I Am….

Having a sports injury is never fun. I’ve had a couple of injuries in the past including a torn quad and plantar fasciitis from marathon training, but in general I have been lucky enough never to have anything I would consider that serious…..that is, until I hurt my back.

As with many back injuries, it wasn’t caused by deadlifting 100kg or doing backflips….. it was a completely innocuous movement, simply bending down to pick up a warm up (light) dumbbell…… go figure.

While I have had friends and family in the past who have dealt with back injuries, I was still amazed at how much of an effect it had on not only my training but also my attitude. It is extremely hard to just ‘get on with it’ with a sore back and I am sorry to say, I became a pretty hard person to deal with for quite a few months. Before I move on, I would like to offer an official apology to anyone I yelled at…… cried to, or at, during this time!

While it sounds like a horrific experience….and I promise…it was, there were actually a couple of positives that came out of my injury….

One….I was forced to stop working out. Admittedly, It took me a few weeks of continuing to stubbornly turn up at the gym determined to ‘work through it’….and a few more weeks of jumping straight back into the gym as soon as I had a good day and decided I was healed, only to be struggling again for the weeks following!! But eventually… I stopped. And guess what…..? My world didn’t fall apart!

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Two……as doing absolutely nothing physical is not an option for me, another positive came out of my injury………I rekindled my love for yoga!!

Around the same time that I finally waved the white flag on my gym work, an amazing (and affordable) new yoga studio opened up in Moonee Ponds. One of my good friends invited me along to their open day….. free classes, turmeric lattes, green smoothies, oil burners……..you couldn’t help but feel healthy and happy just walking into the place. Not to mention…it is also one of the most beautiful spaces I’ve ever practiced in!

So, free trial week completed and realising that this was probably a positive step towards recovery, I decided to join. Five months and many yoga classes later I am happy to say that my injury is a distant memory.

Getting injured and getting back into yoga has reminded me how important it is to have balance in your life and your workouts. So, regardless of the fact I am now back in my running shoes and once again frequenting the weights rack at the gym I am also determined to keep up regular yoga practice as part of my routine.

After all….2017 is about health and happiness….and for me…yoga is happiness.

So there are two lessons I want to share with you….

  1. If you stop exercising your world won’t collapse, and
  2. Moderation is the key to a healthy and injury free existence

But this isn’t actually why I’m writing to you….

This week I was in a 6.30 am class with one of my favourite instructors and part owner of the studio. Why do I love her classes so much…it may be the pace, or the use of oils, or the music…..i’m not sure. But for some reason, no matter how demanding the class is, I always seem to come out feeling rejuvenated both mentally and physically. Towards the end of each class, while everyone is settling into Shavasana, this particular instructor always introduces different readings and mantras (another reason I love this studio- it goes so much further beyond the physical practice of yoga).

This week we were asked to perform a very basic mantra which really struck a chord with me. I’m not sure why but I have continued to think about it all week and each time I do, it has grounded me instantly.

Hence the reason I decided it would be unfair not to share it with you…. It is so simple yet so full!!

All we were asked to do was repeat this mantra in our heads as we breathed in and out.

So Hum……. I Am…..

Breath in….. So…

Breath out…..Hum….

Breath in….. I…

Breath out…..Am….

For me, the mantra is two fold. It not only brings into essence the beauty of living in the moment and simply being but I also feel like it poses a question for consideration…..

What are you?

Breath in….. I…

Breath out…..Am….

Breath in….. I…

Breath out…..Am….

I am Lauren…

I am grounded….

I am strong……

I am kind…….

I am forgiving….

I am open…..

I Am…….

Happy 2017!!

2017 is now well under way!!

Hopefully you’ve already taken some time to reflect back on the past year, the journey that has brought you here (both positive and negative), and given yourself a big warm hug for all the things you have achieved, no matter how big or small!!

As we welcome in the New Year, for most, it’s a time to focus on new goals, new beginnings and for many… self-improvement. While I haven’t set myself strict targets for the new year I have given myself some general areas to focus on…..

My goal for the new year…..a happy, healthy and environmentally friendly 2017!!

Happiness- Spend more time enjoying the little moments. Read 12 books- doesn’t matter what kind. More focus on helping others and less worrying about what others think of me.

Health- its all about taking care of my body this year!! Cutting back on drinking. Eating for nourishment and enjoyment as opposed to the scales. And getting my strength and fitness back (following a 2016 back strain).

And finally…environmentally friendly.. the destruction caused by plastic on our beaches and in our waterways is an issue I only started to become fully aware of last year. I started to make some changes but this year I plan to focus on this a lot more…taking whatever steps I can to minimise my plastic use. I guarantee this will pop up in my blog this year and if it is something you’ve ever thought about reading up on or something you’re already passionate about I’d love to here your experiences and tips.

So that’s me for the New Year…….. oh, and to make sure I’m sharing my experiences on my blog of course……

While everyone will have their own goals for 2017, if you haven’t already, this year I challenge you to add one goal that focuses on community, the environment and/or the well-being of others.

You’ll be amazed how fulfilling it can be taking the pressure and focus away from yourself and looking at the bigger picture.

Here’s to an amazing 2017!!

Xx Loz

 

A youthful obsession…

Why are people so concerned about getting old?

In many cultures age is something to celebrate and elders (rightfully so) are respected for their wisdom within communities.

When did it all change? When did people start ignoring birthdays in an attempt to preserve their current status? When did people start feeling the need to hide their age with procedures and paintwork? When did old age start being a burden on society as opposed to something to be admired and respected?

I remember having lunch with a group of colleagues last year and we were having a discussion about age- the oldest of us in the group always the least willing to enter this conversation. It was during this discussion, one of my colleagues from South Africa (who admittedly has always been quite vocal when it comes to her views) asked us why we are all so concerned with preserving youth- her experience being that this fear of ageing wasn’t a worldwide issue at all, but very much a cultural obsession. This was admittedly the first time I had heard and considered this point of view….

Why do western societies idolise youth?

Youth is fresh and youth is beautiful but youth is also naive, selfish and insensitive. I still remember a line in one of Robbie Williams songs ‘youth is wasted on the young’ (apparently Robbie wasn’t the first to come up with this one but I’ll let him have it!).

This line had always stuck with me, probably because I’ve experienced it first hand! When we are the most physically capable and have the world in the palm of our hands we are also out there ruining ourselves, making bad decisions and generally operating with a complete disregard for anyone else….after all, ‘what would they know….they’re old!!’

Perhaps it does have something to do with western society and the breakdown of community groups. In cultures where families live together, the elders are essential for keeping the households operating, watching over the grand/great grand kids while the younger, more able adults work.

It also may be influenced by the way we now source and exchange information. With TV and the internet there is no longer a reliance on elders to pass down teachings and advice, we no longer need story times for information and entertainment.

People are also so mobile now that perhaps the advice and stories from our elders may feel so far removed from anything we experience in our day to day that their stories are no longer essential to our existence and instead take the shape of the crazy mutterings of a distant relative.

Everything moves a lot faster now as well. While many people these days are trying to remaster the art of slowing down, the social merry-go-round we have created for ourselves is going so fast we find it hard to get off (and there seems to be a ‘no old people’ sign across  the access gate!!)

