Monday, 15 December 2014

Xmas craft - a great way to countdown to Christmas!

When the weather outside is frightful, why not have a day indoors making delightful Christmas crafts with your kids? It's the perfect way to pass the time in the upcoming school holidays - when the countdown to the big day dominates every conversation!

Get making with little wooden houses that can easily become home to lost teeth or found treasures. Decorate with paint, pens, stickers or gems. Give them to best friends or keep them for yourself.

They make a perfect stocking filler too - if you can sneak them past your kids! (I failed!)

If you've got some presents to wrap harness your helpers! Start out with some plain brown parcel paper and let them personalise it with self-inking stamps - you could even add some sparkly stickers.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Swimming: A change is as good as a rest!

Recently I picked up an Achilles injury and had to face the fact that the high-impact workouts that I normally enjoy (such as running and Body Combat classes) would have to be put on hold until I was back to full strength. The easiest thing to do would have been to throw a massive strop and give up altogether - busying myself with the multitude of Christmassy responsibilities I currently have on my Things To Do List. And don't think I wasn't tempted! Instead though I headed off for a gym assessment and got myself a new little workout using a stationary bike and rower for fat-burning, with lots of free weight routines to cover the strength and toning side of things too.

I also determined that it was high time I improved my swimming. In what was a watershed moment over the summer, I realised my six year old can swim better than me. Admittedly, she's been putting in the work. She's swum at least once a week, every week from being a baby! Even when we go on our holidays there's no let up as we usually head off to the beaches in Cornwall, and have also dallied with Centerparcs and Ibiza. Both my girls are fully equipped for the water with an array of cozzies, wetsuits, goggles and even aqua shoes. In fact my older daughter wanted a full length wetsuit for Christmas, so she can go open water swimming in the river just like Daddy! She's eight.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Christmas CAN be healthy!

If you've spent the whole year being healthy then the festive period can prove a bit of a shock to the system - and derail your fitness journey completely. But everyone deserves a little break - and it's not all bad. Here's my way of looking at it...

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at

Festive fare

Now I'm not going to lie to you, mince pies are not a health food. They contain sugar and fat. And they taste good too. Moderation is of course the key (now, where did I put it?) But not all Christmas nibbles need be sent to the naughty step. How about nuts? Full of protein, vitamins, fibre and minerals they are a powerhouse of nourishment. My personal fave, almonds, are high in vitamin E, which is great for your skin, while within its own skin you'll find heart-protecting flavonoids. Meanwhile Brazils are rich in the mineral selenium, which aids thyroid function and supports immunity, and walnuts are rich in omega-3, which can help prevent heart disease and stroke, and also contain cancer-fighting antioxidants.

Then there's the traditional turkey, which like all meat, is a a rich source of protein (plus white meat like poultry typically has less fat that dark meat, cook skinless for an even lower fat option). It is also a source of iron, zinc, potassium and phosphorus and contains vitamin B6 and niacin, essential for producing energy. Turkey also contains the amino acid tryptophan, which helps to strengthen the immune system, and selenium, which is essential for thyroid hormone metabolism. Winner, winner Christmas dinner.

Monday, 17 November 2014

The #Earlybird Challenge - an extra hour and less stress

As we hurtle towards Christmas, I don't think I'm the only mummy that is already feeling a little overwhelmed by the sheer amount of family admin. There's presents to buy, school fairs to organise, tombolas to donate to, cards to write and plays to find costumes for. There aren't enough hours in the day. Or are there? Last week I teamed up with Free Office Finder who are championing the benefits of early mornings. Get up early for a week they suggested - and seize the day! So I did. And this is what I discovered...

1. Early mornings are quiet

With less traffic on the roads, my children still tucked up in bed and planes not yet heading in and out of Heathrow, there's a lovely calming stillness that's best enjoyed with a solitary cup of Earl Grey. It's like meditating without the chanting.

2. Apparently I have a husband

When my alarm goes usually off I'm alone. I have to grapple with the kids and their breakfast demands and uniform preference peculiarities single-handed. My OH has already hit the motorway early - or is at the gym only to breeze in and out. I seriously couldn't tell a police officer what he was wearing that day if he got lost (my husband that is, I'd assume the police officer was in uniform...) . Instead I actually saw him and exchanged some (albeit limited on my part) conversation and affection. Which was rather good for the soul.

