#7: Inspire Interview Series – MICHELLE KEILL, NOVELIST

I have LOVED working on the Inspire Interview Series this year (catch up with any you missed here!) and getting to chat to so many amazing people about the cool stuff they’ve done with their lives. To round off 2018, I wanted to share with you a really special one.

1409DC03-D1AD-4569-897C-F37D4E88C22ELast year I was quite stressed out and disillusioned and needed a break and some inspiration, so I disappeared off to Paris for a weekend as it’s my favourite city in the world. Outside the bookshop (my spiritual home!) Shakespeare and Company, I discovered a book on a bench that had been left as part of a BookFairy Drop (where people leave books all around major cities and towns for others to discover)… and I was hooked. That was how I first connected with Michelle – through her gorgeous, haunting novel The Four Women (available here), and its characters, and I suppose above all – Paris.

Michelle Keill is a beautiful writer and novelist, and has kindly taken the time to answer a few of my Inspire Interview questions… so here’s hoping this kickstarts your New Year with a little creativity.

Writers are some of my favourite people because I’m fascinated by what they create, I get so excited when I get to talk to them – so without further ado, let’s chat to Michelle about her awesome work!

B: Have you always wanted to be a writer?

M: I’m not sure it was something I wanted to ‘be’, but it’s something I’ve always done. One of my earliest memories is of sitting at the kitchen table in my parents’ house writing stories with a crayon (in those days I also illustrated – badly, but more competently than I would do now).

B: What is the best thing, and what is the most difficult thing about being a writer?

M: The best thing, apart from the excuse to drink tea to excess and buy lots of pretty notebooks, is the opportunity to take myself out of reality and create a new one. Also, the potential to provide an escape for people: hearing from readers who’ve connected with the book is wonderful. As for the most difficult thing, any form of creative expression makes you vulnerable, and that feeling is hard to get used to. I find writing the first draft is the easiest part of the process – from there it gets harder, with all the rewriting and editing.

B: Can you give a little teaser about your novel The Four Women for anyone who hasn’t read it?

M: The book is about a young woman living in Paris whose world is drastically transformed by four women who enter her life, seemingly from nowhere, and introduce her to a reclusive and enigmatic tutor whom, they promise, can teach her French. On meeting him, she discovers that although he is indeed as brilliant as they described, he may not have the best of intentions. It’s a love story, but a dark one, and explores the theme of how much of our lives is predetermined, and what is simply chance. If I could give my characters one piece of advice it would be to be careful what you wish for, and to follow your instincts and stay true to yourself. Advice I try to keep in mind myself, actually.

B: What are you currently working on at the moment?

M: A collection of short stories, which should be published in 2019. I also have a romantic comedy and another Paris novel in the works.

B: Any tips for aspiring writers?

M: Write what enthrals and engages you, rather than what is popular or selling well at the moment (unless that is what enthrals and engages you!). You’re in charge of what you put on the page, so be sure it’s a genre or story that you feel passionate about. And read a lot. But, mostly, just write. 

B: Can you describe a writing day in the life of Michelle Keill?

M: Despite not being a morning person, my best time to write is first thing, so I try to make an early start. Then I’ll keep going until about two in the afternoon, which is usually when I feel my creative energy fading. I might push on into the evening if I’m working on a key scene or if I’m really in flow, but I find my mind is clearer earlier in the day. I need to be free of distractions (i.e. no phone), but I need music on when I write, otherwise it’s not happening.

B: What has been the most challenging part of getting to where you are today?

M: I developed a serious illness in 2014, which struck without warning and came close to getting the better of me. I ended up having emergency surgery to save my lung, which was frightening. From there it was a long road back to health. I wrote ‘The Four Women’ as I was recovering: while my body was restoring itself, my creativity was resetting too. I look back and I’m amazed that something good came from such a harrowing experience.

B: What does 1) ‘happiness’ and 2) ‘success’ mean to you?

M: Happiness for me can be as simple as spending a rainy day indoors lying on the sofa with a book and a cuppa. Same for success: if one person reads my book and enjoys it, then I consider that a win.

B: Best life advice you’ve ever been given?

M: Treat other people as you’d want to be treated yourself. And, from my mum, always make sure you have a decent mascara.

B: Best career advice you’ve ever been given?

M: Treat everyone you encounter at work, no matter what their role, with equal courtesy. The person at the bottom today may be at the top tomorrow. I think that came from my mum too.

B: Do you have a role model or mentor you look to for career inspiration?

M: My friends inspire me with their kindness, loyalty, and courage. Also, if I’m in a tricky situation, I often think, ‘What would Michelle Obama do?’ That always gets me on the right track.

B: What does ‘balance’ mean to you?

M: It means leaving a bit of energy in the tank and not pushing too hard (I’m still learning how to do this!). It means pausing and not always rushing to the finish line. Sometimes you have to slow down in order to speed up.

B: What’s your life’s mission in a nutshell?

M: To make a positive contribution to the world.

B: What inspires you to write?

M: People, faces, and places. Or sometimes just a line in a song. 

B: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be in another life?

M: Perhaps a doctor, if I could make the grade.

B: If you had to spend the rest of your life with one fictional character, who would it be?

M: Ross from ‘Friends’. He’s intelligent, sensitive, musical (!), and enjoys lounging around on sofas drinking hot beverages.

B: How do you take care of yourself and make sure you get the right ‘work life balance’, if there is such a thing?

