricity and certainly didn’t have digital screens? We would sleep less during summer, and more during winter. Lack of sunlight, high levels of stress, and you guessed it, too much comfort food will make you crave more sleep during the winter. There is a balance to be found here: get some sunlight in during the day so you’re not going in full hibernation mode. But don’t overdo it on computer, phone, and TV screens at night (the blue light from the screen keeps you awake just like sunlight) so that you can give your mind and body enough rest to brave the colder days.

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Koalas are cute but they sleep 18 hours a day. Don’t be a koala.

Need an energy kick to untangle yourself from that warm blanket? Try our Award Winning Organic Pre Workout Energiser now.”

 

Many thanks to Charlie and Joe for this one! Don’t forget to check out their range of products. They really are the most effective I’ve tried, and without the crap so many other companies put in! And no, I’m not sponsored by them 😉