Monday, 15 September 2014

Six Habits of Highly Healthy People

Sometimes you look at people and wonder where it all went so right. Fit, slim, toned, defined, full of energy, healthy, happy - however you describe these people, they make having it all it look easy. What's their secret you ask? Luckily I had the good sense to get them to tell me - and then I wrote it all down. Read on...

1. Be true to yourself

'Don't buy into every article you read, trainer you hear from, or diet craze rumoured about' says vblogger Erica Lin of American Cheer Queen, since 'everyone's body is different, and everyone has different needs'. She also believes that just because something is 'healthy' doesn't mean you 'have' to eat it, and likewise 'just because your friends all swear by gluten-free or juice-cleansing doesn't mean you should do it too'. 'Ultimately' she adds, 'find what lifestyle works best for you - find something you enjoy!'. 

2. Make exercise a priority


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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
'The #1 thing I have my weight loss clients do is to make their activity a priority in their day', says Susan Campbell from The Weight Loss Laboratory. 'I have them do their workout first thing in the morning before the craziness of everyday life gets in the way and decreases their chances of exercising at all' she continues. She also recommends that they schedule their activity on their calendar like it's a doctor appointment. 'They see it on the calendar and know they can't break the appointment with themselves', she explains.  


Thursday, 11 September 2014

50 ways to work out


The other Saturday morning I was up bright and early to get to my BodyStep class. Before I set off, I had to wait for my husband to return from a training session for his upcoming sprint triathlon (completed at the weekend since you ask). As he came home he saw our neighbour and a friend just setting off for a cycle around the tri course too. As I drove up to the gym, there were already plenty of people out and about running and cycling along the A4. The gym was packed too, I'd had to book a week in advance to get into this class, but since Saturday opening time is 7.30am, there were already sweaty bodies pouring out of the Spin studio and yogis looked seriously stretchy and chill. Suddenly it occurred to me that I must live in the healthiest place in the country. Here we all were - up and at it - and it wasn't even 9.30am!

50 ways to work out
Anyone want to join me?
How lucky am I - and my kids - that we live in a place that has so much to offer and so many ways to keep fit? In a couple of weeks (Sept 21st) the recreation field behind my house will play host to a family fun race called 'Colour Me Twyford' with spectators asked to cover the runners in colourful powder, the month after sees another family event with 1m fun runs for adults and kids (Oct 5th). While these are small, charity events, more serious competitors can head to the local country park, where you can find a series of 5 and 10k runs, as well as duathlons (the next one is October 12th, and I'll be there if other newbies want to join me!) and aquathlons. Other organised activities at the lakes at Dinton Pastures include sailing, kayaking and stand up paddle boarding. Runners have also have a local parkrun, just three and half miles away from Twyford, with half marathons in the larger towns nearby - Reading, Maidenhead, Marlow and Henley. And for those that prefer trails, there's the Cliveden Cross Country. But if you're really up for a challenge (and like mud, and you know, being electrocuted - who doesn't?) there's the Tough Mudder event in Fawley in May.

50 ways to work out
Triumphant at the triathlon
With the Thames on our doorstep, there's also rowing, sailing and open water swimming to enjoy in the nearby towns, with loads of opportunities to enter events for all levels of abilities in both Henley and Marlow. Local villages also hold regattas, with a mix of fun and competitive races. Dorney Lake, 
which hosted the rowing and kayak events during the Olympic and Paralympic Games for London 2012, is about 13 miles away and plays host to rowing, canoeing, triathlons, duathlons, aquathlons, half marathons and other road races. Many people just pop along to cycle or run the 5k track around the lake too. If wake boarding and water skiing are more your thing, there's Liquid Leisure boat and cable park in Datchet.


Monday, 1 September 2014

'Wild' camping at Inwood

Camping with the kids is always a good idea. And if you take a gaggle of other mums and their offspring the idea just gets better. So, for the fifth year running some ladies I've known since my very first ante-natal class and I, gathered up our children and headed off to mark the end of the summer hols with a mass camping trip.

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This year would be our second at Inwood Camping in Farleigh Wallop (near Basingstoke). The site combines grassy meadows and mixed woodlands, and you can choose to pitch in large open spaces or within the woods themselves, arranging your tents as you please. This freedom from many of the rules typically associated with campsites that use marked pitches and don't allow the flexibility large groups often need, is one of the reasons we returned. That and the fact you can have real campfires to toast your marshmallows on (you can hire a special grill for a decent BBQ from the site, and you can buy the wood you'll need for the fire). Us mummies get to chop the firewood and build the fire while the kids gather a bit of kindling.

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The kids love having the freedom to explore the woods, building dens and playing make believe. There's many a thing to discover as you walk about the country estate - from wildlife, to the camps of previous kiddies visiting, to a few follies and a gentleman on a fine-looking mount. The mums meanwhile appreciate the fresh air, catching up with friends (and actually finishing a sentence for the first time in five weeks) and the chance to let the kids off the leash in a safe environment. Put simply it's a lovely, stress-free end to the summer.

Do you camp with your kids? And have you been with a big bunch of friends? What do you love about time spent in a tent - and what do you hate? Please share your thoughts and any recommendations in the comment box below.