M: Following my illness, I’ve learned to listen to my body (not quite sure I’ve mastered it yet). If you’re working too hard, or not getting enough sleep or eating properly, your body will usually drop a few subtle hints to let you know. I make sure I pay attention to those early warning signs, and try to take it a bit easier when I feel I need to.

Quickfire

Physical books or ebooks?

Physical, definitely. I love to see rows of bulging bookshelves.

Breakfast, lunch or dinner?

Dinner.

Forests or beaches?

Forests. Bonus points if there are squirrels.

Walking or running?

Walking.

Favourite place?

Paris, Washington D.C., and my bed.

Dancing or yoga?

Dancing.

Nature or nurture?

Nurture.

Talent or hustle?

Talent.

Chocolate or cheese?

Cheese. I’m all about the cheese.

Fave self-care ritual?

A hot bath, a book, and a cup of Earl Grey.

A good book or Netflix?

A good book, but I can’t pretend I could function without Netflix.

Fave quote:

Not a quote as such, but JFK’s ‘we choose to go the moon’ speech always gives me a boost when I’m feeling overwhelmed, incapable, or my courage is failing me.

Top 3 books?

Hard to choose just three, but …

1. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

2. Misery by Stephen King

3. Tampa by Alyssa Nutting

Tea or coffee?

Tea, all day long. With plenty of milk.

Who would attend your dream dinner party (living or dead, fictional or real!)

Frank-N-Furter, Oprah Winfrey, Juliette Binoche, Romesh Ranganathan, Don Lemon, Charlie Brooker, Stephen Colbert, and Freddie Mercury (I’d have to invite my mum too if Freddie was there).

If you had a ‘death row dinner’ – a last meal that could be anything you want, favourites, whatever… what would it be?

Pizza, followed by homemade apple crumble (custard mandatory). All followed, of course, by a large cup of tea.

Thanks so much for sharing your insights Michelle, I am so excited to read more of your work as I still get shivers thinking about The Four Women!

Hope you all enjoyed hearing more about life as a novelist, and if you’d like to connect further, you can find Michelle on Goodreads here, Instagram here and Amazon here.

B xoxo

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4 simple tips: become more CONFIDENT

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Anytime I see posts and articles about this I find it SO INTERESTING because I feel like we all get insecure sometimes and want to be a little more confident.

I’m a super shy person. Always have been. But I am less painfully shy than I used to be, to the point where now often people don’t believe I’m shy (maybe they think I’m awkward instead hahaha…!)

Confidence is this weird thing, right? You see people who literally are just so free and don’t give AF and are able to share their ideas, boss something in the gym without embarassment or speak up at work… I’ve often wished I could buy it in a bottle (champagne doesn’t count if you wanna keep your job guys!)

In my first job at Vouchercodes.co.uk, a lot of ‘pitching’ was involved – and I had to deliver the pitches myself. I was 21, super shy, not at all confident, I felt inadequate and ridiculous, and could barely speak in internal meetings, let alone with clients! We also had to present in company-wide meetings weekly, and it nearly gave me a heart attack.

I’ve always hated public speaking. I’d shake – as in PHYSICALLY SHAKE. I’d feel sick. I’d cry on the phone to my dad every morning.

But you know what? Being forced to do it again and again means that 1) I know if forced, I can… I even gave a speech at a wedding a couple of years ago! and 2) where speaking in a meeting of 3-10 people used to terrify me, now I know how to do it.

How?

Practice, basically. I’d practice my pitches to my boyfriend, on the phone to my dad, I’d set up meetings with my boss to practice with her, I’d listen to her and make notes on how she did it… and then the worst bit was just making myself do it.

To help, I qualified to teach fitness so I had to stand up in front of a class so I could learn to do it somewhere I enjoyed. And it really, really helped. But you have to decide to put the work in.

All of that ground work is the only reason I could go to an interview at a magic circle law firm and get a job as a lawyer, because if I’d gone in post-graduation at 21, I’d have fallen to literal bits and been a nervous wreck.

I mean, I’m still an introvert, I like to recharge solo as much as possible rather than socialise, and that’s totally okay! I can still be awkward and weird hahaha… but I got over that crippling shyness and if I managed to, anyone else can too.

So here are my tips! And yes, ultimately it really is a case of fake it (or try!) until you make it!

1. Stop hiding behind the ‘it’s just my personality, I’m shy’

This is tough love, I know. I used to have panic attacks about doing public speaking, and I’ll never love it. BUT if you repeatedly practice exposing yourself to uncomfortable situations, you WILL adapt. Be gentle with yourself, do it gradually, you don’t have to be too mean to yourself. But the big key is to stop making excuses and decide to make a change. The way to start is to jump in and practice whatever it is that makes you uncomfortable. 

Set small goals initially. Baby steps. Then as you get into your stride, you can take the leaps and bounds.

Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.

2. Physical strength builds mental strength

Did you see this one coming? 😉 Fitness is amazing for releasing feel-good hormones (endorphin pump is REAL y’all) but it also shows you the power of practice – little by little you increase strength and/or cardio fitness and it shows you change IS possible, which should give you the confidence to keep trying new things!

I did a Kayla Itsines leg workout the day of my training contract interview and it literally saved me hahaha!

3. Re-train your brain: the long bit!

How much time do you spend worrying about what other people think about you? I read an amazing book called The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k and it suggested you have a think about the important things in your life that you DO and are WILLING to give a fuck about. Anything not on that list? It’s not within your fuck budget. Let that shit gooooooo!

How your life feels to you is more important than how it looks to other people

Trust your own choices and stop talking to yourself in a negative way in your head. Try just repeating (silently or aloud!) ‘I CAN do this’ or something similar. It sounds super American and cheesy but when your habit is to tell yourself you CAN do something instead of saying you CAN’T, it does make a massive shift in your mindset.

