Lemon drizzle cake

Lemon drizzle cake was once a staple recipe of mine, but for a long time I didn’t want to make it, because of how ‘unhealthy’ it is. This cake is, however, extremely good for the soul (doctor says so) and cheap and easy to make. Don’t forget to buy unwaxed lemons or you’ll be grating wax into your mixture.

Tag my Instagram if you give this recipe a go!

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Ingredients

  • 225g margarine (I use Flora, obviously)
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 1tbsp almond butter
  • 2 unwaxed lemons
  • 250g self raising flower
  • 50ml non-dairy milk (I use soya)

For the drizzle

  • Juice 1 lemon
  • 100g icing sugar

 

Method

  • Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees (fan)/160 (gas)
  • Semi melt the margarine for 30s in the microwave
  • Add the caster sugar and beat (a fork is fine)
  • Add in the almond butter and try to mix in evenly. A few lumps aren’t the end of the world but will affect the final cake texture
  • Add the flour to the mixture and fold in, before adding the zest of both lemons
  • Pour in the soya milk slowly as you mix, until the mixture is a good consistency. I use the full 50ml.
  • Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes before pouring into a lined loaf tin and placing in the oven for 45-55 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean. If the top starts to burn but the insides are still wet, place tinfoil over the cake and continue to cook until a skewer comes out clean.
  • While the cake is cooking, mix together the juice of 1 lemon and the icing sugar and set aside
  • Once the cake is done, remove it from the oven and place the loaf tin on a wire cooling rack. Prick the tip with the skewer or a fork, and pour over the drizzle.
  • Once totally cool, remove from the cake tin and serve. Enjoy!
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Don’t forget to let the cake cool before turning it out of the tin!

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This photo was taken for an ad but I liked it enough to post here too!

Dharana Wellness Centre, Hilton Shillim Estate, India

Travelling has always been something I love, and spending too much time in one place gives me itchy feet to explore anywhere else, be it the Surrey hills or half way across the world. For a long time, I have wanted to visit India. The cuisine is one of my favourites, focusing heavily on vegetables and plant-based foods, exquisitely flavoured and perfectly balanced.

I recently had the privilege of being able to travel to the Dhahran Wellness Centre (the Dharana at Shillim estate near Mumbai), partly as a birthday present to my partner, and partly for work. With its focus on wellness and conservation, I knew it was the perfect fit!

Shillim was originally a conservation project by two brothers, who bought land to protect it from slash-and-burn, the practise of cutting down forests and burning them in the summer to create more fertile land for agriculture. Over time the brothers were able to buy and reforest more and more pieces of adjacent land. Now the site is around 3000 acres, within which sits the 330 acre eco retreat (of which 70 acres is the wellness facility).

Location & accommodation

We travelled from another local retreat, but the drive from Mumbai airport is around 3 hours. It’s long considering the distance, but compared to some of the other local roads, the journey was smooth and seamless! The hotel provides airport transfers for a fee.

The surrounding forests are what make this retreat so special for me. It creates a supremely idyllic setting, somewhat more humid than the surrounding areas, and brimming with local wildlife. The rooms are tucked away off the road that winds through the centre of the site, and thanks to the fact that they are all low-rise, all of them are quite well hidden in the forest. We were lucky enough to be placed in one of their pool villas, although all the rooms look spectacular – the spa villas have beautiful balconies with views over the surrounding valley.

The villa was gorgeous and spacious, sleeping 2-3 (a spare bed can be added on request). Ours had a private pool and was situated close to the wellness centre – perfect for guests on any wellness programme.

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Not a bad place to enjoy the sunshine! Swimsuit from Davy J

Wellness programme

Dharana seeks to help guests reconnect with nature and their bodies thorough a range of wellness programmes. Whether your stay is 3 nights or 2 weeks, programmes are available for all health goals.

Each stay commences with a questionnaire (completed in advance) and a Ayureveda/naturopathy consultation to determine the best diet, treatments and activities each guest should take on. Once drawn out, the guest is given a daily plan complete with activities, massages, treatments etc., and after the stay there is a departure consultation aiming to provide each guest with simple steps to continue the dharana way of life at home (both dietary recommendations and naturopathic suggestions).