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We have created a culture where slowing down is not an option and therefore age and vulnerability are frowned upon. No wonder people strive for eternal youth when we seem to live in a place where ‘old’ is no longer welcome…

 

 

 

So how do we get out of this cycle?

As a society I feel like we have a long way to go but individually there are things we can do to not only ensure we accept age more gracefully but to also help create a culture that values maturity once again.

Slow down!!

We all need to do it. Get off the merry go round. Start to live life consciously. How can we expect to respect others around us when we barely even see or acknowledge them. There are so many books, papers and articles out there about mindfulness so if you’re interested, get reading!

Imagine your 80 year old self…..

Every now and then I think of the adventures I’ve had so far, the stories I have to tell and the experiences I’d like to share!! Then I think of what it might feel like to have the same spirit and adventurous mind as an 80 year old and how it would feel to be patronised and dismissed by others.

It may be hard to believe but before we were even alive our parents, grandparents, great grandparents were all once teenagers……all once young…….once foolish….once adventurous…..loving….hating….living!

Just remember, everyone has their stories…..wouldn’t you want someone to listen?

Create your own community..

Interestingly enough, the closer we seem to live to others the less we get to know them. I’ve lived in apartment blocks with 10 other families jammed in and have never exchanged words with a single one of them.

When we moved into our most recent flat one of our neighbours came down during our first week and introduced herself (with a bar of chocolate!). It was so refreshing to actually get to know someone in our building. Since then we have gotten to know a number of the other tenants, I’ve been lent umbrellas, exchanged gifts, shared fruit from our lemon tree….

Not only has it created a more pleasant place to live but also a feeling of security.

No matter where you live, the simple act of introducing yourself to the neighbours, exchanging hello’s when you pass and being considerate of their needs are great ways to create more of a communal feel. Some neighbourhoods have even started street fairs and lunches as a way for everyone to get to know each other. Any little thing you can do to bring some community back to your area, the better.

Community-144653342

Take care of your health from the inside out.

People often assume that age has to come with illness and fragility but it doesn’t. As mentioned in my previous blog, taking care of your body now is essential for living a long, happy and energetic life. Stop worrying so much about how you’re going to look and start focusing on how feel. Physical youth will always fade but your spirit doesn’t have to!

Find your happiness

I honestly believe the key to eternal youth is happiness! If you really live life, surrounded yourself with people you love, do things you enjoy and keep experiencing new things, age really doesn’t matter.

We’ve only got one life and eventually youth and beauty will fade so let’s try and take the focus away from the superficial and instead focus on what really matters, making our world, and that of others around us (regardless of age, sex or nationality) a more welcoming, beautiful and happy place to live!

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10 Great Reasons to Exercise (that have nothing to do with your weight)!!

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s sometimes extremely difficult to get motivated to exercise! It’s too cold, too hot, wet, dark, you’re tired after a long day of work or you’re just not really feeling it. And there is that overriding idea that if you’re going to start a new exercise program you need to throw yourself 100% into it or you will have no success. Start on Monday..(the day of new beginnings!), commit to an eating plan as well, make sure you’re doing at least 5 days a week, maybe throw in some new supplements……..

There is so much focus on exercise for weight loss that we sometime lose sight of the real reasons for keeping fit. Humans are supposed to be active creatures and in modern society where we spend most of our day either sitting behind a desk, sitting in the car or sitting in front of a TV we are not only losing our ability to move but also missing out on all of the positive benefits that come with exercise.

So it’s time to take the focus off weight loss, remove the pressure of the ‘all or nothing’ mentality and get moving!!!

Why…….

 

  1. Exercising lowers stress and combats anxiety

When you’re feeling stressed a natural reaction can be to reach for the chocolate bar or that glass of wine. While this can be a temporary fix it has been proven that physical activity is a great way to ease stress and anxiety.

Physiologically, exercise helps release natural chemicals, like adrenalin, which build up during stress. Stress can also wreak havoc on the rest of your body causing muscle tightness especially around the back and neck. Exercise on the other hand helps release endorphins which act as a natural painkiller. Exercise also helps relax the mind and body and allows you to focus on other things like your breathing and movement. It’s actually amazing how quickly and unconsciously you can problem solve when once you stop focusing on the problem- issues at work, relationship problems, writer’s block, can all be helped by getting outside and getting moving.

http://www.bupa.com.au/health-and-wellness/health-information/healthy-living/exercise/reducing-stress/reduce-stress-and-improve-mood

 

  1. It’s a great way to meet new people

Whether you’re out walking the dog, you sign up to a new class or join the gym, exercise is a great way to meet new people. And not only new people but generally like-minded individuals who are all looking to get out and about and enjoy life a little more. Committing to exercise is all about finding something you enjoy and getting involved. There are plenty of community gyms, classes, courses and groups out there so if you’re not a fan of exercising alone, these are a perfect option.

 

  1. Future you will thank you!!

I don’t know about you but I never want to be that person who groans every time I get up from a chair or puts my back out simply putting on socks…..While this picture may seem a long way off at the moment, it is the work you put in now that will benefit you in the future! As we get older we tend to lose flexibility and muscle tone, issues with posture become more and more pronounced and it takes a lot longer for us to heal. Working on strength and flexibility now is a great way to ensure you stay nimble for longer. Taking up a couple of weight sessions will not only build and improve your muscle tone but it also increases bone density which is another thing that decreases with age. This doesn’t mean you have to go kill yourself in the gym 7 days a week! Including some Yoga or Pilates for flexibility and a couple of weights sessions a week is a great way to start. Keep in mind that 80 year old who’s still able to carve up the dance floor, spend all day out in the garden and play with their grandkids. Just because you get old, doesn’t mean you have to get frail, but it all starts now!

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  1. It’s good for your skin

My personal view is that anyone who looks good working out probably isn’t working out hard enough. The gym is not the place to be concerned about how you look, to be worried about perfect hair and perfect makeup. You’re exercising!! It’s time to throw away all pretences and get sweaty!!! Why…….? There’s a reason why people spend so long in the sauna. Sweating is good for you!! Sweating is your body’s natural way of detoxing, it clears the pores and gets rid of all of the nasties in your system. Just make sure you shower well afterwards and you’re on your way to healthy, glowing skin!!!

sweat.jpg

  1. Exercise makes you happy

In the wise words of Elle Woods – Legally Blonde……. ‘Exercise El woodgives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy, and happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t!’.

Ok, so maybe it wouldn’t stand up in court but the girl does have a point. No matter how hard it is to get into your exercise gear and how much willpower it takes to get started, you will never regret a workout. Exercise in any form is scientifically proven to make you happier, so drag yourself out there and you will feel all the better for it!!

 

  1.  Exercise increases your confidence!!

People often assume that increased confidence when exercising is directly related to physical gains but they couldn’t be more wrong. Exercise is empowering! Seeing small improvements in your ability, setting goals and achieving them and just the act of getting out there and getting moving are all amazing confidence boosters……… You are strong, you are beautiful, you are capable, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!!

