Overtraining

Fitness undoubtedly has a myriad of benefits, from the mood-boosting to the life-improving. However, it is possible to have too much of a good thing, and over-training is an issue that can affect even amateur athletes in pursuit of their next PB or particular aesthetic goals.

When I first started training I felt invincible. Increasing my sessions per week left me exhausted but happy and no matter how much I trained, I always had the desire for more. However, long story short, recurring injuries and losing my period aged 17 left me questioning whether I really was helping my body, or whether my intense training regime was actually causing more harm than good.

It wasn’t until later that I discovered RED-S, or Relative Energy Deficiency in sport, previously known as Female Athlete Triad, which is now known to affect both men and women. If not enough food is consumed to cover the energy demands of your workouts, and the rest thereafter, chronic energy deficiency can occur – you basically run out of fuel in your body, and your body does what it can to make it up. This may mean fuelling from fat, muscle, brain and even the heart.

It is possible to be overtraining without all the symptoms of RED-S, and this can lead to a range of problems.

First, it’s important to bear in mind that overtraining is possible by:

a) Doing too much exercise (for your current level of fitness) or

b) not having enough recovery between workouts or

c) chronically underfuelling

It is possible to accidentally overtrain if you increase your training load without increasing food intake, decrease your rest times and/or reduce food intake.

Symptoms:

Decrease in training ‘gains’

We all want to make progress when we workout, but overtraining could hinder exactly that. Overtraining can lead to an increase in recovery times and decrease in performance, meaning that training sessions don’t provide the benefits that they should, so little to no improvement is seen.

Increased risk of injury

While most of us suffer from aches, pains and niggles at some point during a training regime, having recurring issues could be a sign of something more serious. When fatigue accumulates from lack of recovery, small injuries don’t have the chance to heal, and form can suffer, leaving the athlete at a greater chance of acute injuries, too. In addition, lack of food can lead to decreased bone density, especially in women, linked to fractures and osteoporosis, especially in athletes who don’t do weight-bearing exercises.

Insomnia/agitation/low mood

A good intake of food and sufficient rest are both important for our endocrine (hormone) system. When the body is under stress however, the overproduction of cortisol and disruption of other hormones can make it harder to wind down and fall asleep. This in turn can lead to low mood and agitation and, of course, less progress in training.

Recurrent illness

Training puts the body under a lot of stress, which when paired with rest can make it stronger. However, without sufficient food or rest, the body does not have enough energy to warn of viruses and other infections, making illnesses and infections more likely and more frequent.

Loss of period

When women train too hard, hormones can become unbalanced. Paired with a lack of energy availability, the body does not have the energy to support itself, let alone another life. Therefore many athletes lose their periods – whilst this is seen as ‘common’ and perhaps even ‘normal’ within the running community, it could be symptomatic of bigger issues and should never be ignored.

Often, overtraining is the result of a lack of education or an overabundance of enthusiasm for a particular sport. In these cases, recognising and resolving the problem can be quite simple. Eating more, ensuring rest days are adhered to and taking a step back from frequent intense sessions can resolve the above issues relatively quickly.

For some people however, the issues are more psychologically rooted, and may require professional help to deal with.  The paradox with RED-s and over overtraining, is that the result is reduced performance, exactly the opposite of what the athlete is aiming for. If you believe you might be suffering from overtraining, seek help from a health professional – not only will your training suffer if you don’t, but you could be putting your lifelong health at serious risk.

If you are unsure if you are suffering from overtraining, it is possible to measure bone density and hormone levels to ensure everything is in check. First, however, try reducing training intensity and/or increasing food consumption to see if any of the issues resolve themselves. A new PB is not worth the damage done from overtraining.

I hope this helps! I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject 🙂 Come and find me on Instagram and YouTube for more fitness and food content!

What is green energy and can it save the planet?

There are lots of ways we can reduce our impact on the environment, from cutting out meat and fish to moving our money to an ethical bank to using less fossil fuel. However, when it comes to changing energy provider to live a little greener, the whole industry can be a minefield!

A Which? survey in early 2014 found that energy tariffs are too confusing, despite the reforms brought in earlier that year. For me, changing energy company appeared complicated, not least because of the myriad of tariffs and providers available (known to confuse the consumer into paying more than they have to), and the fact that some providers don’t provide to certain locations. However, I recently switched from Shell to Bulb and it took me all of 2 minutes (via a short online form, since they only have one tariff) – it’s not as complicated as it seems if you choose the right provider!

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I plan to help with each of these aspects! (From 2000+ respondents to a MoneySuperMarket survey)

As most Brits turn their heating on around this time of year, it’s the perfect time to look for a cheaper way to get your energy – and there’s no reason you can’t make it friendlier on the planet, as well as your pocket.

 

What makes energy green?

Traditional energy suppliers rely primarily on non-renewable resources, such as oil, coal and gas, which are major contributors to climate change through the release of CO2. Ninety-seven percent (or more) of scientists are certain the climate has been warming over the past century and that the pace of warming is accelerating due to human activities — particularly the burning of coal, oil and other fossil fuels. As such, the reduction in our use of fossil fuels is of utmost importance.