Too scared to try something in the gym? Feel stupid, watched, embarassed? Re-train your thought process to be like SO WHAT? What’s the worst that could happen? They’d laugh at you? (I guarantee the other people there won’t, they’re too busy doing their own workouts, but even if they did…) Worse things happen at sea, guys.

The ego likes to try and protect us from laughter or scorn from others, but I think as a result it goes into overdrive and makes us think 99% of the time people are judging us when actually they don’t really care or even notice what we’re doing! Your opinion and that of those you love (and maybe the person who pays you!) is the only one that counts. Let everything else go. Even if the worst case scenario comes true and you’re super embarassed – so what? Once you start approaching things this way, and not minding looking silly, you’ll 100% feel liberated.

I used to experiment with my hair tonnes as a kid, but my dad’s side of the family always made comments about it, and gradually I think I stopped wanting to experiment. I started to think I had to have long hair to prove I was a girl (?! wtf ?! seriously ?!) as comments would often be about short hair being ‘boyish’. As my EDs got stronger and my confidence got lower, I felt like I was way too ugly for short hair and needed long hair to distract from it. How crazy is that?!

So, recently, (and also once a year and a half ago!) I chopped all my hair off again from my boobs to my collarbone, and it’s super liberating… and I now don’t care what anyone else things, apart from me and my boyfriend basically!

Basically, work, fitness, gym, wherever… there’s a bit of work to be done on realising that you just need to go with your gut. And if it all goes wrong and you look silly… you’re not dying, you’re still alive and have soooo many good things going on… so focus on that ❤

Admittedly some of it comes with age too. The nearer  I get to 30, the better able I am to shake off anyone who bugs me and stick to my fuck budget 😉

Books for this process that I’d recommend (although you may have to take with a pinch of salt as they can get a bit too hippyish, but I do still love them!) are Life Tonic by Jody Shield and Hungry For More by Mel Wells.

4. Daily meds*

*meditations, of course!

Whether you hate the idea of meditation as woo woo, you’re a hippy spiritual moon-child or [insert other extreme here], meditation has been proven by various reputable scientific studies to have a positive effect on the brain due to its promotion of the ‘relaxation response’, a physiological change in the body as a result of the ‘relaxed’ state.

So. For the purposes of confidence, meditation’s mention here is twofold:

  1. it teaches you increased focus, which makes you better able to let go of nagging, negative thoughts like ‘I can’t do this, I’m too scared, I’m too shy, I’m too anxious, why is everyone else more confident/smarter/prettier/cleverer than me…’ and breathe, and master your emotions.
  2. it connects you better with yourself and your thought patterns, and by being more present with yourself, you eventually come to realise that you’re not your thoughts… you’re the observer of your thoughts. So you can actually create change and not let thoughts control you, but also it should increase your ability to spend time with yourself, feel good within yourself and actually (god forbid if you’re British) LIKE YOURSELF. Like, what is this madness?!

Also, her style may not be for everyone, but Jody Shield does a meditation series (with a track specifically relating to confidence) if you fancy giving it a try. Despite my atheist and decidedly not spiritual views, I really like her stuff – I find her voice super relaxing.

So, how are we feeling?

Hopefully some of these help a bit… Would love to hear any more you can add!

Also check out this piece on how to be confident by Rose The Londoner and this FREE fierce confidence workshop / livestream replay with Jody Shield to help you get started!

B xoxo

You may also wanna browse:

Ways to boost body confidence on bad days – without working out!

Careers section – Inspire Interview Series plus work tips, resources and confidence building

Body Confidence: talking about taboos, fat loss and some tips!

How to stay motivated to fit in workouts with an office job

Motivation 101: get it and keep it

Is it vain to have a fitness instagram?Is it vain to have a fitness instagram? + dangers of social media

Sparkle: resources to find yours

#Inspire Interview 5: MEL WELLS (actress, best-selling author, speaker, food & psychology coach!)

 

 

Top 10 EASY ways to stay workout-motivated!

woman balancing
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Sometimes our insta feeds get filled with post-workout selfies and when you’re having a day or a week where you reeeeeally don’t feel like working out, it can actually be really off-putting.

Everyone has, at some point or another, hit a bump where they just don’t feel like working out. It’s completely normal! I LOVE training but I still have this happen to me sometimes. But over time I’ve gotten used to it, and figured out some easy ways to slide back into the zone. So – what are the easiest ways to pick yourself back up?

Social media

This is a double edged sword. Scrolling for motivation can be helpful, but it can also make you feel rubbish. I recommend, first and foremost, an ‘unfollow’ spree – stop following ANY accounts that annoy you, make you feel not good enough or make you compare yourself with them. It’s not a comment on their content! It’s just protecting yourself. Similarly, start following accounts you do find helpful and inspiring.

Book classes!

This is an obvious one, but super useful. Kobox, Core Collective, Psycle, F45, whatever your jam – buy some credits and book some classes, and you won’t want to waste the money!

Make sure you’re doing workouts you love

If you hate running, for example, or weightlifting (or if you used to like it but you’re now over it) – change it up! Don’t do it anymore, do something else.

Ignore what’s ‘optimal’ because if obsessing about that is making you not want to train, then in trying to optimise your workouts you’re ironically stopping yourself from training… not the desired outcome!

Love netball? Join a team! Curious about #bbg? Download Kayla’s app! Always wanted to try boxing / capoeria / modern dance / athletics / volleyball / trail running…? Sign up to a class or a team or club.