 

  1.  Exercise improves sleep

Being physically active throughout the day has been proven to improve sleep in most people. There are many articles from sleep experts that discuss the relationships between exercise and sleep.

https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/diet-exercise-and-sleep

https://www.sleepvantage.com.au/sleep-library/diet-exercise-and-sleep.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/sleep-exercise-sleep-in-america_n_2784457

Just make sure you’re not exercising too close to bedtime (within 2-3 hours) as the hormones released during exercise can actually stop some people falling asleep.

 

  1.  Excercise helps ban winter bugs!!!

I hate getting ill!! I’m one of those people who gets grumpy if I can’t leave the house for more than a day, let alone bed! Luckily (for my husband even more so than me) I don’t get sick very often and I put this down to regular exercise. Keeping your immune system in good nic is essential for keeping you well, especially during the cold winter months. Regular exercise combined with a fruit and veg filled diet has been shown to strengthen the immune system so starving off those winter bugs is another great reason to get active!

 

  1. Exercise helps with focus and energy

Not surprisingly many people think that exercising makes you tired and struggle with the thought of exercising before work. While yes, intense exercise can wear you out, moderate activity is actually a great way to increase energy and focus. Getting out for a jog in the morning or a walk during your lunch break is a great way to boost your energy and refocus you for the rest of the day.

 

  1. My personal favourite…….you can learn to play again!!

Exercise isn’t supposed to be a chore. When we were kids we didn’t need to be told to exercise- we spent so much time outside, running around, climbing trees, on the playground. It wasn’t called exercise, it was play time!!! When we get into school, uni, work, I feel most of us lose our ability to play and in turn, move our bodies like we used too! I know I personally am jealous of the strength and agility I had as a 10 year old….but who ever said we had to lose it.

When I started training for obstacle course races I was reintroduced to the concept of functional exercise and play. Half of my training involved mucking around on the playground, learning how to pull myself up on things, crawl under things………Now when I see monkey bars I’m the first one to have a go…. And I’m happy to say, after much practice, I can now swing like a monkey again!!!!

Most adults (and to be honest these days, a lot of kids) need to relearn the art of movement and play! There is something so beautiful and so rewarding about learning to move your body again.

One of my favourite sites for this is GMB. I often post their videos on facebook and recommend having a look!! It’s all about relearning movement, getting your flexibility back and to a certain extent, the art of play!

So there you go; 10 great reasons to exercise that don’t involve fat loss!

So next step………it’s time to get moving. Exercise shouldn’t be connected with size or shape, it’s about you, your health, happiness and wellbeing so find something you enjoy doing!

Studios will often have introductory offers which allow you to try out the classes before committing and there are also some great sites including meetup which provide a platform for community groups and clubs to connect.

Enjoy yourself, learn to play again and I promise you;  your mind, body and spirit will love you for it!!

happiness

Sugar- The Good the Bad and the Ugly!

sugar2

I’ve been wanting to write about the sugar for quite a while now. The dangers associated with excess sugar consumption are becoming more recognised by health bodies, the media and the general public alike. While the issue of sugar is receiving so much publicity, it’s still amazing how many people I have spoken to who, while seemingly knowledgeable and conscious when it comes to health are still confused about what giving up sugar actually means.

The initial responses is always to cut out the morning biscuit or the 3pm chocolate, or to finally stop adding sugar to your tea! While all of these efforts are great and will definitely help people lower their sugar intake, unfortunately the sugar issue we’re facing goes alot further than this.

So why is it such a confusing topic….?

There is so much information out there about the different types of sugar and the impact it can have on your body. Likewise, the arguments and research behind giving up sugar vary significantly depending on who you’re speaking to, dentist, nutritionist, psychologists, doctors…… Also for every article out there encouraging people to pay more attention to their diet, there is another poo pooing the newest health craze and saying that we are all actually in danger of become too health focused and doing damage to our bodies……. (look up orthorexia and you’ll see what I mean).

These articles really frustrate me! While I completely agree that becoming too obsessed with what you’re putting in your body can become dangerous (like any other eating disorder) I also think that 99% of the general population are so far from being in the danger zone for ‘clean eating’ that having more, readily accessible information out there about how to make better food choices can only be a good thing….. Shouldn’t we at least try to understand what we’re putting in our mouths……feeding our family….referring to as food?

So today I don’t want to go into the complex biology behind sugars and how they affect our body, I don’t want to have a debate about how the big corporations are profiting from our miss-education…..all I want to do is try to give you my simple guideline to lowering your sugar intake and more importantly increasing your awareness of where most of your dietary sugar may be hiding.

Before we get started though I think it’s important to understand how much sugar you should actually be consuming…….

How much sugar is too much sugar?

The 2015-2020 dietary guidelines in the US has recommended that people consume no more than 10% of their calories from ‘free’ sugar- this is equivalent to approximately 12 teaspoons for men and 10 teaspoons for women.

The UK sugar guidelines recommend only 5% of your calories come from ‘free’ sugar, approximately 7 teaspoons.

To help put this in real terms, 1 teaspoon of sugar = approximately 4 grams.

So going off the UK guidelines we are talking about 30g of ‘free’ sugar per day as an absolute maximum but many health experts are actually recommending 5 teaspoons as a healthier target which equals 20 grams of sugar per day.

So what are free sugars?

According to the British National Health Service (NHS), ‘free’ sugars refer to  any sugars that are added to our food or drinks or found naturally in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juices. While the latter are still ‘natural’ sugars, they have generally been processed in such a way that has removed a number of the valuable nutrients and more importantly, all of the fibre which is essential for lowering the absorption of sugar into the body.

So now we have clarified the how much and the what……here is my personal guide to sugar, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

 

fruitandvegThe Good- Fruits, Vegetables, Legumes and Dairy

I personally don’t believe people should be too concerned with eating natural unprocessed sugars. Yes, fruit and vegetables contain fructose and they do still add to your daily sugar intake, but they also contain a combination of valuable vitamins and, most importantly, fibre that affects the way the sugar is digested and also its impact on your body. The fibre and water content in fruit and veg also make them very filling and quite hard to over eat. The sugar in fruit and veg is not ‘free’ sugar and therefore, I believe, doesn’t need to be included in your daily sugar count above.

The Bad- Chocolate, Cakes, Soda…… the usual culprits.

While I absolutely agree that these ‘foods’ should be limited in your diet, I also believe that when people eat these snacks they are aware they are eating something sweet and are more conscious of the sugar content.

sweets

Generally when people decide to give up sugar these are the first to go and If you are looking out for your health and trying to cut back on sugar, decreasing these really should be a no brainer. Saying that, if you feel like some dark chocolate or the occasional ice cream, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just be aware that these are not ‘foods’ as such, they should not be eaten as a substitute for a healthy meal. They may give you calories but they lack nutrients and will therefore either lead to over eating or malnourishment. I also promise you that if you lower your sugar consumption to the recommended daily intake, most sugary snack food will actually start to taste almost unbearably sweet!