Green energy uses renewable resources (e.g. wind power (big in the UK), wave, solar (esp US), hydroelectric, etc.). The amount of renewable electricity used by UK households has increased to overtake fossil fuels this year for the first time, partially because of growing concerns over fossil fuels, and partially because green energy has become much more efficient to produce. In addition to slowing climate change, switching to a green energy provider can help fight harmful levels of pollution, meaning we can all live longer (and healthier). However, we still have a long way to go to make a significant change.

“Renewables are already the world’s second-largest source of electricity, but their deployment still needs to accelerate if we are to achieve long-term climate, air quality and energy access goals,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director.

“As costs continue to fall, we have a growing incentive to ramp up the deployment of solar PV.”

It is important to remember that when you switch to a green energy company, a certain amount of energy sourced from non-renewables is used to fill gaps in supply of renewable energy. However, a proportion of what you pay will be matched by the equivalent amount of energy being fed into the national grid from renewable sources, with the result being a much cleaner way to get energy.

Conversely, whilst many major energy companies can sell ‘green’ energy tariffs, these are not necessarily helping the problem. Big companies are able to buy green energy from smaller companies and sell it on to the customer, without actually having any renewable sources of their own. This article explains it much better than I can – just don’t be fooled when a big company tries to sell you ‘100% renewable energy’.

It is clear that we all need to be making a switch to cleaner, greener energy companies – companies that care about the environment at least as much as their own profits.

To make it easier for you to change over, I’ve compiled some of the most popular providers on the market. All of these companies supply 100% renewable electricity, so you can rest assured that whichever you choose, you’ll be doing plenty of good!

 

The suppliers

Bulb

Bulb energy was one of the most popular energy providers with my followers when I was doing research for this piece. It’s a fast-growing company that promises to make energy ‘simpler, cheaper and greener’. It rates higher than any of the Big 6 energy companies and 95% of customers have joined in the last 2 years, showing its increasing popularity. It’s also a B Corp (a very highly-regarded certification of sustainability)!

Best for: All round customer satisfaction, referral credit (mine is www.bulb.me/florab5433 if you’d like to use it!).

Octopus

The only company that fared better than Bulb on customer complaints was Octopus. This innovative company invests in sustainable tech, including tariffs that allow customers to run their homes off their electric car’s power during peak energy times, removing some pressure off the national grid. Unlike Bulb, Octopus offers a variety of tariffs, which are some of the cheapest in the UK.

Best for: Innovation and cheap tariffs

Ovo energy

OVO energy has recently published its first sustainability strategy, including plans to reach net-zero by 2030 (10 years ahead of the government deadline). This, partnered with the ambition to halve customers’ total carbon footprint by 2030 make it an appealing option for anyone interested in the environment.

OVO currently has 1.5 million consumers across the UK and is looking to expand (in line with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C trajectory, of course). However, OVO has recently come under fire for not producing its own green energy, and instead purchasing it from other providers.

Best for: Making a political statement

Good Energy

Good energy was the first dedicated 100% renewable electricity supplier, with all of its energy being sourced from solar, wind, hydro power and biofuel from British energy generators. Reviews online appear to be middling, although still better than the Big 6 energy providers. All the above companies provide renewable electricity, but Good Energy was the first to also supply carbon neutral gas, and also owns its own sources of renewable energy.

Best for: Clean gas and ethics

TL;DR

As fossil fuels become more and more scarce, we will have to find new, more efficient ways of getting energy. Already however, the excessive use of fossil fuels is harming the planet and our health. Divesting in your own home as much as possible will help reduce your impact.

Hopefully this shortlist will help you find a way to lower your environmental impact, and your bills too! It is clear that there need to be more transparency about companies’ energy sources, but switching to any of the above companies will be beneficial to the environment.

If you enjoyed this article please do share and tag me on Instagram or Twitter.

This article is an edited version of one I wrote for Eco-Age

 

Protein – how much do we really need?

Are we whey too obsessed?

One of the questions I am asked most frequently when people learn that I am vegan is ‘but how do you get enough protein?’. It’s an understandable query – the last few years have placed so much emphasis on protein as the answer to all our health and fitness queries, it’s hard not to believe that the more protein we eat, the healthier we are.

But is protein really the be-all and end-all of a healthy diet? How much protein do we really need and what are the best sources? Are protein powders good or a waste of money?

Contrary to popular belief, if you eat a wide variety of foods containing plenty of wholegrains, meeting your daily protein requirements as a vegan is not too difficult. One argument against veganism is that there are very few ‘complete protein sources’ (protein sources containing all nine essential amino acids we need in our diet. Whilst complete proteins sources are primarily found in animal products, such as meat and eggs, consuming a mix of plant-based foods means it’s possible to consume all essential amino acids in a vegan meal, e.g. peanut butter on toast, or rice and beans.

It was indeed once thought that vegetarian and vegan diets couldn’t supply adequate amounts of the necessary amino acids, but updated views suggest that “protein from a variety of plant foods eaten during the course of a day typically supplies enough essential amino acids when caloric requirements are met”.

The protein shake market has been booming for several years now – check my last promotion of protein supplements from a year ago below! 