Set some goals that make you want to progress

For example, I REALLY want to improve my pushups and be able to do 20 effortlessly, super quick. So that motivates me to train upper body, even on days I don’t feel like it. Maybe your goal is to run 5k, 10k, or a half marathon… maybe it’s to do a pull up, maybe it’s to increase the height of your box jump, or learn a new style of dance… whatever you think sounds like something you want to achieve, set the goal and then work towards it.

Be honest: are you making moves or excuses?

Yes, rest and recovery is important, but don’t fall into the trap of using it as an ‘excuse.’

You do need 2-3 rest days a week (ideally active rest, so still lots of walking, and maybe gentle movement like yoga or swimming) but stop using this to disguise the fact you can’t be bothered. It’s FINE to have a day where you’re like nah, today’s not the day, but own the decision. I like to schedule my rest days at the beginning of the week so they’re mindful. Ultimately it’s about being honest with yourself and in tune with how you feel!

Schedule workouts like you would meetings

This speaks for itself, right? By scheduling workouts you don’t really need to exert much willpower to go. They’re already in your diary.

Remember your why

Remember all the reasons we work out in the first place! It’s AMAZING for reducing stress, keeping us fit and healthy as we age, it has important cardiovascualr and longevity benefits, so keep in mind that it’s for your mental and physical health! Try to imagine the endorphin buzz you feel after a workout, and mentally re-create that feeling. Focus on those process based goals we talked about above – being able to do push ups or pull ups or whatever! And lastly, it’s okay to think about your aesthetic goals as long as it’s from a healthy, positive place, not a guilt-ridden one! Exercise isn’t a punishment!

Eat well for energy

Eating healthily, with a balanced plate of carbs, protein and healthy fats, plus ensuring you’re eating a rainbow of fruit and veggies (the easiest way to get in all those good vitamins and minerals – as you all know I’m all about the micronutrients and phytochemicals!) is the best way to fuel both your body AND mind. Carbs are essential for seratonin production which is a key hormone in your moods and staying happy! If you’re down, blue, grumpy and hangry and nutrient-deprived you’re less likely to train. Look after your body on the inside too and you’ll be primed for a productive sweat session! I also find that when my nutrition is good, I feel more motivated to take care of myself in other ways too like working out, and I feel so much happier and more energised!

A spoonful of caffeine helps the workout go down…!

Be careful with this! Make sure you always have a glass of water with your caffeine as caffeine is dehydrating. But several studies have shown caffeine can help boost your workout – my understanding is it lowers your perceived rate of exertion, so you don’t feel like you’re working as hard as you are, enabling you to go harder or longer! There’s a reason preworkout is sold to bodybuilders. Personally, I now steer clear of preworkout as I worry about all the other crap in it, but I grab either an espresso, or a black coffee, or even matcha.  This especially helps me as I like to train fasted as my body struggles to exercise after food, so I love having a bit of a supercharge to my session!

Playlists are key

Make sure you’re not bored of your workout playlist, and I always like to choose ‘pump’ tracks – tracks that get me excited and want to make me get moving. This can be anything from a super motivating soundtrack to the Spice Girls! Whatever floats your boat. Studies also show that listening to music while training can also lower your perceived rate of exertion, so you don’t feel like you’re working as hard as you are. Go figure!

I hope some of these help get you a bit more motivated to train… you’re not alone if you’re in a bit of a rut and not feeling it, but the important thing is just to brush yourself off, stop beating yourself up and get moving again and you’ll soon feel AMAZING. ❤

B xoxo

#3 Inspire Interview Series – LEYLA COOPER – FOUNDER & CEO of PRETTY ATHLETIC

two purple flowers
Photo by Jess Watters on Pexels.com

Happy Friday everybody and thanks for joining for the third Q&A of our Inspire Interview Series! (If you’ve missed any, do check back on Kris Pace, KOBOX brand director, and Venetia Falconer, TV Presenter, blogger & influencer).

Today is a really exciting one because I know so many people dream of starting their own businesses, and even quitting their corporate jobs to pursue passion projects elsewhere…

Find out how the incredible Leyla Cooper, a former lawyer, now Founder & CEO of Pretty Athletic made the switch, and also her expert skincare tips! It’s a really great one because you can tell how much knowledge and hustle she’s poured in to make this wonderful brand a success.

I enjoyed working in law, but the prospect of running my own business and building a skincare brand from scratch was incredibly appealing. I am actually a very risk averse person, but I found myself spending evenings and weekends working on what would become Pretty Athletic and I loved it so much it didn’t feel like work. – Leyla Cooper, Founder & CEO of Pretty Athletic and former lawyer

If somehow you haven’t yet come across this increeeeedible skincare range, it’s a bespoke product line designed especially for active women, and it’s totally ethical (the products are super natural, not at all animal tested, and are registered with the Vegan Society). I came across it one day in Harper’s Bazaar, and fell head-over-heels in love! If you have yet to try their gorgeous products, be sure to visit their instagram, facebook and twitter to get the scoop. I honestly couldn’t recommend them enough, they’ve really transformed my skin.

So without further ado, let’s jump in with Leyla…

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Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

B: Can you tell us a little bit about your background, and how you came up with the idea for Pretty Athletic?