3. It's where calm comes from

If you can sneak an extra 30 minutes alone time into your morning you can ponder your 'things to do list' in an efficient way - and instead of feeling like you spend your life firefighting - desperately trying to remember who has a non-uniform day, who is supposed to be learning lines for an assembly and what on earth you are all having for dinner - you can prioritise your chores. This meant I felt in control and spent less time stressing over the little things.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Discover Dogs - and the ways they improve your health

Despite being a proud cat owner, I was brought up with dogs - and have a family that to non-pooch lovers could be described as canine-obsessed. Even my first editorial job was at Dog World Publishing (the flagship product being a weekly newspaper that covers the pedigree dog 'scene' - yes there is such a thing!). One of my daughter's (if not both) also has the dog-loving DNA too and in a few years I hope to be in a position to make her dreams come true and welcome four little paws into the family. Which is why we rocked up to Earl's Court 1 this weekend as it played host to the Kennel Club's Discover Dogs event - where visitors can meet over 200 different breeds of dog, and learn all about the distinctive personalities, traits and needs of each. It's a kind of canine matchmaking service!

Your new jogging buddy

While getting a dog is not a decision to take lightly, I truly believe it is one of the best things that you can do for you and your family's health. Not least is the exercise requirement of all dogs - they must go outside whatever the weather and however you feel. This fact alone will prevent you from leading a sedentary life - and allow you and your nearest and dearest to appreciate how enjoyable that daily constitutional is! Children that grow up walking will more likely continue it as they grow up.

Obviously some dog breeds require more exercise than others - with some able to go for many hours longer than their weary owner ever could! Some dogs will make perfect running or hiking partners (but you must wait until their bones are fully developed before pounding the pavements or scaling hills) - other may be suitable for agility work or flyball - great ways to get up and off that sofa. Other ways to keep fit with your dog include obedience trials and even dancing! Certain breeds also have very specific sports they can train for - like racing with huskies. That said, never underestimate how much walking a dog originally bred for 'working' will enjoy and make sure you are up to the challenge - otherwise you'll quickly find that your bundle of fur is becoming bored, naughty and destructive (say goodbye to your slippers, wallpaper, furniture...).

Monday, 3 November 2014

The kit to covet

I don't think it's too early to think about Christmas shopping - well not when it's for my own Xmas requests anyway! So if you've made it to the 'nice' list too (I have, right?), why not give Santa some little pointers to make sure you look as good as you feel when you workout in 2015?

Charli Cohen at a recent pop-up event in Carnaby Street

The best of both worlds

Charli Cohen is a twenty-something fashion graduate and a personal trainer. Since her debut collection last year, which was sponsored by Lycra®-owner INVISTA, Charli has turned heads in the Brit fash pack for combining the covetable sports luxe look with practical and wearable pieces you can actually get sweaty in. Yup, look in the pages of Vogue people, her designs are there! This is the sort of kit that you should definitely wear to the gym AND also to the school gates and - for the purposes of this article - is quite possibly the reason that cool rhymes with yule...

The Gymtote - WANT

Bags of style

Are you familiar with the expression 'You never know what is missing from your life until you see it in a shop window'? Well, that adage certainly applies to the range of Gymtote bags. Quite literally I cannot believe no one thought of this before! The Gymtote is a bag that 'looks like a handbag, but performs like a gym bag'. This means that you can carry it like a normal, smart shoulder bag but that the cleverly designed zips open up breathable, wipeable, water-resistant sections that are perfectly sized to store your kit, trainers and water bottle - all separate from the areas to pop your purse, phone, keys and travel card in. And it won't matter if your footwear is muddy, your water bottle leaks and your gym clothes are ready for the laundry, everything is protected and neatly tucked away. Of course you could also use the Gymtote as a stylish overnight/travel bag thus avoiding the 'I'm a tourist try to pickpocket me' look on a city break - and the padded handles make it comfy on the shoulder wherever you are off to. Sod slipping a sable under the tree, Santa baby, just get me one of these!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Jelly, jelly frightening!

Freaky flavours

Halloween is a lot of fun sure, but rarely is it very healthy - especially for your kids as they trick or treat their way round the neighbourhood. So when Hartley's asked me to try out its 'monster' jelly range I wanted to throw a curveball into the equation - and at least try to sneak some nutrition in along the way.

If you wanted to go super healthy of course, you can make your own jelly using fruit juice and gelatine. But if you don't have the time or the inclination head to your local supermarket (Tesco, Asda, Waitrose, Morrison's or Ocado) and pick up these limited edition jelly packs, sachets or pots for as little as 45p.

Eyeballs for tea?