Thanks for reading
Vanessa.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Tips to beat school holiday stress

Much as we love our kids, six weeks (or thereabouts) with the family can end up being an intense time. Often we are balancing work and children, breaking from normal routines and watching siblings develop their relationship - teetering between best-ever friends and worst enemies. You could be trying to entertain your offspring without breaking the bank and trying to avoid the summer 'brain drain' all the while wanting to make memories that you and your children can treasure for years to come. Plus the house is awash with junk modelling, beach combing finds and rediscovered toys - the less charitable might even say it resembles a pigsty...

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Get some me time
Photo credit: Marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
So, hands up who has had enough? Not just me then! But if a mum doesn't take care of their own well-being, how can they find the energy to care for others? In your bid to be the best parent you can be, never loose sight of the simple fact that if mummy isn't happy, nobody is happy! Here are some top tips to help you relax, repair and revive yourself (the three 'r's that count - am I right?) once the kids are in bed. And better still, they work before, during and after school holidays!

Set the mood


Clutter and responsibilities can be a drain at the end of the day, so before you pack the kids off upstairs cut them a deal. They can spend the next ten minutes clearing away their toys - or go to bed early. Put like that, most kids will choose a bit of a tidy up - and you can spend the time making sure your essential chores are done too, freeing up your evening later on. Once they are asleep (or at least in their rooms pretending to be) make a 'things-to-do' list for (just) that night - it might include planning meals, setting out clothes or checking train or opening times - and get those things out of the way. Once these are crossed off the evening is yours to enjoy - you might want to use the time to work out, read a book or call a friend. Turn your home into a haven of relaxation by burning essential oils, lighting a relaxing candle or turning on your favourite music.


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A healthy habit for your home
Photo credit: Marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Have a bath


Taking a bath is a great way to relax - it can ease sore muscles, stimulate circulation and help to detox your body. A water temperature of 32-35℃ will open the pores and encourage sweating, great if you have a cold coming on. Up the ante with a bath oil that can soothe everyday aches and pains or one that will restore you - or scatter in some herbs. There's no better time to exfoliate the body or indulge in a face mask either. And an added bonus of a lovely warm bath is that it will help you sleep better. As your body cools after you step out of the tub, it releases the hormone melatonin, which signals that it's bedtime to your body.










Sleep well

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Sleep well Mummy!
Photo credit: FrameAngel at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

From nursing newborns at all hours and convincing young 'uns that it's just their bed they sleep in, to homework demands of older children and the trials and tribulations of the teenage years, sleep is in short supply among parents. But lack of sleep can make you fat, forgetful and far less likely to want to get jiggy with it, and in extreme cases sleep deprivation can cause high blood pressure and heart disease. Experts recommend you steer clear of caffeine for as much as six hours before you slumber, instead try a drink designed to help you relax - like Dr Stuart's Tranquility or Pukka Night Time blend. For a little extra help nodding off, consider Rescue Night Liquid Melts capsules, using Bach Flower Essences, or the herbal supplement capsules Night Time by Pukka with Valerian and Ashwagandha (great for restless legs syndrome).

Do you have any tips for winding down during the school holidays - or on any day when you need to switch off from being a parent? I'd love to hear them in the comment box below.

Thanks for reading
Vanessa.

Disclosure: Recognising that mummies need some pampering G Baldwin & Co sent out de-stress kits to several bloggers. Obviously that's lovely, but my opinions are always my own (nobody else wants them!). 

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Bucket list - The FlowRider

For several years now when I've visited the Retallack Resort in Cornwall,  I've sat and watched individuals enjoying what looks like a cross between an angled swimming pool and a bouncy castle. Officially the FlowRider is a simulated wave surface, or sheet wave, that you can bodyboard and surf on. Submersible pumps inject a three-inch sheet of water over the surface creating a wave that allows those of all ages and skill levels (just as well eh?!) to surf the wave face. Technical descriptions aside, the FlowRider looked fun and scary all at the same time. But since I've seen little kids on it (it's suitable for age five upwards), I figured how hard could it be? So this year, in a wetsuit clearly designed for someone much taller than my good self, I decided to find out...

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Ready to go

First up a big shout out to our instructor Tom Heayel, who somehow combines the skills of an athlete with the patience of a saint. He dishes out the instructions as you get used to the FlowRider and boards, and then is as hands-on or hands-off as you need him to be, as all those booked into the hour-long session take it in turns to ride the waves. He is also great with kids, and took our keen eight-year-old and our not-quite-as-keen six-year-old down the waves on a board with him until they felt ready to go it alone (or not!). There were several other children who had obviously been on the FlowRider with him before and loved both him and the experience so much they were back for more. Happy smiley faces all round.