L: I’ve always enjoyed running and exercise. I used to work as a lawyer, and exercise was something I relied on to help deal with the stress of work and to keep my head clear. Like many busy women I would fit in a workout whenever I could, be it an early morning run or a lunchtime or evening gym session. One day I realised that my skin post-workout was a challenge and amongst all the many skincare products out there for various skin types and situations, I couldn’t find anything specifically designed for active women, be it for pre/post workout skin (i.e. hot, sweaty, stressed, skin) or to help protect and repair skin that is subject to environmental damage whilst exercising outdoors.

B: What made you decide to take the leap and start your own business? What was your working life like before and has it changed a lot? How did you find the transition from working in law?

L: I enjoyed working in law, but the prospect of running my own business and building a skincare brand from scratch was incredibly appealing. I am actually a very risk averse person, but I found myself spending evenings and weekends working on what would become Pretty Athletic and I loved it so much it didn’t feel like work. Then my husband injured his spine (he’s fine now thankfully) and it put things into perspective and I felt that life is short and I had to leave to do this thing that I was passionate about. As for my working life, I worked hard as a lawyer but I work harder now.

B: It’s funny because I really suffered with skin issues when I started training more and waited a long time for a brand targeted at women who workout so I was crazy excited when I discovered Pretty Athletic – but how did you navigate the gap between having an idea when you realised it was something people needed, and creating a product?

L: In a nutshell:  Market research, a fabulous team of cosmetic formulation chemists, hours of product and ingredient research, and lots and lots of testing.

B: Can you describe a (working) day in the life at Pretty Athletic HQ?

L: Sorry to be clichéd, but no one day is the same. Each day I deal with a variety of issues including social media, new product development, website tweaks and improvements, customer enquiries, brand collaborations, marketing, retailers, VAT/invoices/accounts, events, liaising with my business partner and our fabulous intern Laura, and the list goes on..

B: What has been the most challenging part of moving from law to running your own business?

L: The success or failure of the business falls on me- and that’s a lot of pressure.

B: Do you have a favourite Pretty Athletic product?

L: For the face, our Workout Glow as I use it to cleanse and hydrate pre and post workout, and anytime during the day when my skin need a refresh, and I also use it every evening to remove my eye makeup. For the body, our Hydration Kick body moisturiser as I don’t like traditional body moisturisers as I dislike how they feel on my skin, whereas this is a gel not a cream and so it just sinks in and is so refreshing, and also it smells amazing – like a spa.

B: What advice would you give to someone looking to take the leap and start their own business?

L: You have to absolutely love it, as you’ll work harder than you’ve ever done before.

B: Have you made any mistakes along the way to where you are today and what have you learned from them, if so? 

L: I have made many mistakes, and each time I learn not to make those same mistakes again!

B: What are the best and worst bits of working for yourself?

L: The best is the flexibility; if  I want to go for a run at 3 in the afternoon to clear my head,  I can. The worst is that you take everything – such as any rejections – very personally.

B: What does ‘success’ mean to you?

L: Looking back and knowing I did my best.

B: Do you have a role model or mentor you look to for career inspiration?

L: I have never met her but I look up to and am inspired by Marcia Kilgore (founder of Bliss, Soap & Glory, and Beauty Pie) who despite having been incredibly successful never rests on her laurels and keeps building successful brands and coming up with innovative new ideas.

B: Can you describe your daily skincare regime? What are your top tips?

L: I keep it quite simple. In the morning I cleanse my face and apply moisturiser, plus SPF if the sun is out. Pre/post workout, and also at the end of the day I use our Workout Glow to cleanse and hydrate, and then before bed I alternate between a facial exfoliator and nourishing cleanser, I remove my eye makeup with our Workout Glow, and I then use a face oil. About half my skincare products are Pretty Athletic products or samples of new products from our cosmetic formulators that I am testing, and the other half are from other brands as I like to keep up to date with new products on the market. My top tip? Exercise – it’s amazing for your skin. (Just ensure you cleanse and hydrate after sweating!)

Quickfire

 Fave workout? Running

 Nut butter or avocado? Nut butter

 Massage or facial? Facial

Nature or nuture? Nurture

 Talent or hustle? Hustle

Chocolate or cheese? Chocolate

 You’re doing cardio: podcast or playlist? Playlist

 Moisturiser or face oil? Face oil

 You’re on a desert island and can only have 3 beauty products – what are they? Our Workout Glow, shampoo, and sunscreen.

 It’s your last EVER meal of your life. What do you order/make? Chocolate.

coffee dark candy chocolate
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

 

Thanks so much for your insights Leyla!

Find out more about the brand here, and have a browse of the Pretty Athletic blog here.

xoxo

ABS-olutely fAB-ulous: free 7 day core challenge

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I really love to train abs, but I know a lot of people don’t. While a lot of people insist you never need to train core in isolation, claiming that you can do enough by training with compound exercises, I personally am a fan of working on that core strength! It’s great for stability and improving form of other exercises like deadlifts or squats, it’s great for posture, and I just generally really like feeling the burn!

You can do loads of complex core stuff at the gym, but not everyone wants to go specifically to train core or to faff about with a tonne of equipment and weights, so this is designed to be a super easy 7 day challenge you can do at home! It also adds in a bit of cardio, as that’s the way to burn off the fat to reveal those abs you’re pumping up…

Please note, I’m not saying you can get visible abs in 7 days! Six packs are different for everyone and you need to have a very low body fat percentage for them to show and be very defined (and ab definition there to begin with!) Some people genetically show more than others even with a higher body fat percentage, so it really varies. This workout is to help define your abs and improve your core strength. But who knows? Keep working and you could achieve your #abgoals if that’s something you’re going for… but just remember, visible abs are by no means a measure of how fit or strong you are!