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I've been so excited to get back into a good routine of working out recently. Fitness will always be a part of my life, but the amount I train varies from week to week – sometimes it's only twice, occasionally it'll be everyday! 💦 The time I'm happiest though is when I've got 4 or 5 workouts planned for the week and they work a different thing every day! 🙌 I get easily bored, so planning intense, varied workouts keeps me (and my body) on my toes! 🤗 Post intense workouts I've started drinking @forgoodnessshakes vegan protein shakes because MY GOD my muscles need it 😂 I can thoroughly recommend the chai and choco flavours from @musclefooduk if you're interested! 🤤 #protein #training #trackandfield #traininsane #veganprotein

A post shared by Flora Beverley 🦄 (@foodfitnessflora) on

 

Supplements or food?

Protein supplementation is big business – in the UK we spend more than £66m a year on sports nutrition products, and research suggests that around 25% of us have consumed some sort of sports nutrition product in the last year. Thanks to this market boom, there are plenty of great protein supplements out there (as well as some really, really bad ones), but protein is thought to be best consumed primarily in food rather than supplements for a number of reasons.

According to Euromonitor figures, which cover ready-to-drink beverages, protein powders and protein bars with a minimum of 20g of protein, the sports nutrition market has grown by about 160% since 2011. Another market analyst, Nielsen, said there was a 63% rise in sales of protein bars in 2015, compared with the previous 12 months, while Mintel figures, published in August, said there were 40% more launches of high-protein products in 2016 compared with 2015 – The Guardian.

  1. Protein powders lack vitamins, minerals and fibre that you get from eating food, which are important in every diet
  2. Many protein powders contain artificial chemicals, such as sweetener, which may have some negative health effects if consumed in large quantities, and taste kinda weird.
  3. Excess protein is either excreted in urine or stored as fat and can lead to weight gain. Just because shakes are drinks, it doesn’t mean they don’t contain calories. It is harder to overeat on a meal, which is usually much more satisfying.

Having said that, protein powders can make a quick and easy ‘snack’ after a workout, which is why so many people take them. If you struggle to hit daily calories, they can be a useful way of increasing them, but using them in lieu of a meal, for example, can lead to decreased overall nutrient intake, which is best avoided.

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How much protein should I be eating?

The recommended daily allowance of protein is somewhere between 0.8g and 1.2g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. Certain factors can push you towards the higher end of this, such as having a very active lifestyle, and older people also have higher protein requirements, but the majority of people are fine towards the lower end of the scale. In fact, some evidence suggests that reduced protein consumption is linked to increased longevity. However,there is little evidence to suggest that eating excess protein is harmful for an otherwise healthy adult, but excess protein cannot be utilised by the body, which is why protein supplements are possibly more fuss than they are worth: excess protein will go straight though you, so you’re literally flushing money down the drain!

 

So what are the best plant-based sources of protein?

Tofu

Tofu is derived from soya (another great source of protein) and can be cooked in many ways, taking on the flavour of whatever it is being cooked in. 100g tofu provides 8g protein and is also incredibly low in fat.

Oats

While you may think of oats as a carbohydrate, they are also one of the best vegan protein sources. Oats pack a protein punch at 10g protein per 100g! Buy whole or steel-cut oats rather than instant to get the full benefits.

Quinoa

Whist not extremely high in protein (4g in 100g cooked), quinoa is one of the few plant-based foods that is a complete protein. Contrary to its appearance, quinoa is actually a seed, but makes a great alternative to other carbohydrates.

Pulses

Pulses, such as lentils, chickpeas and beans are not only extremely healthy, but also cheap and easy to chuck into any meal. Chickpeas come in at 7g protein per 100g, lentils at 8-9g protein per 100g and peas at 7g per 100g. These should make up a large proportion of any plant-based diet.

Peanut butter

Although high in fats and therefore best consumed in moderation, peanut butter contains 25g of protein per 100g, making it also an excellent (and cheap) source of protein. When combined with wholemeal bread, it acts as a complete protein source (i.e. all essential amino acids are present).

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Meal prepping is NOT my forte, but my god is it useful when you've got a busy few days ahead! I'm so organised with everything EXCEPT my weekly shop, and since last week was so manic, I was SO relieved to be able to get a same day delivery from @amazonfresh for that week's food prepping 🤗 This kale falafel salad is not only easy to make but also incredibly delicious and nutritious AND when you shop at @amazonfreshuk it's super cheap too #winwinwin 🙌🏼 Can be eaten hot or cold 😋 Recipe in comments! 🥗 Swipe to see all the ingredients! Min spend £40. First time customers only. Offer ends 30th September and code FRESH20 gets you £20 off over £60 spend 🥳 #ad #veganrecipe #mealprep #veganmealprep

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Summary

What’s important to remember is that you don’t have to eat a steak in order to consume adequate amounts of protein. All foods contain a mixture of fats, protein and carbohydrates in differing ratios. Eating a varied and wholegrain-rich diet is a simple way of ensuring you are consuming enough protein (and vitamins and minerals) everyday.

Eating a healthy plant-based diet doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult, and even if you are extremely active, you can rest assured that you are probably consuming enough protein day to day.

For what it’s worth, I consume protein powder from time to time. If there’s a chance it’ll make my DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) better after an intense workout, I’m happy to try it. Having said that, when I run out I rarely bother buying any more, because I know the benefits are marginal. Some protein powders taste great though, so they’re nice as added flavouring in cereal, smoothies etc! Just bear the above in mind if thinking about purchasing some.

What are some of your favourite vegan high protein meals? Do you take protein powders?