To give you an idea about just how much sugar is in a serve of some of our treat ‘foods’, see below:

Starburst packet (45 grams)        5.5 teaspoons of sugar          110% daily allowance

Milk chocolate bar (44g)            5.75 teaspoons of sugar             115% daily allowance

M&Ms packet (45 grams)             5.75 teaspoons of sugar           115% daily allowance

Snickers bar (57g)                         7 teaspoons of sugar                   140% daily allowance

Milky Way bar (58g)                      8.5 teaspoons of sugar                170% daily allowance 

So as you can see from the above, consuming chocolate and sweets will almost immediately take you over your recommended sugar intake without even eating 1 serving size, so imagine just how much is in that family sized bag….

If you make the decision to have something sweet, make sure you decide on a portion you’re happy with that and stick to it. Put the rest away, it’s not going anywhere and to be honest, I always think the first square of chocolate is the best anyway.

I debated putting fizzy drink in the ugly category as regardless of the sugar content they tend to be so full of other nasty chemicals and undesirables that they should probably actually sit in a poison category….. If you drink fizzy drink on a daily basis this is your first goal…… stop it…..cut back to one or two cans a week and then if possible down to zero. They are like a nuclear waste explosion on the town that is your health and in my books should be avoided at all costs!!!!

If however it is only the sugar you’re really concerned about…..see below.

Coke (355ml can) 9.75 teaspoons of sugar 195% daily allowance

Mountain Dew (590 ml Bottle)  19.25 teaspoons of sugar 385% daily allowance

And finally- The Ugly……

The foods in my ugly category are there because I believe they are the most dangerous sugars of all- the hidden sugars. These are the foods that are categorised as either savory or healthy foods and these are the ones that can trip up even the most well intended eater. They are not treated as occasional treats but staples in an everyday diet and these, I believe, are the foods you need to focus on if you are seriously looking to cut back on sugar.

Breakfast Cereals….

Hopefully by now people are getting used to the fact that most breakfast cereals should in fact sit in the not ‘foods’ or ‘treats’ category above due to the amount of sugar in them. Even All Bran which to most would probably be considered one of the healthiest choices out there, has 50% of your daily recommended sugar in one 50g serve, the worst offenders have up to 150% in one serve…..and honestly who ever really sticks to the 50g serve when it come to cereal….

Allbran           cocopops

There are a few ok options out there so if you really can’t go past your breakfast cereal in the morning, you just need to know what these are…

I found an oldy but a goodie online that summarises the sugar content in teaspoons and percentages of some of our best known Australian brands. http://www.howmuchsugar.com/resources/Documents/atp.pdf

I also recommend looking at https://iquitsugar.com/low-sugar-cereals/ for some of the best options for yourself and your family.

Low Fat & Fruit Yogurts…..

Sticking with the breakfast theme as this is perhaps the most vulnerable time of the day for sugar intake, next we have our yogurts. With the demonisation of all fats over the past 20 or so years, the new low fat food revolution took hold! Everything you could think of became available in low fat versions. Problem was, to ensure these foods still tasted yummy after the fat was removed, companies started to up the sugar. So as a general rule of thumb, if it’s low fat it will be higher sugar.
chobani

 

 

Chobani, which is considered one of the newest, healthiest options contains 16g of sugar per serving! That’s 4 teaspoons of sugar in each serving and 80% of your daily recommended intake!yoplait

 

 

Yoplait, another family favourite has around 23g of sugar per serve. That’s 5.75 teaspoons of sugar in a single serve, 115% of your recommended intake.

 

 

activia

 

Activia is another brand that has been touted as the healthy option for families. It also has 16g of sugar per serve, 4 teaspoons of sugar in each serving and 80% of your daily recommended intake!

 

 

 

If you enjoy yogurt, which I personally do, greek yogurts and natural yogurts are by far the best choice, they have all of the benefits of yogurt with no added sugars. If you want to add a sweetness to them go for fresh or frozen berries, and don’t be afraid of full fat natural yogurt, it is healthy, creamy, delicious and filling!

So hopefully you can see from the above examples, some of the foods we consider healthy are actually filled with added sugars, and we haven’t even finished breakfast yet.

Some of the other offenders that are generally considered healthy but contain a surprising amount of sugar:

Breakfast drinks and breakfast bars….

Up and Go for example has three types of added sugar including cane sugar, fructose and corn syrup and contains a whopping 19 g of sugar per serve.

Smoothies and Fruit Juices and health drinks….

vitaminwaterVitamin water, which admittedly has been one of my favourites in the past can have up to 77g of sugar (19 teaspoons) in one bottle!

Smoothies bars have popped up everywhere in the past 15 years and are generally seen as a healthy option when it comes to a snack. While they do contain vitamins, most juices and smoothies pack up to 70 grams of sugar per serve and should be consumed sparingly (and in kids servings size only).

 

 

Sauces/Dressings……..

There is around a teaspoon of sugar in every tablespoon of tomato sauce; chilli and BBQ sauce containing even more. Like with the yogurts above, low fat salad dressings often include sugar as one of their top 3 ingredients to replace the flavour that’s been lost by removing the fats.

And the list goes on…..Pasta sauces…..Bread……Baked Beans……Muesli Bars….. Protein Bars……Lunch box snacks…… if it’s been processed, it’s extremely likely it’s had sugar added to it.

So what’s my point….

I believe we should be accountable for our own health and make more educated choices about what we’re putting in our bodies. We shouldn’t trust the packaging when it tells us something is low fat, natural, low sugar…….it may be……but compared to what…?

It can sometimes be difficult to decipher the labels and work out what the serving size is but I find the following guide helpful:

If something contains less than 5 grams of sugar per 100 grams it is in the low sugar range and therefore a good choice, if a product lists sugar in the first 3 ingredients, it is probably worth avoiding.

If you really can’t be bothered reading labels then an even better option, don’t buy anything with a label. Stick to single ingredient, natural whole food and then you won’t have to worry about any added ingredients!

Over the upcoming months I’m going to start posting some recipes for healthy home cooked versions of some normally sugar filled family favourites; baked beans, tomato sauce, protein bars and pasta sauces to name a few. In the meantime if you’re interested in reading further there are also some great resources out there to get you started….

Some blogs, movies, articles authors I recommend reading/watching….…..

http://thatsugarfilm.com/

https://iquitsugar.com/  

http://www.howmuchsugar.com/

Happy Reading. xx

 

Hello from a long lost friend…….

I can’t believe it’s been three months since my last post. I made a commitment to myself at the beginning of the year to fit more creative time into my life and to continue writing every week about anything and everything that took my interest…..it was all going so well……but then I stopped.

Why……..

Partly because life got in the way. I started working 5 days a week again and found that I was so sick of staring at a computer by the end of the day that the last thing I wanted to do was be in front of another screen…even for pleasure.

Reason (excuse) number two is that I put so much into my last post I think I actually used up all of my posting powers!!! My happiness post ‘The Art of Happy’ was such a labour of love that I found that once I’d finished it I had nothing more I wanted to share….

And finally and maybe one of the biggest reasons….I found out that people were actually reading!! Eeek! While every person who writes a blog ‘I’m sure’ dreams of having hundreds of thousands of readers throughout the land and having their opinion actively sort after in the blogging community, there is also something oh so therapeutic and comforting about writing into an empty space…..speaking your thoughts without any care or criticism. Creative Bliss!! So once I realised people were actually reading my blog I must say I got a little freaked out! I started getting some really positive feedback from friends and family that I suddenly started second guessing myself, getting concerned about whether what I was writing was interesting enough…….insightful enough….entertaining enough…….