Day 1

Morning:

1 minute plank

20 crunches

20 commandos

20 weighted sit ups

20 leg raises

10 walkouts

Evening:

1 minute plank

Day 2

Morning:

1 minute 30 second plank

30 crunches

20 commandos

20 weighted sit ups

30 leg raises

10 walkouts

Evening:

2 minute plank

Day 3

Morning:

1 minute 30 second plank

50 bicycle crunches

25 jump squats

20 burpees

Evening:

2 minute plank

Day 4

Morning:

2 minute plank

60 bicycle crunches

30 jump squats

20 weighted sit-ups

20 leg raises

Evening:

2 minute plank

20 leg raises

100 skater jumps

Day 5

Morning:

2 minute plank

30 second side plank (each side)

100 bicycle crunches

Evening:

3 minute plank

20 hip dips in side plank (each side)

50 jump jacks

Day 6

Morning:

1 minute side plank (each side)

50 mountain climbers (1 rep is both legs)

50 diagonal mountain climbers

Evening:

4 minute plank

Day 7

5 minute plank… & take a bow!

And don’t forget to drink lots of water and think about healthy, balanced nutrition… aim to up your veggie intake as much as possible over the week!

close up of salad in plate
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Did you complete the 7 day ab challenge? Let me know! I’m going to be trying to do this more often for sure!

B xoxo

How to Stay Motivated & fit in workouts with an Office Job

pexels-photo-905336.jpegTired of those generic ‘how to stay fit & healthy and juggle your office job’ posts which say things like ‘meal prep’ and ‘plan’ and ‘tupperware’ and ‘get off the bus or tube one stop earlier?’

I’ve seen loads of them, and although having worked in various jobs (post-graduation office jobs I’ve juggled with my fitness interest have included account management for an online start up that IPOd, marketing for a real estate (mostly) company The Crown Estate, and paralegalling at a city firm, now trainee at another city firm… blah blah blah, but basically I’ve done a mix and various hours and environments and office cultures!) I feel pretty au fait with managing my time – I am almost 27, I’ve had a while to nail this – but I’m ALWAYS keen to learn more, get new tips and see how other people do it.

However, I’m usually disappointed. Telling me to invest in Tupperware isn’t my definition of helpful.

So I figured, what can I write that contributes in a concrete way? There are some generic tips I’ve kind of dismissed above that anyone can give, and to be fair they’re always worth stating. But I think I have a few more I can add in the context of my fitness journey, so apologies in advance for the long post, but I hope some of it is vaguely helpful!

This post is long but covers:

  • Workout scheduling
  • Resisting office treat temptation
  • Finding motivation when you’re busy
  • Making time
  • Top tips to make it easier on yourself
  • Maintaining a healthy mindset

So grab a cup of tea and have a scroll!

  • Assess the time you have available

 

If you work a 9-5 or 6ish job, you have significantly larger chunks of time than those in, say, certain aspects of finance who might work beyond 10pm most nights.

This isn’t a judgement thing – however many ‘free’ hours we have in a day, it never feels enough. I get it. I’ve done 9-5s, 9-7s, 7-10+s in various contexts… and then if you have kids, god bless you I don’t know how you do juggle them with a job, so I appreciate that’s a multiplier of a million in terms of toughness and finding a slot to workout.

But ultimately, you need to be honest with yourself.

Where can you carve out the time that is REALISTIC?

If, like me, you hate mornings, you might be able to squeeze in the odd morning session (I managed to get up at 5.30am for a week to go to Kobox but I had just started my new job so didn’t have late nights at the office and after that week, I wasn’t gonna carry on doing that!) but you won’t stick to it long term.

If you can rarely leave the office before 9pm and have an hour commute home, you probably won’t be an evening exerciser either.

If you have a job where the culture dictates your desk presence during the day, or clients do, you may not be able to do a lunch session. If you have flexibility with work not picking up til the afternoon or your manager/supervisor/colleagues not minding, then maybe there’s your window.

It’s not easy. I appreciate that. But if you’re feeling screwed for all of the above reasons, then I think, personally, the solution is to do workouts for an hour on both Saturday and Sunday, and then snatch a couple more 40 minute workouts where you can during the week (even if you only manage one – that’s 3 workouts across your whole week, which I think should be a healthy minimum!) – force yourself up for one or two mornings, or snatch a lunch time here or take advantage of the one day you can leave work at 7.30pm.

I like to workout about 4 times during the average week – I’m lucky that I can usually squeeze in an evening one (my fiancé works long hours too so it’s fine to be super late home) but usually at least once a week I’ll do a morning one.

That frees me up to either fully rest at the weekend or if I’m on a roll or fancy it I can do 2 more workouts Sat and Sun taking my total to 6.

On a fabulously motivated week where I manage the time then sure, I’ll do 6 workouts a week because I love to. Some weeks I only manage 3 and if I’m particularly slammed, I drop to 2. I tend to feel I don’t have time but I MAKE THEM A PRIORITY. There is no way you can’t carve out a little time for 2 workouts if it matters to you. If it doesn’t… that’s totally okay, don’t do them! Family stresses, serious work crises, bereavements, there are so many legit reasons for the gym to be shunted off your priority list. But I assume you’re reading this to try and fit more in, so that’s why I’m hammering home the point about planning and prioritising and making time. But…

YOU DON’T NEED TO WORKOUT 6 TIMES A WEEK TO BE HEALTHY. I’d say 2 minimum, 3 ideal and any more than that do it because you love it.