Header image by Caylee Hankins featuring Rickel White, my boxing coach (who doesn’t take protein as far as I know)! Check them out and come and find me on Instagram.

A trip to Fes – Riad Fes & Hotel Sahrai

Recently I was lucky enough to be taken on a press trip to Fes, Morocco’s second largest city, to review two sister hotels in the area. Having been to Marrakech twice, I was excited to visit somewhere new in Morocco and with its rich and interesting history, Fes seemed like the perfect choice!

Some background: Fes was founded in the 8th Century and for a while was one of the largest cities in the world. Now, with a population of 1.2 million, Fes is known for its medina, probably the largest pedestrianised site in the world, and its university, the University of Al Quaraouiyine which was founded in 859 and the oldest continuously functioning university in the world.

This trip was gifted but as always all views are my own! We flew directly from Gatwick with Air Arabia. All images by the incredibly talented Tamsin Hurrell. Follow her on Instagram!

 

 

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Riad Fes

We arrived late in the evening to Fes airport, and after a short drive arrived at our first hotel, Riad Fes. Despite being late, after a short walk down a dark alleyway, we found ourselves in the most spectacular courtyard. We later discovered that the Riad had previously been someone’s home, and the original architecture had been painstakingly removed, cleaned and replaced, each tile by hand!

Our room was beautiful and overlooked the pool (a rare feature for hotels within or surrounding the medina). When the hotel had been bought, the surrounding houses were purchased too, making the hotel significantly larger (and maze-like!) than a traditional riad. If you ever visit Riad Fes you will be blown away by the architecture – I know I was!

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Breakfast buffet

After a good night’s sleep and a hearty buffet breakfast, we headed into the medina for a 3h tour of the sights. The first thing I noticed was the number of chickens for sale on every corner – meat eating in Morocco is very much a matter of pointing at the one you want to eat and then taking it home with you. Being vegan this was quite tough to watch, but I also noted that the chickens all seemed in much better shape than any commercially raised chicken I’ve seen in the UK. The reality of eating meat may be tough to witness for some, but the same thing happens here in the UK, only under much more intensive (and often cruel) production methods, out of sight.

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Walking round the medina was incredible – having visited Marrakech’s medina multiple times, I was blown away by the size of Fes. One of our first rules was ‘if you get lost, stay where you are. If you move, you will only get more lost’. Needless to say, I stuck to the group closely! Within the medina are thousands of stalls, run by locals selling all sorts of products, much the same as Marrakech. However, each city has its speciality – a key product to trade between cities (and now around the world). In Fes, it is the tanneries, producing leather that is now exported across the world.

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The tanneries operate in much the same way as they did when they were first built in the early centuries. Stone wells contain liquids designed to strip hides of fur and flesh, before being softened in ammonia (which I am told is bird poo!) and dyed. They’re visually appealing for sure, although perhaps not for everyone.

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You are offered mint to smell as you head up to the tanneries

Hotel Sahrai

Following our tour of the medina, including the oldest continually running university in the world, we headed back to the Riad to be transported to our second hotel, Hotel Sahrai. Both hotels are owned by the same group, but they couldn’t have been more different! Where Riad Fes is traditional and cosy, Hotel Sahrai is expansive and modern. Situated on a hillside outside the medina, the views are also amazing, looking out onto the huge city of Fes.

 

 

We were lucky enough to be able to try their Namaste yoga package, providing yoga sessions morning and evening for hotel guests – the best way to wake up and warm up into the day! I’m not an avid yoga fan but when it’s on the roof terrace of a gorgeous hotel in the early Moroccan sun I can make exceptions!

Here are some pics from around the gorgeous hotel – you can see why I loved it so much 🙂

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The pool overlooks the medina

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Enjoying the second, smaller pool with Tamsin

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Have you ever visited Fes? Comment below or head over to my Instagram!

10 eco-friendly household brands

It occurred to me the other day that whilst I was doing my best to eat green and wear sustainable brands etc., my daily cleaning habits are doing a significant amount of harm to the world. With so many options out there that don’t cost the world, I think it’s high time that changes, so I did some research about the best eco friendly and sustainable cleaning brands for you to use in your home.

Cleaning makes me happy and I want it to make the planet happy too

 

Cleaning products: 

Greenscents

British brand Greenscents is the only cleaning brand to have certification by the Soil Association, meaning it has been certified organic. While ‘organic’ and ‘certified’  don’t necessarily equate to ‘eco friendly’, the brand also has a number of other standard that make it significantly better than a lot of mainstream cleaning brands.

Greenscents was named the most ethical brand of cleaning and laundry products in the UK (Ethical Consumer, 2017). The brand is also vegan, cruelty free, transparent in its sustainability and has a hypoallergenic range for those who require it. Read more about its certifications here.

 

Eco-egg

When I first heard about eco-egg I was amazed the idea isn’t already more popular. The premise is that laundry detergent is wasteful (not to mention harmful to the environment), so an eco-egg (an ‘egg’ filled with mineral pellets to clean clothes) saves huge amounts of plastic, packaging and reduces the amount of harmful chemicals used in washing.  The egg is refillable too, and lasts over 200 washes.

I’m yet to use it on my clothes (and have heard some mixed reviews about efficacy on very stained clothes) but keep an eye on my Instagram to see what I think! They also have a dryer egg that reduced tumble-drying time, thus saving energy, and cleaning products that are better for the environment, such as bamboo towels that are washable, cutting out the need for disposable kitchen towels.