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Treatments are incredibly varied and are planned for you after your initial consultation

Since both Fiann and I already eat healthily and enjoy staying active, our programme was focussed around relaxation (plenty of treatments), increasing focus and enjoying the nature reserve. I couldn’t think of anything better!

Food

One of my favourite parts of travelling is the food! However, in the past I have struggled with ‘healthy’ or ‘wellness’ menus, which provide watered-down versions of dishes, or portions so small they are finished before you know what’s happened. Thankfully, after speaking with our doctor, we were assured that the food would be healthy, but in line with our desires – that is to say delicious, traditional and filling.

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The food was incredible – one of my favourites was the traditional (but healthified) thali

The food certainly did not disappoint. Although the individual dishes were sometimes smaller than I would help myself to (not hard, considering my normal portion sizes), I never came away from a meal feeling like I hadn’t had enough. In fact, I was full for almost our entire stay! This was some of the best food I have ever eaten and a wonderful introduction to all the dishes India has to offer!

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My favourite breakfast was dosa and paratha

One thing I would say is that if you want traditional, large, ghee-filled Indian meals, this isn’t the place – the meals are delicious but delicate. In the Green Table, the dharana (wellness) restaurant, traditional ingredients are cooked using modern culinary knowledge to create traditional-tasting food based on Ayurevedic traditions with modern-day health benefits. All I know is that it tastes blooming amazing.

The hotel has one more restaurant, Terrazzo, which serves a combination of Indian and global cuisine. We ate here once (from the buffet) and it was delicious, but does not compare to the home-grown, fine dining feel of the Green Table. However, if you’re looking for somewhere that serves alcohol or coffee, this is your place (or head to the Mountain Bar & Bistro – bruschetta pictured below). The Green Table is for wholesome ingredients only!

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The Green Table gets many of its ingredients from its on-site organic farm (complete with friendly farm cat).

Activities

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Hike to Shillim peak – we hiked up in 18 minutes and ran down in 9!

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You can also practise yoga on the peak

I was amazed when I found out that most of the activities held at Dharana are privately run. From bird-watching to block painting or pottery, if you choose to sign up you can guarantee a personalised feel. We loved every single activity we tried – I’ll let the photos speak for themselves, but so you know, we did:

  • Forest Bathing
  • Birding trail
  • Sunrise hike
  • Hike to shillim peak (above)
  • Cycling trail (below)
  • Block painting (below)

Our only problem is that we didn’t stay longer! We heard about a 6 hour hike on our penultimate day, but didn’t have time to fit it in, which was a real shame!

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We cycled at 6:30am to see the sunrise!

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Our birding trail didn’t just involve birds!

I adored our stay at the Dharana Wellness Centre, and would love to go back for longer after the rainy season sometime, where the activities are focussed around the rejuvenated forests, waterfalls and rivers. I can imaging coming back here over and over again and never getting bored, which is what I now plan to do!

Have you ever been to India? Would you like to visit somewhere like this? Comment below!

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Too many photos, not enough space

This trip was very kindly gifted by Dharana at Shillim, but as always all views are my own.

nb/ I offset my total carbon footprint from general living monthly, and offset the flights from this trip. Although not a perfect alternative to not flying at all, you can read my thoughts on Carbon Offsetting here.

 

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!

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!

Vegan french toast

If you grew up eating french toast on the weekends as a special treat, you’ll know what a treat it is. If you’re vegan there’s no reason to miss out – I prefer this version to the non-vegan version too. It’s also ideal if you have some bread that’s a little past its best as you won’t be able to tell at all with this! Perfect with mixed berries and maple syrup on top 🙂

 

Ingredients:

  • 1tbsp maple syrup
  • 240ml almond milk
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 5 slices bread (sourdough works well – not too soft)
  • Coconut oil
  • Toppings of choice (works well with anything you’d usually put on pancakes)

Method:

  • Mix all the ingredients except the bread in a mixing bowl
  • Heat a tsp coconut oil in a frying or griddle pan
  • Dip the bread slices in the mixture for a couple of seconds – you don’t want them totally drenched
  • Once the pan is hot (before the oil burns) place the slices of bread in and cook until browning on one side (around 3 minutes in a hot pan)
  • Using a spatula, flip the bread to cook the other side
  • Top with desired toppings and serve up!