At the beginning of our session, we started out with the water switched off so we could see that the surface of the FlowRider is a bit 'trampoliney', and then once the water was switched on we bodyboarded down on our tummies. The next challenge was to go down the wave and release your board, pushing it out in front of you and catching it as the wave pushed it back. After that, Tom demonstrated how to bodyboard down and then get up on your knees (something I failed dismally at, getting totally wiped out and ending up in the frothy 'pool of shame' at the top end of the FlowRider, with hubby absolutely killing himself with laughter, afterwards saying I looked like I was being repeatedly savaged by Jaws as I staggered up and down trying to regain my composure). From there we progressed to starting off on our knees (I could do that thankfully, one trip to the pool of shame was enough). And by the end of the session we started at the lower end of the FlowRider on a short wooden stand-up board. And yes, I managed to retain my balance and ride the wave all by myself (was it core strength or fear of ending up the class clown I wonder?).

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Surf's up!

At the end of the £25pp session we all jumped into the hot tub to recover (I had got quite cold by then) - the use of which is part of the package (along with the full wetsuit hire). Alongside our family, our group consisted of a 30-something mum (her partner and small toddler had watched) and a dad with his grown-up daughter and her boyfriend - meaning that we were quite a varied lot of ages, sizes, experience and fitness levels, and yet we were all able to enjoy the FlowRider as much as each other. I was amazed that our elder daughter and I had both managed to stay up on the short boards - and impressed that we'd all had a great time doing something out of the ordinary as a family. As well as the FlowRider in Cornwall, you can find the attraction in Bedford and Yorkshire, resorts like the Merton Hotel in Jersey and on cruise ships and hotels and water parks around the world. I'd certainly recommend the FlowRider experience for you and your family - rain or shine.

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Enjoying the hot tub afterwards

So, that's that ticked off on my bucket list (the kids already want to go back). Would you put it on yours? Let me know in the comment box below.

Monday, 18 August 2014

10 life lessons from the sea

Maybe it's because I've had a full two-weeks holiday for the first time in seven years, or maybe it's because I was born and bred in a seaside town and crashing waves still speak to my soul. Whatever the reason, my recent trip to the coast brought out my inner philosopher and while I was out enjoying the surf I couldn't help but mull over what life lessons the sea can teach us. This is what I came up with...

  1. You miss some of the best waves if you are always waiting for a better one.
  2. Some things that look intimidating from a distance aren't so bad close up.
  3. Share the waves or stay on the beach.
  4. Everyone gets wiped out.
  5. If you fall off, there's always another wave coming along.
  6. Sometimes just as you think you are on top, you get knocked down.
  7. Not everyone that looks cool knows what they are doing.
  8. The best waves are the ones that take you all the way home.
  9. Nothing beats riding a wave.
  10. Nothing beats riding a wave with someone you love.


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Monday, 4 August 2014

I'm off to the circus!

Messy floors and sibling bickering getting you down this holidays? Find yourself threatening enforced summer camps, early bedtimes and worse? Don't worry, you're not the only one that gets desperate. But this summer you can actually run away to the circus with your kids - and all enjoy the thrills and spills of the Big Top!

In preparation for the the grandchildren visiting, mum had looked around for some days out near to her house in Folkestone. Billy Smart's Circus was in town and we were all keen to go along (despite the youngest child's distrust of clowns!). Tickets were easy to buy at the on-site box office as we passed by the venue on the way back from a day at the seaside. It was a little tortuous waiting for the 2pm admission time to come round - as the kids were eager to take their seats - but at least it made them eat up their lunch properly!


Once we had chosen where to sit (oldest wanted to get as close as possible, youngest didn't, on account of the clowns, although actually there was only one and he didn't do anything alarming!), we all drunk in the atmosphere. I was rather taken by the uniforms of the ringmaster (mistress?) and other door staff, while the prospect of glamorous leotards and candy floss beguiled the children.

Soon the show kicked off with a little history of Billy Smart (the first show was in 1946, the Big Top came in 1951) - and then we were off. Act after act received gasps and whoops as a trapeze artist swung, acrobats bounced and a juggler used her feet to twirl balls, cylinders and more. There was smoke, there was fire, there was clapping. Soon the interval kicked in and we rushed off to the candy floss machine, only to rush back to our seats as soon as possible. We didn't want to miss a thing!


The second half started with an amazing trapeze troupe - complete with daring somersaults and catches. There was also a stunning Argentinian Bolas act (twirly metal balls, whirling to the beat of drums, that eventually got set on fire too!). The highlight for me in this half was the X-treme Brothers, three incredibly strong guys who managed to balance on each other in various formations - they were fit and had abs that would put David Gandy to shame! I just couldn't believe the balance and core strength they had!



The girls loved the whole thing - the youngest won't even surrender the discount vouchers we got as we left because she wants to remember the show. Their favourite acts were  Caroline, the ballet-trained trapeze artist (who was the epitome of grace) - and Team Fonz, who performed a lively trampoline display based on the musical Happy Days.



Granny and me were both impressed by the X-treme Brothers (funny that...) and Grandad thought the trapeze troupe was the most impressive because of the meticulous timing required. I also liked Alina Eskina’s ‘cube’ routine, as it too was visually captivating.

I'd certainly recommend Billy Smart's show as holiday entertainment. It was a proper Big Top affair, and very inspiring for the children to see traditional circus skills so beautifully choreographed and performed. You can check if the circus is coming to your town here - and book discounted tickets online too. It will take your breath away!