 

Bio-D

Another UK brand, Bio-D is fully transparent about their credentials. Here is what they say about their products: “None of Bio-D raw materials are tested on animals, they are all GM free and wherever animal by-products are used they are at the scrutiny and approval of The Vegan Society, Naturewatch Trust, BUAV and the World Wildlife Foundation. Likewise the bottles that Bio-D use are recyclable and contain optimum levels of recycled material”.

Bio D produces pretty much all products you would want to use around the home at an affordable price, so is a good option if you want to start making a lot of difference sustainablity-wise! Also they provide refill bottles of many of their products, reducing packaging waste.

 

Ecover

One of the best more environmentally friendly household brands, Ecover is a global company committed to providing more eco-friendly options when it comes to cleaning. From reducing single-use plastics to changing ingredients to reduce pollution to waterways, Ecover makes a big point of being more ‘green’. In 1992, Ecover opened the world’s first ecological factory, which provoked much media interest. Despite some controversy about animal-testing in the past, the brand now labels itself as cruelty free, and it looks like all animal testing has stopped (as of 2018).

 

Method

Method was merged with Ecover in 2012, to become the biggest green cleaning company in the world. I am naturally sceptical of big brands when it comes to green credentials (the bigger they become, the more they seem to move away from their original purpose), but both Method and Ecover seem to have some pretty good credentials and positive press. For starters, Method is a B Corp company, meaning that it has withstood rigorous testing into the ethical and eco credentials of the brand. They have seemingly high levels of transparency when it comes to improving their eco credentials, so I would say this is a safe bet if you’r looking for a mainstream/global eco brand!

 

Ecozone

Another UK based brand here (yay!). Ecozone is vegan and certified cruelty free, and make the home toxin free products that are also pet friendly, plant based, palm oil free and safe for aquatic life, which is one of my main concerns about mainstream cleaning products. They have a range of accreditations, so a safe bet whatever you’re looking for!

 

Mangle & Wringler

If you’re UK based and looking to support a local, handmade brand, this is where to look! Handmade in the Cotswolds, each Mangle & Wringer product is non-toxic, free from fragrance and colour and uses only food grade ingredients. All of the products are also biodegradable, from renewable/sustainable sources and not tested on animals. I love the idea that it started in the early 1900s from a home soil recipe and is still going!

 

Bathroom products:

Who Gives A Crap

Not a cleaning brand, but I had to include it after discovering it recently. Who Gives a Crap is a loo paper brand (as its name suggests) that gives back. Not only are the products made from 100% recycled materials, meaning no trees are used to create the loo paper, wrapping or packaging. Not only that, but 50% of profits go to charities working to improve access to hygiene, water and basic sanitation in developing countries. Not only this but the products actually work out a lot cheaper than loo paper from your local shop, especially if you buy their big rolls in bulk online. I have a huge amount of love for this brand.

 

Modibodi

Women – Modibodi is a brand that was recently brought to my attention as part of a collaboration, but looking into it I’d like to share more about it. Modibodi is an alternative to disposable period products. With their different absorbencies, Modibodi can be used as an alternative, or in addition to traditional period products to absorb blood. They also have products to stop butt sweat at the gym and wee for those who suffer from incontinence. Having worn their pants before I can say that not only do they work, but they’re also actually super comfortable and flattering! There’s honestly something for everyone on their site.

 

Freda

If period pants aren’t your thing and moon cups scare you, look no further than Freda, a brand that provides sustainable, organic and bleach free period products. Freda has a subscription service to provide you with a personalised box of products through your letterbox in time for your next period (there is an algorithm to predict exactly when it’s going to be)! In addition, a proportion of the profits are used to support UK-based period poverty initiatives, helping asylum seekers, homeless people and school children have access to period products even if they can’t afford them themselves. Sustainability-wise, although there are small amounts of recycled (and recyclable) plastic wrapping the applicator-free tampons, everything else is biodegradable and made in factories that use renewable energy and have a zero-waste policy.

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Let me entertrain you

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I was recently invited to comment on a new phenomenon, ‘entertrainment’ by the Telegraph, who were writing a piece on the rise of boutique fitness classes and the potential side effects of using these classes as your main source of training. I had first come to understand the concept of entertraining via my friend, personal trainer Lawrence Price, who published this post on the subject. It’s an interesting one to comment on, because there are two very valid sides to the argument.

So I just thought I’d share with you a little of my thoughts on the subject. What is it? Is it bad? Can it be good? Read on:

What is entertrainment?

Entertrainment is the concept of working out in the way you want to workout (often very high intensity, randomly strung-together exercises) for fun rather than function.

Why do we love it so much?

The endorphin hit we get from an intense workout, such as boxing or a Barry’s class, leaves a lot of people feeling incredibly positive. When it’s at the start of a day it can set you up feeling upbeat for your day at work, and when it’s at the end of the day it can be a way to shake off frustrations and get the body moving after sitting down all day.

Why has it increased in popularity and what are some examples?