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Flapjack

I didn’t know what to call this recipe because ‘flapjack’ doesn’t really do it justice. It’s reduced sugar (because I find syrupy flapjacks almost unbearable) and vegan, and also is more nutrient dense than ‘normal’ flapjacks, thanks to the addition of prunes and seeds and the use of unrefined sugar rather than golden syrup. It’s slightly crumblier than most flapjack recipes but I’m working to fix this. Either way, it tastes bloody good!

Let me know if you make it and I can share on my instagram.

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Ingredients:

  • 250g oats
  • 3tbsp linseeds/seeds of choice
  • 1 heaped tbsp flour of choice
  • 100g vegan butter (I used vegan Flora for this)
  • 25ml oil
  • 50g dark brown demerara/muscovado sugar
  • 3tbsp honey/syrup
  • 5-8 prunes, chopped
  • 1 heaped tbsp peanut/almond butter

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade
  2. Put the oats, flour and linseeds in a large mixing bowl
  3. In a saucepan, heat the butter and oil until melted
  4. Add the honey and sugar and mix in the peanut butter. You may need to remove some of the lumps
  5. Add the chopped prunes and mix, before pouring into the mixing bowl with the oats
  6. Place in a small dish lined with baking parchment and pack down hard (I do this with the back of a metal spoon)
  7. Cook for 30 minutes until browning at the edges
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Perfect with a nice cup of coffee

How to survive blue Monday

The third Monday of January, also known as Blue Monday, has been calculated to be the most depressing day of the year. Cheerful right? Factors such as weather, debt, time since Christmas and, surprise surprise, it’s a time most of us have failed our New Year’s resolution by. I don’t know if I buy into it – in reality the whole of the winter is kind of depressing, but good days and bad days come and go, and we move on!

However, if you’re struggling around this time of year, here are some ways to cheer yourself up. There’s no doubt that the holidays can sometimes leave us drained. Changes in routine can leave us sleep deprived and unmotivated, especially when paired with media messages trying to get us to buy into every fad. Why not try these little things to reset your mind and body, and make Blue Monday into a positive day, instead of the miserable day the media wants us to expect.

 

Take care of your mind

Too little time to ourselves over Christmas can mean we forget to give ourselves a break. The first thing that goes when we are very busy is time alone and time to rest. Try these to get back some of that peace of mind.

Headspace app: Meditation has shown to help people relieve stress, focus mre and sleep better, leaving us better able to cope with everything else in life. The headspace app takes you through meditation. If you’re like me (i.e. hyperactive and constantly distracted), it’s better than an hour’s yoga, because it’s only a few minutes long. Everyone can spare 10 minutes a day!

Dancing: It may sound silly, but putting on some great tracks and having a ridiculously enthusiastic dance around your room can do wonders for your mind. It doesn’t have to be long, just long enough to get your heart rate up and put a smile on your face. We spend so long being serious, this is a nice change of routine.

Colouring in/drawing: Drawing or colouring in relaxes the brain, especially the fear centres of the brain, reducing anxiety and stopping us from focussing on any worries we might have. Grab an adult colouring in book and set aside some time each week to reset your mind to neutral.

Do good: Helping others is an intrinsically rewarding activity, promoting positive emotions in our own brains. It also can add perspective to problems. Doing good also improves optimism, confidence and gives you a feeling of purpose, without which many people struggle. Consider donating to charity, volunteering or simply helping someone out at work.