One of our lovely friends from the UK told my husband he had started to read one of my posts and decided it was way to positive and upbeat for him and therefore ‘not his cup of tea’. I had to laugh, if you happen to know this guy, he’s definitely not a target reader! But still, flattered he gave it a shot! 🙂

Anyway, so here I am. I’m back online and ready to start writing again. It won’t all be good……. it won’t all be applicable to you………you won’t necessarily agree with what I have to say…..but hopefully you will find something interesting…..something insightful….something entertaining or at least something to make the morning commute go faster!!

With the winter months well and truly on us I think it’s time for some warm hugs, hot drinks and wholesome stews….so rug up tight and we’ll speak again soon….promise.

Lauren x

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The Art of Happy

thai

Some people find being happy easy, and they are lucky.

In the modern world, as we have more and more available to us, you would think it would be a lot easier to be happy. But for some reason it seems to be the opposite, it feels like the more we have, the more happiness eludes us. It is so easy to get caught up in what is culturally expected, what makes other people happy and the constant stream of media telling us what we really need to be happy, truly happy.

People are also extremely different when it comes to what makes them happy, there is no one size fits all. For some people it is success, for others it’s family, for some people it’s adventure, for others its security.

I would like to think I am generally a happy person. I have always found happiness in the simple things in life even from a young age. Life excited me and I wanted to go out and taste, see, live everything the world had to offer. I always lived by the motto, say yes now and deal with the consequences later (throughout my 20s this admittedly led me down a few shady trails- but what doesn’t kill you and all that…). Things like being by the ocean, a beautiful sunset, a rainstorm, walking barefoot, running, dancing, singing have all had the ability to put an instant smile on my face and give me that little boost that makes you grateful to be alive in that very moment.

And I’ll be the first to admit, it is a lot easier to find yourself in these little moments when you’re on holiday, travelling the world post uni, spending time with friends in high school, or running around with the neighbours as a child. The more we get caught up in stress of adult life, working 9-5..6…7….8, worrying about bills, having to think about your health, putting food on the table, caring for family, the more we get drawn away from the basic levels of childish happiness and into a world where happiness is dependent on success, money, achievements and (even more ridiculously) other people’s perception of you.

There is a lot of literature out there about finding happiness in whatever situation you are in, enjoying the journey and the moments as opposed to continuously focusing on the destination. Trouble is, we live in a society that focuses on goals and targets as it gives us an endpoint, a purpose, something to work towards. And there is nothing wrong with having a goal, the danger of this is when our happiness becomes tied up in these goals. When I get to 65kg I’ll be happy, when I find a nice guy I’ll be happy, when I buy a house I’ll be happy. If we get into this cycle of happiness through achievement, as far as I am concerned, there are only two outcomes. One, we reach our target (hooray), enjoy the short lived feeling of success and then we either move the goalposts or set a new target for our happiness. Option two, we don’t manage to reach our goal and spend life feeling like we don’t deserve happiness because of our failures.

It is by no means an easy thing to do but we need to somehow reprogram ourselves- stop allowing our happiness to be reliant on our current situation. There is a saying that happiness = reality- expectations. Based on this the solution is quite simple- if our only expectation is to be alive, in theory, we will wake up every day being happy for everything around us……..as beyond waking up, everything else is actually a bonus!!

We can simply enjoy the fact that we are…..

As I said, it is by no means easy but what is important to realise is that happiness is a mindset. You make the choice to be happy. It is not reliant on any outside circumstances or forces. It is about how you approach every day, every situation, every conversation.

Now obviously you’re not going to be happy all the time!

Sometimes things happen and they are shit.

Sometimes you just might feel a bit sad- and that’s ok.

You’re allowed to be sad sometimes but you need to be able to bring yourself out of it. Look at the positives and learning opportunities in every situation. It’s up to you and you alone to take control of your happiness. It’s the one thing we are entitled to and as far as I am concerned, the only thing that really matters in life, so stop putting yours on hold.

Like everything, happiness takes practice. It’s unlikely you can just wake up tomorrow and go, that’s it, I’m going to be happy from here on in. If that does work for you, then brilliant, but for other people it will take time and practice. It is actually a lot easier to be self indulgent, wallow in the fact that life has dealt us a rough hand and blame everyone but ourselves for everything that happens in our lives. If this sounds familiar, stop, now…….. it is a sad and lonely path and it won’t do anyone any good.

Below are a few tips to get you started, hopefully help you change your mindset, start to find the happiness you deserve and in turn, help spread that happiness to others!! I know I said that no-one is responsible for your happiness (and neither you for there’s), but being surrounded by positive, happy people definitely helps!! If you haven’t read the ‘Pig of Happiness’ by Edward Monkton, please do- it is a beautiful and simplistic illustration of this phenomenon.

 

pigofhappy

So, let’s get started……..

Stop blaming other people. As mentioned above, no one is responsible for your happiness other than you. Blame is pointless and will only make you bitter!

Practice gratitude. By focusing on the things you are grateful for in life, it will help you change your perspective. For 30 days, spend a couple of minutes writing down the things that you are grateful for. It may be difficult at first but eventually it will become second nature and you will start to realise that you are looking at the positives without even trying.

Don’t compare yourself to others. There is a beautiful poem the my mum shared with me when I was very young. She used to have a poster of it on her wall and it has stayed very close to my heart since. I often reflect back to it in hard times or when I need to remind myself what really matters. I recommend reading Desiderata, read it slowly with and open heart and open mind and even if there is a single passage that speaks to you, it may help.

Slow down. If you are constantly rushing through life, stressed out and burnt out you are going to find it very hard to register a moment let alone stop and appreciate one. Just stop. Take a look around. Where are you? Who are you with? What are you doing? Life is made up of these moments, if you’re missing the moments, you’re missing  life

Share your happiness. Happiness is infectious. Do something every day that makes someone else’s life a little better, whether it be something as simple as thanking the bus driver or opening the door for someone or paying someone a compliment. It’s not hard to be polite and friendly but it seems to be becoming a lost art! Start interacting with people in a positive manner and you may just make someone else’s day!

Embrace change. You can’t control everything in life and the sooner you realise that even the best laid plans can go tits up, the happier you will be. Things change, and who knows, the change may even be for the better, you just have to be open to it, go with the flow a bit more and see what adventure comes your way!

And finally,

Do something every day that make you happy.

This life is yours, you only have one so why waste it being miserable?

If you were told you only had one year to live, would you change what you’re doing, how you’re living?

Happiness is not about tomorrow, happiness is about the now.

So if you’re not happy, it’s time to figure out why, and start to make changes.

Seriously….. what are you waiting for?

happy

The art of less.

de-clutter-mm

So, it’s been a busy couple of weeks.

Officially in Melbourne for 38 days and both of us have started new jobs, we have a house and right on schedule (and without any hassle from customs- despite the number of suspect international trinkets we had declared) our boxes have arrived! Yey!!