My number varies according to my busy-ness, work, laziness, illness, social comittments… but I feel 2 is the absolute minimum as I have a desk job. We need to MOVE to be healthy and while a week of no workouts won’t kill, I think habits are key. Which brings us to…

  • Let’s talk about habits…

If you can have a habitual routine (workouts Mon, Weds, Fri mornings) it makes life easier as it feels less negotiable – you can just do it. This isn’t always possible but a baseline default habit can be SO HELPFUL! Deviate when essential, but if you can have a routine that you stick to automatically, it simplifies things SO MUCH. One to strive for, but also not beat yourself up about if you can’t quite manage it – some jobs are so erratic (or babies or toddlers!) that you’ll just have to seize the moment when it presents itself. Not much you can do. But if you’re 20 something, child free and only working 40 hours a week… no excuses!

Don’t drink diet drinks, fizzy drinks or juices when thirsty – always go for water, herbal tea, and only have these as a TREAT.

Don’t take sugar in tea/coffee – not because it’s ‘bad’ but because it’s added to so many things – save it for a REAL nice sweet treat – that Sunday slice of cheesecake or that Friday champagne cocktail or that flapjack on your department’s weekly bake-off day.

Make it a habit to always take the stairs, and to at the very least go for an hour’s walk at weekends (take the kids or the partner, no excuses!)

Try to at least, if you can’t do that because of work/kids/travel, form some sensible habits that lay groundwork… make it feel compulsory to workout twice a week (unless injured).

These are all pretty generic but I guess the key is re-programming your defaults to a healthier setting. Nothing is BANNED. It’s just about ENJOYING indulgence and recognising it for what it is – indulgence – rather than accidentally consuming excess sugar, empty calories, and skipping workouts because you’re in one of *those* spirals…

The BIGGEST TOP TIP I can give on habits is this one too – sounds cheesy but it’s critical. WE ALL HAVE DAYS EVEN IF WE LOOOOOVE FITNESS where after work we’re like fuck it, CBA to workout. Have a Person (I can’t say buddy, sorry) you can speak to. Mine is my fiancé. I’ll call him (best) or whatsapp if he’s too busy at work and be like I can’t be bothered. He knows me well enough to tell if I’ve trained too much or too little, if work stress would be best alleviated by a workout or a rest day, and so can encourage me to train where it’s best, or let me off the hook where relevant so if I do rest, it’s guilt free.

Because while this is about how to fit in training and healthy eating, it’s not healthy to obsess about it and push yourself too hard. Exercise releases cortisol so adds stress to the body, in addition to all its health benefits, so some days rest may be what you need. Don’t get sucked into the marketing speak of ‘go hard or go home’ ‘never miss a Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday…’

Admittedly, if your partner isn’t super into fitness or wouldn’t be very good at that, then they’re not the best choice. Try a friend. Or get on instagram and join the fitness community there and find a buddy. I’m happy to do it for you (only if I don’t get too many requests!) although the only thing there is someone you know well in your daily life is best for the reasons I describe above with my fiancé.

Some communities you can join on insta are #bbg or #kaylasarmy (where I first got into the fitness community online), #GFG, #tiu / #ToneItUp, or #queenteam.

  • Planning Planning Planning & Booking classes… should I pay & schedule to force myself to go? 

 

Not always, but I’ve found this to be a fab method at times. The key is to know if it will force you to go when you’re feeling a bit bleh, which is good… or if you might have an unforeseen work crisis that prevents you going and makes you feel unfit AND rubbish AND you’ve just lost your money/credits for booking into the bargain.

These can be good for forcing early morning starts if you’re not an early riser like me – having a scheduled class like Kobox makes me feel like I have no choice but to get out of bed (even if I have to set 10 alarms to manage it!) Classes I recommend are Kobox (review here) and Run Junkie (review here).

  • Variety is the spice of life but also…

 

Your body adapts to what you do, so while variety is good to keep it interesting and jolt yourself out of plateaus, if you’re looking for set results you need to be consistent over time. (Does that make sense? Basically, there’s a time and a place for changing things up, sure… but you need to stick to something first to get the results, give your body a chance to make the adaptations). So try (for example) 12 weeks of something before you switch, if that makes sense (that’s not a set in stone number, just a suggestion of an extended period where you might be able to commit to a programme and get results)

The other thing about variety is it’s all well and good but it’s wise to know what you’re doing when you get to the gym. Don’t go and improvise – if I ever do this I have mediocre workouts at best as I feel a bit aimless. Have a plan. Even if you draw it up in notes on your phone en route!

  • And then some mini motivation tips:

These (above) are the big ‘lifestyle’ things that can sound a bit tough to implement but I really recommend trying to get these down for a month or two and it will get easier as it stops being something to try to do and starts being something you do automatically (although don’t beat yourself up for low motivation days – they happen to all of us! That’s what the Person under tip 2 is for).

I think if you can really think about and master some of the above, you’re well on your way to making fitness and health a priority that holds its own against the competing demands of your life. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t smash it every week. But equally the idea of creating the habits and mindsets above is to help you set a fairly constant standard… you’re allowed peaks and troughs like any human being, but that’s your baseline!

Now here are some smaller things that may or may not help you fine tune this regime!

Outfit planning: I like to lay out my fave lulus and choose pretty sports bras etc. the night before, especially if I know I’ve been struggling to feel excited about gym. Sounds stupid, but it helps me.

THEJUSTDOITMETHOD: if all else fails, I swear by a power lip (usually red – fave lipsticks are chanel, dior and Charlotte Tilbury), shot an espresso, put your hair in a messy bun, blast out some gangster rap and JUST GO. You won’t regret it*

(*subject to the usual exceptions – injury etc. Be sensible. Don’t force yourself if its clearly unhealthy!)