Get a SAD lamp: One of the major issues in winter in Northern latitudes is that the daylight hours are very short. Too short, in fact, to acquire enough vitamin D during the day. Low levels of vitamin D can contribute to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and this leaves many people feeling low in winter. A SAD lamp has particular frequencies that allows the body to produce more vitamin D. Put it on in the morning to help you wake up, and in early afternoon to reduce afternoon slumps. Check out my post on how to beat the winter blues to learn more.

Social media: Unfollow accounts that make you feel inadequate, jealous or any other negative emotions. Sure, it’s good to aspire to things, but following accounts with unrealistic life goals is never going to make you feel better! Cull cull cull and then find pictures of puppies, great food and positive posts to look at instead. Try not to spend too much time on social media – no more than 2h a day across all platforms. Heavy usage is linked to higher rates of depression.

Tidy up: It’s very tempting, when it’s dark outside, to curl up in bed after throwing all your belongings onto your floordrobe and go to sleep. However, having high levels of clutter at home and at work can mess your mind up too. Need inspiration? Read this.

Stop giving a fuck: It’s fairly self-explanatory, but if you need it breaking down, I can thoroughly recommend this book.

Live in the moment: Worrying about the future, the past and the present is understandably exhausting and stressful for the brain. Living in the moment (using some of the techniques from above) can really help lover anxiety and depression. Another book recommendation: The Power of Now.

 

Take care of your body

Watch what you eat: and by that I don’t mean eat less. I just mean literally be aware of what you are eating. Paying attention to what we eat increases enjoyment and reduces mindless munching on the nearest available snack. In winter we often rely on sugar to power through energy slumps, but this can backfire, leaving us with sugar crashes, lowering both concentration and mood. Be aware of what you’re eating and you might find a pattern to explain your mood throughout the day. Want a holistic guide to nutrition? Check out Rhiannon’s new book!

Take vitamin D: As mentioned above, vitamin D is key to our mental health, but also plays a role in maintaining bone health and immunity. The majority of people in the UK are deficient over winter, so taking some supplements may improve your mood.

Workout: Yes, bed is cosy, and yes, it’s dark so early, but working out in winter is one of the best ways to keep negativity at bay. It gives you routine and a sense of purpose and achievement. If you’re not working out 30 minutes, 3 times a week (at least), this is one of the best things you could do to improve your mind-set. If you’re not a fan of the gym, find a sport you think you’ll enjoy and join a club – the added social interaction gives a double whammy of benefits. However, overdoing it (hello New Year’s resolutions to run 10 miles everyday) may backfire, leaving you exhausted and dreading every workout. Keep a balanced schedule with plenty of rest days so you don’t burn out!

Get plenty of sleep: I’ve gone into this in a bit more detail here, so check it out!

 

I hope you find this helpful – these are some of the things that have helped me over winter in general, and this time of year can be especially hard on some. This advice is sort of always useful, even if you don’t feel particularly down. Check out my instagram for more health and fitness advice.

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Spending some time abroad definitely helps you feel better about winter – even if it’s freezing!

Beetroot hummus

This dip is a great variation on the classic hummus, and a great vegan side with pitta bread to share. It’s one of the easiest recipes to make and requires basically no input! All you need is a blender, the ingredients and 5 minutes. Simple!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans chickpeas
  • 1-2 cooked beetroots (if you buy the ready cooked ones, make sure they’re not preserved in vinegar)
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp tahini (optional)
  • Pinch of salt and pepper to taste

Method:
Add to a food processor or use a hand blender to blend until desired consistency. Easy!

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Autumn – shoot with Kudzai

The post these photos were taken for was written for Gymshark and is featured on their blog. Go and take a read for some advice on how to keep active in winter!

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Cold weather shouldn’t be a problem if you’ve got the right clothes

As the days get shorter and weather less and less predictable, keeping active often seems a lot less appealing.

However in the winter, more than ever, it’s important to keep active to maintain a positive mindset and get some fresh air. Something that annoys me is this attitude that spring and summer are the only months when you should take care of your body, and the rest of the year your health just doesn’t matter.

 

To read the rest of this post head to the Gymshark blog. Or, scroll down to see more pictures.

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