As the wellness sector has expanded, more and more people are opting to go to fitness classes after work instead of home, the pub or even the gym. The classes provide a pre-planned workout (ideal if you’re not sure what you should be doing at the gym), a motivating trainer and, for many, a chance to catch up with friends. It’s like the gym and a club rolled into one. Many even have the flashing lights, loud music and (post-workout) drinks to match! One Rebel, Barry’s Bootcamp, Kobox, F45 and Boomcycle are just some examples.

Why is entertrainment not necessarily a good thing?

When we workout at 100% intensity, 100% of the time, something has to give. Our bodies are not very good at coping with sitting down all day, handling stressful situations, and then smashing out a day’s activity in one (often very intense) hour. Whilst workouts such as these can FEEL good, they often don’t provide the body with other things it needs, such as mobility work, stretching, and rest.

In addition, the vast majority of boutique fitness classes are done in large groups, often reaching up to 50 people. In these groups it’s impossible for a coach to be able to assess whether everyone is doing the exercises right, with the right form at their particular level. If you’re an experienced gym goer that might not be a problem, but tiredness coupled with bad form and heavy weights is a recipe for disaster.

Whilst many of us are inactive all day, our nervous systems are very much active, thanks to work stresses, juggling tasks and everyday demands. Intense workouts just put these systems under MORE pressure, ramping up our sympathetic nervous system further. Your sympathetic nervous system is also known as your ‘fight or flight’ response, and gears you up to tackle stressful/demanding situations. In the short term, this is incredibly helpful, and can help you think on your feet, run away from danger or handle stress effectively, but an excess of time spend in this state can lead to a range of acute and chronic issues, from hypertension (high blood pressure) to insulin resistance. Therefore it’s not recommended to add more stress to your body if it is in a state of heightened physical or mental stress already. Both types of stress (physical and mental) illicit a physiological response e.g. even if you’re not stressed physically, chronic stress such as that from work can have the same negative effect as extreme physical duress.

For a lot of people therefore, a calming yoga session or meditation would be far more beneficial than a sprint session, switching on the parasympathetic nervous system and calming down the body. Without rest our bodies are far more prone to burnout, injury and illness, so a daily HIIT class might not be what’s best for you, especially at particularly stressful times of the year.

 

TL;DR

  • Basically, not all fitness classes have your best interests at heart, and it is incredibly difficult for a coach/trainer to be able to assess your physical state or form during a workout catering for 30 – 50 people.
  • Since we all lead such stressful lives already, sometimes smashing out an intense HIIT class may not be best for our bodies in the long term, and we may benefit more from yoga or a stretching session at stressful times.
  • However, in general, some form of movement is better than no movement, and it’s up to each and every one of us to check in with ourselves and just be mindful of how our bodies are feeling. Still fancy that Barry’s class? Go for it 🙂

 

I would love to hear your thoughts on the above! Check out my Instagram and YouTube for more.

Being busy – #goals or self sabotage?

NOTHING….is becoming rare and precious. Everything is hype, noise, desire, desperation, speed and greed. We in the modern world are good at ‘doing,’ but anemic at ‘being.’ Entertainment, busy-ness, texting while walking or even driving…’Efficiency’ is an addictive myth based on our fidgety fear of opening up. We can not ‘do’ properly until we can, first, ‘be’ fully. Practice doing nothing – then – we can accomplish…ANYTHING. — Project Happiness

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I have a habit of being deeply aware of my feelings and questioning why I feel a particular way in any given moment. I think it’s a way of processing emotions constructively, although it also inevitably leads to overthinking from time to time, but that’s another blog post. It occurred to me whilst walking down the road the other day that I was feeling guilty for not working. Despite starting work at 6:30am (as I often do), after finishing at 3pm I immediately felt lazy for not going back to work. The problem has always been present – during holiday at school and university, in my gap year, straight after I finished university – I have always felt the need to be busy. And if not actually busy, to the average onlooker I need to appear busy, because I equate busyness (and often stress) with success. And I’m not alone.

“We think that the shift from leisure-as-status to busyness-as-status may be linked to the development of knowledge-intensive economies. In such economies, individuals who possess the human capital characteristics that employers or clients value (e.g., competence and ambition) are expected to be in high demand and short supply on the job market. Thus, by telling others that we are busy and working all the time, we are implicitly suggesting that we are sought after, which enhances our perceived status.” – Harvard Business Review.

As a society we believe that people who are the most busy are also the most important – it’s so ingrained into our psyche that it’s almost inevitable that when you ask a work colleague how they are, the response might be ‘busy, but good’. The ‘busy’ response is a signal – I’m being successful and getting things done. But does busyness equate to success? The research suggests not.

Being busy often instead equates to being stressed, anxious, sleep deprived and less productive, meaning that if that’s your permanent state, you’re unlikely to be as healthy as you could be. The reduction in productivity is because of multiple factors. Being busy often means multitasking, and according to research there is no such thing as a good multitasker.

Since it takes the human brain around 25 minutes to focus on a task at hand, choosing to flit between multiple tasks can mean that we never actually focus properly on anything with a work day or even week. These distractions can come in all sorts of forms, but emails and phones are especially bad, as they disrupt work flow and take up important mental bandwidth. Switching from one task to the next means it takes us around 25% longer to do things i.e. you are not being more productive!