Things are finally starting to fall into place, the house is starting to look like our home, and……more importantly, my kitchen is starting to look like a kitchen!

For the past month we have been making extremely good use of a single, multifunctional paella pan I picked up from Ikea. Now, just to clarify, I have never (and possibly will never) make paella, but it is amazing how versatile these things are, and more to the point, how little you can actually get away with using in the kitchen!! The pan has been our breakfast BBQ, mixing bowl, fry pan, slow cooker, baking tray and kettle! I must admit this is maybe a little too minimalist….and my cooking has taken a slight turn for the rustic, but we just didn’t need any more stuff! We knew the boxes were arriving and we knew what we had packed (kind of), so the thought of buying more pots, pans, kettles etc to fill the house, just didn’t make sense! So, while I must say the paella pan was a mini stroke of genius, after over a month of bare bone cooking, I am definitely happy to have my kitchen back. My slow cooker was literally in the house for 2 hours before it was unpacked and put to work- slow cooked chicken curry anyone…..!

But as far as the rest of our ‘stuff’ goes, we’ve kind of been enjoying being without it. It’s amazing how much you can accumulate over the years, and despite the fact that my husband and I have had a natural culling process every time we’ve moved house, I swear we still have so much stuff!! The hardest stuff is always the sentimental things, that book that reminds you of….or the cards from……or the keyring you picked up from…….whatever it is, the longer you live, the more you pick up.

Over the couple of months, my siblings and I had the unfortunate task of having to clear out our dads house and it really was a reality check. Now I wouldn’t have said dad was a hoarder but holly hell!! There was so much junk, and not even sentimental stuff (although he had a lot of that too), but just stuff. Those maybe one day I’ll need it type things……you know, like 10 spare cupboard wheels, 20 screw drivers, old oars, 5 tents with no matching poles!! If you ever hear yourself saying……you never know when you might…….. this may come in handy……..I’m sure I’ll use this someday……or my favourite, I know it’s broken but you never know when…….please step away, put it down, we need to talk!

Don’t worry, I can relate. I too am adverse to throwing stuff out. And if you hate waste, you’re naturally going to want to keep things. Problem is- if you keep things, you end up with a lot of stuff, and if you have a lot of stuff, you lose track of where everything is, and if you can’t find something, you’ll generally buy another one…..fast forward 5 years- 10 spare cupboard wheels, 20 screw drivers……you get the picture!

So what can you do? What’s going to stop you from this hoarding epidemic?

I believe there is a two prong attack, one is addressing the current situation and the second is learning to create better habits so clearing out an minimising becomes a way of living.

So, step one, we’re going to need to do an initial clean out. Think of it as a spring clean. The aim is to have everything that you own out in the open and start an initial cull. I guarantee there will be things that you will throw out straight away with little decision making required. You may need to work on one room a weekend, but however long it takes, it is important. If it’s broken, throw it out, if it doesn’t fit, get rid of it. If you’ve never used it, give it away. I would normally have one place for throw away and one place for charity (one man’s trash and all that….)

Now it’s on to the harder stuff. A good idea for your maybes, (can’t bare to throw aways but never uses) is to start a 6 month box. In every room of the house have a box or cupboard that is your ‘maybe’ space. Put everything you’re not sure about in this box and mark down the date you will revisit the box- 6 months from now. If in the next 6 months there is something in the box you need to use, great! Take it out, use it, and don’t put it back in the box! Give it a home somewhere in your house as it is obviously something you will still utilise occasionally. If however, there is anything left in your box at the end of the 6 months, give it away. You don’t use it, you don’t need it, you probably didn’t even remember it was there!!

The international travel rule is another one the my husband and I started using- by necessity initially, but have now adopted as an idea for our 6 month clear out. It’s very simple- if you had to pay for this item to be transported across the world, would you? This can be especially helpful for the more sentimental items like cards, letters, random collections you have picked up on your travels! If it doesn’t meet the international travel rule….maybe it’s time to get rid of them.

Cycling your wardrobe is another good way to get a clear view of what you do and don’t use. If you have hanging space, a great idea is to hang all of your close on the hanger in one direction. As you wear something, put it back in the cupboard but facing the opposite way. When you get to the end of the season, 6-7 months, anything that is still facing in the original direction can be given away. Another idea- when the season changes, leave all of your winter/summer clothes in another closet (perhaps in the spare room). As you wear the clothes, put them back into your main closet. At the end of the season, if there are any clothes in your spare closet that you still haven’t worn, give them away.

There are so many benefits to living simply and I think these days, everyone just gets caught up in owning so much stuff! Hopefully the above will help you decide what you can and can’t live without and enable you to create a fairly clutter free, junk free existence. The next step though is accessing your buying patterns.

I’m going to get a little nostalgic here but bare with me.

There was a time, long long ago, where if someone really wanted something they would have to save for it. I swear!! People would save for weeks, months years to get the new bike, new TV, new cooker, new jacket. While this took patience and I’m sure could be massively frustrating, this ensured that by the time you had saved up for that thing, you knew you really wanted it! And more importantly, because it was so special to you and had been such an investment, people would value and care for these things. These days with the invention of credit and disposable fashion, disposable goods, cheap plastic crap, we have created a culture of now! People will by things on a whim or because they were in a certain mood or because they read a certain article. And undoubtedly, once the wind changes, or the mood changes, or the fashion changes, this thing will be put to the back of the cupboard and never used again. I’m not judging as I am by no means immune to this, but I do believe this culture of buying does really need to change.

So, all I am saying is before you buy something, pause, take a step back and wait. If you really want something, no matter how expensive or inexpensive it is, wait for a week, two weeks, a month, till your next birthday!! Set yourself a good old fashioned savings target, or even link it in to some of your other goals. If I manage to gym 5 days a week for the next month, I will buy myself those jeans etc. I promise that if you make yourself wait, you will either decide you probably don’t want it after all or when you do buy it, you will appreciate it that much more. Start to consciously purchase and you should naturally start to buy less ‘stuff’.

And what about other people buying you stuff? Twice a year, at Christmas and birthday time, people generally end up with a bunch of new stuff, all of it appreciated but 99% of it not needed (or even wanted). And what about the buyer. I have often found myself out Christmas shopping knowing that the person doesn’t need what I’m buying but still feeling obligated to get something. What do you buy the person who has everything?? A book on simple living…………. So here’s an idea, tell your friends and family that this year you don’t want any stuff- instead, you want experiences. This might be something as simple as a picnic with the family where you don’t have to organise a thing, or a day out with friends, or something more elaborate like a trip away or a sky dive. Experiences are going to stay with you a lot longer, add to you as a person and won’t clog up the cupboard.

There are some amazing books and articles out there helping and advising people about simple living and they are really worth a read. De-cluttering your home will help de-clutter your mind and ultimately lead to lower stress and a greater appreciation for the things you do decide to keep.

 

 

My friend the coconut!

coconut1

I love coconuts! They are one of the most versatile, feel good fruits ever and now with the availability of coconut products taking over the world health food market, you no longer have to be sitting on a beach in the tropics to enjoy one! Though, if you are……lucky you!