The controversial insta scroll: I have a policy of only following people on insta who make me feel empowered and motivated, so a cheeky scroll usually does wonders for my motivation. However, I know social increasingly gets linked with poor mental health. If you feel bad about yourself for going on it, I’d suggest unfollowing anyone who makes you feel that way, and/or considering deleting it altogether.

Make it a date: with friends, the bf/gf, culture is weirdly centred around pub dates, coffee dates and wine bar dates. Find some likeminded friends (see community recommendations above for ways to find some on social media if you don’t have any) and go to a class together then have a smoothie to catch up, instead of necking ten G&Ts in the pub…! Or go for a run in your neighbourhood together. Or drive out of the city and hike together. I love and fairly regularly do all of these options.

Just 20 mins: If you really can’t face it, tell yourself you’ll just do 20 mins. That’s all you have to do. Chances are, 15 mins in you’ll have broken through the block an really enjoy it, and stay for 30, or 40, or 45, or an hour. (I love 40-55 min workouts. I rarely do a full hour these days!)

If in doubt, sweat at home: If making the gym is proving impossible, there are tonnes of workouts online, on youtube, on fitness blender, on this site where you can get a sweat on quickly at home! Any movement is better than none and it doesn’t take loads of fancy equipment. I prefer to go to the gym or a class but if I really really can’t, then 100 burpees, 50 press ups, and playing with my kettlebell at home will get my heart rate going rather than lying like a vegetable on the sofa…!

An App a Day: tech these days is EPIC and  there are so many apps that are free and/or super cheap. I’ve loved the Kayla Itsines app for simple and easy to fit in 28 min workouts, and used it successfully when I needed some fat loss action. But Playbook App has tonnes of trainers on it for just £10 a month, I love Magnus Lydgback (creator of The Magnus Method), the Tomb Raider trainer (he also trained Alexander Skarsgard and Ben Affleck!) and am a subscriber! Also search for Tone It Up, Jillian Michaels, Made with Jade, Grace Fit Guide… there are tonnes!

Resisting office temptation: This is a tough one right? Sweets, cake, doughnuts abound – team birthdays, celebrations… how to stay on track?

My policy is simple. I mindfully assess whether I really want it. 9/10 times my body actually doesn’t want the sugar bombs! Do I really want it? No. Then I say no as a matter of policy. A simple ‘no thanks I’m not hungry’ will do.

Do I want it? Maybe 1/10 times there’s a little sliver of red velvet cake… and maybe I do want it. So I have it!

It’s about working out if you’re eating for the sake of it, boredom, or to appease someone else – those aren’t reasons to indulge! But if it will actually SATISFY YOU then do it! Remember, a simple 80/20 rule. It’s not ‘bad’ to have a treat… unless you’re overindulging and damaging your health by doing it daily!

Read this post if you want comfort food but need some healthy swap suggestions as stress eating isn’t good for anyone!

Lunch habits: a protein and fibre rich lunch will keep you fuller for longer and stop you snacking mindlessly! Include complex carbs, lean protein and lots of veggies. Meal prep can help with this, or check out salad bars like Vital Ingredient for good options. Obviously you can vary things and you don’t need to worry about it too much – but making mindful lunch choices can stop that 3pm slump which half the time is because we’re not nourishing ourselves properly, and half the time is a psychosomatic myth so people have an excuse to grab a daily Twix and tell themselves they need it!

AND FINALLY!

 Working out should be because you want to take care of yourself, not to punish yourself or burn off food or force yourself into a certain body shape. We all have aesthetic goals and preferences, sure, but try to view food and exercise as fuel and training, not dieting and it’s unnecessarily hard-work twin!

Also, I get that its tough in this day and age – we’re all so busy! But unless you’re super gross, you always clean your teeth without fail, or shower. They’re non-negotiables for health and hygiene.

You need to view some degree of movement as a non-negotiable like this too, for your health and wellbeing. Magazines have done a good job of making us feel you only do it to lose weight. I really want to kick against this, and make people see it’s a critical component of a healthy lifestyle, one of the most underutilised tools for avoiding all kinds of illnesses, both mental and physical. So EDUCATE YOURSELF and change your mindset – I’m so glad I have!

To help you, check out:

***

Rhiannon Lambert – Harley St Nutritionist @rhitrition

Hazel Wallace – Jr Doctor @thefoodmedic

Shredded by science – for the actual facts (fully backed up scientific study-based nerdery here!) about training and nutrition

***

Chessie King – influencer and body confidence activist @chessiekingg

Zanna Van Dijk – PT, environmental guru, fitness influencer @zannavandijk

Tally Rye – PT tackling diet culture and looking to change the fitness industry @tallyrye

These are just some examples of sources of good quality information above, and inspiration below (obviously there’s a crossover there, but in terms of science, evidence and qualification, the top 3 are amazing). The other three are just great, healthy, inspiring girls who won’t give you body hangups and are changing diet culture and helping women across the world.

So, sorry for the essay, but I hope that helps! I’ve tried to address all the things I find help me, all the stuff I’ve learned over my “fitness journey” (cringe!) and answer all the questions I get on the regular.

PS. you may also want to read this post on body confidence for those days when you can’t workout or you’re just feeling bleh and this post on sustaining motivation!

PPS. If your relationship is what’s making it tough to fit in workouts (perhaps your partner loves French food for date nights!) then I write about fitting fitness around relationships here.

Love & sweat 😉

B xoxox