Attempting to pack full your schedule – which, let’s be honest, with work, meetings, work events, social events, workouts and fitting in family time, is not hard – means you are unlikely to be working as efficiently as possible. Back in 1930, the average working week was around 50h, and it was expected that by now, due to technological advances, this would have reduced to around 15h. However, in the UK we work on average around 42.8h per week, which is longer that the averages around Europe, despite the UK being significantly less productive than comparative countries. Is this lack of productivity despite our long hours, or is it because of them?

The issue starts from the top – there is no real limit on the amount of work you are expected to do, and it’s easy to feel like putting in extra hours (and being seen to be doing it) could push you ahead. Since the 2008 financial crisis, UK employees are working longer hours for lower pay, because job security is low and competition is high. Bosses would rather see tired employees sit at their desks and be unproductive than go home, recharge mentally and physically and work harder tomorrow. In the UK (as well as many other countries) there’s no mechanism by which employers start to measure productivity rather than hours, and therein lies the problem. You sit at your desk longer, or rush around looking busy and productive and you’re seen as more important and a better employee, over the person who sticks to their hours and gets more done.

As someone at the beginning of her career, I am concerned by these statistics. I know how to be productive, and the vast majority of the time it doesn’t involve working long hours or sitting at my desk for long periods of time. Being freelance you might think the issue is better and in theory, I do have more freedom to change my hours. However, in the gig economy today, it’s pretty much impossible to stop without feeling like someone else could be taking such needed work that could be yours.

Just remember this: talking about all the things you’re going to do actually makes you less likely to do them. The chat makes you feel good enough about yourself that you actually become less motivated to do what needs to be done. Since so much of being busy is talking about how busy we are, a good step to being productive and taking more time off is to do your work with your head down and stop when you’re done. And stop telling everyone how busy you are, it’s making the problem worse.

When you stop trying to be ‘busy’ all the time, you free up space to become something better than busy. You become more effective, happier, more relaxed and, probably, the envy of all those ‘busy’ people.

Images by Caylee Hankins.

My running story

I first decided that I wanted to be good at running when I was about 10, a few years after I first stepped foot on a track. School sports day was never something people trained for, and I resigned myself to only being good at 100m and long jump, because anything over 200m left me legless and feeling like I was about to die. The first time I consciously attempted longer-distance running training was years later in secondary school. I was about 16 and training for the national schools squash championships, and was convinced that training more was always better. I made it a couple of kilometres through sheer force of will, despite every step feeling like my legs were made of lead. I think it’s a common feeling for first-time runners, especially those who attempt to run their first 5km at 200m pace, as I always did – a problem I didn’t resolve until many years later!

Unsurprisingly my first instinct was that I would never be a long distance runner (my body is definitely built for speed and power, not endurance), but persevered, if as much for weight loss benefits as anything else!

When I joined university I immediately joined the athletics club – since running is cheap and simple it seemed like the easiest option in terms of clubs, and it gave me the opportunity to try lots of events without any real aim but also without a huge cost. I did cross-country (badly) every winter and track every summer, usually running around 400m and being drafted in last minute for various other events to make up teams. I was never particularly good, but the social aspect of the club kept me coming back, and it felt good to be part of a team, especially during cross country in the winter!

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University cross country – more a social event than anything!

However, it was during this time that I first started suffering from IT band syndrome, the second most common runner’s injury (after runner’s knee). Runs longer than 3km would make it flare up, and it crippled me to the point of not being able to manage stairs without a crutch. Every time I would have a flare up it would put me out for 6 weeks, where I was unable to run (but thankfully still able to gym). After 6 weeks I would go back to running, feeling fine but having done nothing to solve the root of my knee problems. Needless to say, my three years at university were plagued with injury. Occasionally I would be able to manage a 6km run, but running when I was tired, stiff or simply running on the wrong day would mean I would injure myself and be out for another month or two. It was irritating to say the least, and I resigned myself to being able to run only 2km – 3km at a time (albeit faster and faster).

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My 5k pb in university second year – 23.01 (almost 2 mins slower than now)

After university I discovered boxing, which gave me far more of a kick than running ever did, and for a while I was satisfied simply gymming and boxing to keep fit. However, being able to run is pretty integral to my DNA, and running had allowed me to get outside and explore places better than anything else, so I was adamant that I would strengthen my weak supporting muscles in my hips and glutes (the cause of my ITBS) and work on my striding (heel striking puts a lot of pressure on the knees and can exacerbate injuries), whilst simultaneously continuing other sports so as to avoid over-training in one area as I did at university.

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Boxing training made me fitter than ever and allowed me to start running again

After years and years of trial and error, better shoes, rehab and rest, I am finally getting to the point at which I can trust my body to run further than 5km without giving up. For years I’ve turned down opportunities to race in some amazing places for fear of putting myself out of action for months, and finally I think it’s coming to an end! I don’t want to jinx it but now I’m working with a coach (who is very aware of my history of injuries) and taking adequate time to activate muscles before each run (and rest properly afterwards), I’m feeling really positive about my journey ahead – it’s only just beginning!