Sports drink, breakfast snack, cooking oil, tasty curries, delectable desserts, moisturizer, hair treatment, tonic……you name it, coconuts can do it! The de-demonisation of the coconut, cholesterol and fats in general has been a happy time for me and I am never without some form of coconut in my cupboard!

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is a brilliant substitute to other cooking oils as it doesn’t lose it’s integrity when heated over a certain temperature. It can also be used as a healthy alternative for butter and margarine.

It is full of healthy medium chain fatty acids and good cholesterol and despite some bad press can actually help your body metabolise fat and therefore help as opposed to hinder your weight loss goals. Admittedly, fats are still high in calories so you do need to factor this into your daily food requirements but if you are already eating a fairly high protein, high fat diet, it’s a great substitute to your animal fats.

There is an ever increasing number of coconut oil products out there ranging in price and taste so it can be difficult to work out which to buy. So what’s the difference between the brands? Generally it comes down to the quality and age of the fruit, the method used to expel the oil and the processing that takes place afterwards. This determines both the quality of the oil, the taste and the colour.

Refined vs Unrefined

This refers to the processing of the coconut oil. The more the oil is refined the less ‘coconutty’ it tends to smell and taste. Refining also increases the smoke point making it better for cooking at high temperatures. The refining process does remove some of the health benefits and you have to be very careful about how the oil is refined (as some companies use chemical refining processes.)

Organic

There are no genetically modified coconuts and there are very few pesticides used on coconuts so if you find a well priced organic coconut oil then go for it, but I wouldn’t pay over the odds just to go organic (in this case).

Cold Pressed/Expeller Pressed

This is the method of (chemical free) extraction to get the oil from the fruit. Both use the similar method of extraction but cold pressed oils are done under a controlled temperature environment, ensuring that the temperatures remain under 120 degrees F. Again, this has more influence on the taste as opposed to the quality of the oil.

So which one do you choose???

Above is a brief outline of some of the terms used to define the different types of coconut oils on the market but to be honest with you, some countries have slightly different definitions and guidelines for producing and marketing oils so even the above can be misleading. My advice is to find a brand that is readily available and within your budget, either in your local health food store or online and do your own research. Like with everything we consume, it’s important to understand where the product has come from, how environmentally aware the company is and exactly how this specific oil is produced and why. The coconut oil you choose will also depend on you individual requirements and personal tastes. If you’re using it to moisturise, it’s not necessary to have the highest quality, tastiest oil on the market. If you’re using it in raw desserts and eating it straight from the jar however, taste and quality is going to be extremely important.  

Some of my favourite brands are below- I purchased these in London from the local health food store but they are also available in Australia. I am yet to do some thorough investigation into the best products readily available on the Australian market but as soon as I do- I’ll let you know.

Lucy Bee

lucybee

Vita Coco

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Biona Organic

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So most will agree that coconuts are yummy and that coconut oil is a healthy substitute for other cooking and baking fats, but what other uses have I found for the coconut so far??

Personally I cannot recommend coconut oil enough for runners. After years of long distance events and dealing with damaged toenails and feet, I had finally resigned to the fact that I would probably never wear flip flops again!! I had tried everything to try and get my feet back in a healthy sandal worthy state and had had little success. I had read so much about the antibacterial and moisturising benefits of coconut oil that I decided to give it a shot and to be honest, the results were amazing! Not only does the coconut oil help you avoid potential fungus and bacteria but it also moisturises the nail bed and promotes nail growth. If you have tried some off the counter treatments and had little success or you just prefer the natural methods- I recommend giving it a shot!! http://www.newhealthadvisor.com/Coconut-Oil-for-Nails.html

Another product I have found on the market which admittedly is not home made but does use coconut oil and was a lifesaver for me is Dr Bronner’s liquid soups. I have had some troubles in the past with allergies and eczema and to be honest I am still unsure exactly which ingredients are responsible for my reactions. During a particularly bad reaction I decided to go off all face washes and moisturisers until I could find one that was ‘safe’. I was told by the doctor to find a very mild soap to use on my face until the reaction went down so I tried Dr Bronner’s liquid soap. It using all natural ethically sourced ingredients and specified the benefits for sensitive skin so I figured it was worth a shot!! Needless to say, it worked like a charm, so I continued to use it as my fash wash and cleanser from then onward. The best thing about this soap as well, it can actually replace the majority of your household cleaners. And……..it’s available in Australia. (Lucky, as my UK supply is just running out.) Admittedly, I am yet to try it as a hair wash or dishwasher substitute but It does make sense…..watch this space!!

DrBronner

So as my love affair with the coconut continues I promise you I will be posting a lot more about it’s uses and benefits- after all, I am still in the infant years of my coconut exploration! If you have any recommendations for good products on the australian market or if you have had any success using coconut oil as a substitute for modern chemical based products I am all ears! The ideal would be to replace every single household product including my make-up, cleaners, hair wash etc with a biodegradable and natural alternative, better for us, better for the environment, winning all round!!

Finding the right gym for you!

There are so many different types of gyms out there ranging from the cheap and cheerful, no contract, minimal management, key card entry type style through to the ‘full monty’, spa’s, swimming pools, yoga, juice bars- you name it, they have it!!

So how do you find the right gym for you?

There are so many options out there, and while some people have the attitude, a gym is a gym is a gym, it is actually a very important decision to make.

Why, you ask?

Because, regardless of what you pay for your gym, if it doesn’t suit your needs, you’re not going to get results. If don’t get results, you’re going to get unmotivated. If you get unmotivated, you’re going to stop going. And if you stop going, it is a massive waste of money! Be it a little bit of money or a lot of money, it’s still a waste!

Now I know there are some people out there who still believe (or hope) that just signing up to a gym is enough (you know who you are!!). And to be honest, gyms love these type of people- a steady monthly income with no wear and tear on the gym, brilliant!!

But when it come to your health goals…..

I’m sorry to say but just belonging to a gym is not enough.

Likewise, turning up to the gym is not enough- it can be great for your social life and it’s great to get out and about but…….

If you want to get fitter, stronger, faster, more flexible, you are going to need to break a sweat…….sorry, but you are. 🙂

Sooooo, you’ve made the decision to join a gym (go you!!), next step- finding a gym that’s right for you.

Firstly, you need to work out your goals and what type of gym goer you are….

1). The Gym Newbie – ‘Motivated but fairly clueless!’

  • This is the first gym you’ve joined
  • You’re not sure how to use any of the equipment in the gym
  • You have no idea how to form a well rounded workout plan
  • You have a fair bit of motivation and are excited to get started in the gym but need to get into a habit/routine.

As a complete newbie to the gym you’re probably yet to discover what type of exercise you enjoy, so it’s important to join a gym that’s an all rounder.

Equipment– I would recommend going for a gym that gives you access to classes, cardio equipment and weights.

Contract or no contract?- Joining a gym with a contract may just give you that extra motivation and accountability you need to commit and form some good habits- just work out how many times a week you need to go and make sure you’re getting your monies worth.

Classes- Check out what time the classes are on and what the signup process is. If the classes don’t fit in with your schedule or they’re always full by the time you get there, you’re going to be paying extra for a ‘benefit’ you can never take advantage of.

Staff/Supervision- As you are new to the gym I would recommend getting one that is staffed full time or at least in the hours you intend to go. Generally in a well staffed gym the trainers will be happy to offer you advice and tips without signing you up to a full PT package. Some gyms are really great at creating a community with their clients and being on first name basis with the staff can be great motivation to keep coming back as well.

Personal Training- If you can find a gym membership that offers you 1-2 personal training sessions free as part of your sign up, great. Let the personal trainer know what your fitness goals are and they should be able to point you in the right direction. At this stage it’s probably not going to be necessary to pay for a regular personal trainer as everything in the gym will be new and exciting and any exercise is better than what you’ve previously been doing. Just follow the Personal Trainer’s instructions for the next month or so and then if you find you’re getting unmotivated, bored or confused, pay for an additional PT session each month to refresh your goals and plans.

Location- Location is essential regardless of what type of gym you’re looking for. If the location isn’t convenient for you, it can be enough of a barrier to entry to stop you going. Getting to the gym is half the battle. If you turn up and you’re in your kit, you can generally push yourself the final step and work out. If your gym is close to your house or on your way to or from work it will help. You can’t really make excuses if you have to pass your gym on daily basis.

Cost- Price is completely up to you and your budget but at this stage I would say, go with a medium price gym. Once you know what you enjoy it will be easier to choose a more specialised option if needed. If you’re choosing the gym just because it has a pool, spa or squash court, I guarantee you will either never use these extra facilities (therefore a waste of money), or you will only use the extra facilities (so join a squash club).

crunches

2). The Class Junky

  • You love group exercise!!
  • You’ve tried doing weights or cardio and can never really stick to it.
  • You love trying different classes and having a different workout every day.

Basically, if you exercise for the enjoyment and general fitness as opposed to any specific fitness, weight or strength goals, then standard gym classes are fine. They’re fun, they keep you fit, and if that’s all you’re after, great. If you are however interested in improving your performance, it can be very hard to get progressive gains in the standard gym class environment. The workouts are generally the same, there is no-one there to push you, and it’s unlikely you’ll be able to track improvements.

If you do want to improve your fitness and work towards specific goals but still like to train in a group environment it may be worth looking at some more bootcamp style training or classes- boxing, dance classes, 8 week bootcamp challenges etc.

Equipment- If you join a gym that purely does classes, they will generally have all the equipment there. I have seen the occasional boxing class that asks you to bring your own gloves but they will make this pretty clear before hand.

Contract or no contract? If you decide to go for the more boot camp or class style of group exercise, there are a number of fitness companies out there that will sell on a class by class basis or a one off payment for 3 months of boot camps etc. If you buy upfront or bulk classes you are generally likely to get more of a discount than going one off.

Classes– again- look at the timetable, if the class times don’t work for you, you’re not going to go.

Staff/Supervision- It is important that you either like or at least respect the person running the class. Your instructor can make a massive difference to the quality of the class and your gains. If you can, try out a class with each of the different instructors to make sure the quality is relatively consistent.  

Cost- Costs can vary massively depending on the location and the class type. At least when you pay for a ‘bundle’ of classes, you won’t be wasting money but it can also be an expensive way to train if you’re planning on 4-5 classes per week. Another idea is to look online for introductory offers. Some clubs offer $30 for 30 days etc and it’s a great way to test the gym/club.

3). The ‘Maybe Tomorrow’ Low Self Motivator

  • You do really want to get fit but it’s just too hard/ you’re too busy/ you don’t know how..
  • You’ve signed up to a number of fitness classes/gyms etc before but never really had results
  • You can (and will) always come up with an excuse to miss a workout.

Gym memberships, classes, boot camp, dance; name it, you’ve signed up to it. Problem is, unless someone else is dragging your butt to the gym, you’re not going to turn up.

My advice here- unless you find a buddy that will make you accountable for turning up to the gym every day, don’t join a gym. It will be a waste of money and will continue to struggle. You need to develop your own love for working out and reason for turning up and until you do this, there is no point.

If you are however determined to get fit and just need that extra push, you need to get a personal trainer. Not the type that will just run one session a week and then give you a self directed workout for the other 4 days, you need a full time PT!

Location- The good thing about hiring a PT outside of the gym is that they will generally be able to bring the workout to you. You don’t even need to go anywhere!! It will save you time and you won’t be able to make any excuses.

Cost- Having a full time PT won’t be cheap but until you are able to self motivate, I am afraid this is the only option. And if they are good they will do a lot more than just train you. The benefit of having a PT outside of the gym is they can be more like a lifestyle coach- they will educate you on diet as well and help you understand that health and happiness requires a 360 approach.

functional gym

4). The ‘Do Your Own Thing’ King!

  • You’re confident with the gym equipment and are happy to work out with little assistance.
  • You find most of your training plans online
  • You like to do a mix of functional training and weights

If you fit into this category, the gym world is really your oyster- you can focus more on location and the quality of the equipment in the gym as opposed to the added extras.

Equipment- It is important to make sure that the gym you’re joining has the equipment you require and more importantly- enough of it. It’s great that they have, a punching bag/ TRX/ battle ropes etc but if the gym gets busy and there isn’t enough to go around, this may cause some problems.

Contract/No Contract- Generally these gyms will offer the option of no contract but will offer a discount if you sign up for a longer period of time.

Classes- If there are some functional classes available, great. Sometime they will be charged in addition to the membership but it’s great to have that option. It may just help you push that little bit further, or give you a couple of new ideas for workouts.

Staff/Supervision- Supervision is not really an issue for you but it is worth checking what time the gym is supervised and making sure the security measures are there to ensure your safety getting to and from the gym and during workouts.

Personal Training- Most of these gyms will have personal trainers available if you need to get some fresh ideas or get that extra push you sometimes need.

Cost- The rise of the no contract, well equip, 24hr gym has been a revelation for you. No longer will you pay through the nose for classes you will never use or get locked into a contract just because there’s a swimming pool in the complex. You can get some amazing deals on these gyms, and so you should! After all, you’re kinda just borrowing their equipment aren’t you….

So hopefully, the above has helped and you’re now a bit more confident about which gym to go for and what you should be paying in order to get the experience and results you’re after. I admit, there really are so many different types of gym personalities out there and so many gyms to choose from that it can be hard to put anyone into one of fours boxes but as a general rule of thumb:

  • New to the gym- sign up to an annual contract and everything included type gym.
  • If you’re not comfortable with the gym, you will need more supervision and therefore, don’t sign up to the cheap, barely staffed options.
  • If you have lot’s of money- go for your life, get a spa, juice bar, massage, yoga, personal trainer on call gym. I know I would!
  • If you only want classes, don’t pay for everything else as well
  • If you lack motivation or need additional guidance, pay for a PT. They are worth it as long as you’re benefiting in some way, be it motivation, advice, guidance or a workout buddy.

And finally

  • Find somewhere you enjoy. If you don’t love it, regardless of how ‘good’ the gym is, you won’t go. The gym can be like a home away from home and finding one that you’re comfortable with will do wonders for your fitness goals!!