My goals this year:

  • Finish Tokyo marathon with no injuries.
  • Complete a fell race
  • Bring my 5km personal best below 21 minutes
  • Bring my 10km personal best below 44:30 minutes
  • Run a half-marathon
  • Enjoy the journey!
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23km in the bag and no pain – a highlight of 2018

Running essentials – supplements

Supplements are a bit of a contested issue, thanks to the flogging of many, many supplements that have no evidence of improving anything. Because supplements aren’t registered as drugs, they are often allowed to be sold even when they do not have any strong evidence of their effects, and are only removed if deemed unsafe. However, there are a few supplements (especially if you include sports supplements) that have some proven benefits, and others that are strongly recommended for certain groups of people. I try to stick with supplements that have proven benefits, although with sports supplements the evidence is usually a bit mixed, if if you’re looking to take something new make sure you’ve done your research!

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Some supplements are necessary if you live a certain lifestyle. Pic by Caylee Hankins.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is produced in our bodies when our skin is exposed to sunlight, but sometimes in northern latitudes (hello UK) the amount we can get during the day is not sufficient to keep reserves topped up. It is recommended that everyone in the UK (or further north) takes vitamin D to contribute to bone and muscle health. The darker your skin and the less sunlight your country gets, the more likely you are to be deficient in vitamin D. Supplements are not strictly necessary if you have a varied diet, but for me I find vitamin D supplement helpful, especially in winter! I also have a sun lamp that I use to work under in the morning. Don’t fancy supplements? Beanies have produced a coffee with vitamin D in it! Liquid sunshine 🙂

Iron 

Iron supplements have been recommended for people who choose a vegetarian or vegan diet, especially women. It is possible to get all the iron you need from these diets, but a supplement can help, especially if you are prone to anaemia. Foods such as pulses, nuts, left green vegetables, wholegrains and fortified cereals are high in iron. Even though I have a varied diet I find it helpful to take iron supplements to support my very active lifestyle.

B12

Vitamin B12 is a little contentious in the vegan community with some saying it can be found in adequate amounts in foods such as seaweed, and others saying vegans should definitely supplement their diets. Even according to the Vegan Society, “The only reliable vegan sources of B12 are foods fortified with B12 (including some plant milks, some soy products and some breakfast cereals) and B12 supplements”. Since the effects of chronic B12 deficiency are so severe (e.g. irreparable nervous system damage), I find it helpful to supplement with B12. Some plant based milks and cereals are fortified, but I’d rather be safe than sorry!

Beta-alanine

Not a vitamin supplement but a sport performance booster. Purported benefits include improving exercise capacity, building lean muscle mass and improving physical functions in the elderly. I swear by beta alanine in my shorter distance races and strength-based exercises, but only take it very infrequently. Read my post on sports supplements and the evidence behind them if you’re looking to try any!

Sleep supplement

After a busy day and late events, I often (always) find it very difficult to switch off and go to sleep. Even knowing I have to get up early doesn’t always deter me from staying up late. I started taking Motion Nutrition’s ‘Unplug’ supplement a couple of months ago and found a marked difference when taking it around 30 – 45 minutes before I wanted to sleep. I go into the ingredients and how they could be helpful in this post if you want to read up on the science behind it.

 

Knowledge is power.

Five workout misconceptions

If you don’t hurt, it’s not working

It’s common for muscles to feel sore after a workout (called DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness), but there’s a common misconception that if you don’t feel DOMS after a workout, then you didn’t workout hard enough. Firstly, everyone is different, so a good workout that causes DOMS in one person may not cause it in another. Chasing muscle soreness (essentially inflammation from the repair of microscopic tears in the muscle) can lead to injury. So whilst DOMS is a common side-effect of a hard workout (especially one that is new to your body), it’s not necessary to feel sore afterwards to know that it’s working!

 

Heavier weight = better workout

Strength training in any workout that provides resistance to your muscles. This is great for bone density and muscle growth, but the workouts don’t need to be in the form of heavy weights or resistance machines – smaller weights, kettlebells and medicine balls can be used with similar effect. Not got any weights? Gravity, resistance bands and your own body weight are great alternatives! Read why everyone should lift weights.

 

You can get abs by working your core

This is a bit of a loaded one, because what exactly do we mean by ‘get abs’? We all have core muscles, even when you can’t see them. Most people who want to ‘get abs’ mean ‘see ab definition’, which is a different ball-game. The common misconception is that if someone works out their abs a lot, they will develop a defined stomach area. Since ‘spot fat reduction’ is not a thing (i.e. you can’t lose fat specifically on one part of your body but not the rest), just training your abs won’t ‘give you abs’. The better option is to pair full-body functional training (which uses your core a lot) with a healthy diet. The result? A stronger core and lower overall body fat percentage, which could lead to a defined core (please also bear in mind that due to variation in genetics, some people will find it really difficult to achieve definition).

 

Every workout should leave you a sweaty mess

I absolutely love sweaty workouts. The more out of breath, the better, which is why I sometimes struggle with slower, more functional workouts. However, different workouts have different sweat-factors, i.e. lifting weights might not leave you as sweaty as a boxing session, but that doesn’t mean it was any less valuable to you. In fact, it is important to mix up your training – doing workouts that leave you 100% exhausted and a sweaty mess every time is a great way to lead to burnout and injury. Mix it up and don’t think of sweatiness as a marker of a good workout!

 

More workouts = better results

Obviously consistency is great when it comes to working out, and getting moving regularly is an important part of keeping healthy. However there is such thing as working out too much, and so more is not necessarily better. Recovery is at least as important as your training, and well-placed recovery days can help your muscles repair better, leading to greater improvements in your fitness/muscle strength.

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Image by @alittlepickmeup