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Saturday, 23 April 2016

My First Time... Upside Down

Yoga Inversions


I have been wanting to try some more-challenging yoga balances for a while, so when an email with details of a workshop pinged into my inbox I took it as a sign that the time had come for me to take flight.

crow pose
Messing about in Crow Pose

Perhaps jumping straight into a three hour session was a little ambitious, but I suspected that I would take something valuable from the workshop even if I sucked at getting upside down. 

As it turns out, I didn't completely suck, hurrah! My upper body strength is improving all the time, and benefitted hugely from a really thorough warm up- think loads of chaturanga. The tutor took us through some variations of Crow pose, to arm balances and beyond to handstands and headstands, and consequently the time just zipped by. 

The next day my neck ached like crazy, and so did the muscles around my hips. I took this as evidence of just how inversions can get your muscle groups working together in completely unique ways.

Now, I'm not for a moment claiming that after just three hours now suddenly I can make beautiful shapes in the air. Not for a second! And I definitely don't have the core strength yet to float my legs up slowly- I'm still very much a kicker for the time being. But, I think the main things that I gained were the knowledge of how to try various balances safely in my own practice, and the confidence to go ahead and do so. 

If you're toying with taking the same leap in your yoga practice, I'd definitely recommend that you go on a workshop: it's the best way to get specific help.  Working in a dedicated yoga space puts you in a different frame of mind, and seeing that it's ok to just keep trying even if you don't make it to graceful inversion yet is reassuring. Plus, some things are a lot easier with someone to catch your legs and tell you whether you are aligned!

I look forward to lots more work upside down.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Shaw Academy Sports Nutrition Course Review

Sports and Exercise Nutrition Programme Shaw Academy

Nutrition Confusion:

It seems that on every blog, forum and magazine there is advice about what you should (and shouldn't) be eating, not to mention the foodie pictures on twitter and instagram, plus all the cookery books that promise you more energy and better health...

I was perplexed by the cornucopia of advice, even after my studies to become an exercise professional, which did indeed touch on nutrition basics and the body's energy systems. 

So, when I saw the ad's for Shaw Academy's online learning on Sports Nutrition, I was intrigued. Intrigued and also extremely sceptical: who are Shaw Academy? What would I really learn, and would it be pseudo-science? Who would be teaching, and would they know their onions?

healthy store cupboard dinner
combine ingredients for healthier outcomes

The Scope of the Course:

or "wisest is he who knows he knows nothing"

Let's be clear, completion of this course does not qualify you to call yourself a nutritionist or anything close to that, and the course disclaimer which flashes up at the beginning of lectures in no uncertain terms lets you know the limitations of what you are learning, but in my view this is a strong selling point: knowing the scope of what you are about to learn can only be a good thing. 

The Teaching Team:

I need not have worried about the lecturer: Laura Kealy is an expertly qualified nutritionist and sportswoman, and is supported by two other professionals who answer questions in the chats as the sessions unfold. Webinars are delivered from Dublin, in a charming Irish lilt. 

make food from scratch
eat real food


Lectures, or webinars take place at an allotted time, and it is a matter of personal choice whether you attend live, or watch them at your leisure. If you attend live you can of course re-play the session at will. There are definitely advantages of attending live though: not only do Shaw Academy offer incentives, but you can ask any questions to the team. Also, with six lectures in the first fortnight it is easy to get behind. The technology is really easy to navigate too, which is a bonus. 


There are suggested set texts to accompany the course, lecture notes provided for each session, case studies plus short online tests for your own benefit. There is an online exam at the end in order to get your certificate. Tutors are available to contact for any extra help should you need it, and they even give you a follow-up phone call to check you're doing ok. 

Course Content:

Covering most things you could want to know about macro- and micro-nutrients, water, supplements, the body's different energy systems, glycemic index and glycemic load, the timing of meals etc, this course is a pretty comprehensive guide to nourishing your body to take care of it and make sure you are performing to your max. There is not a blanket approach- you are given the tools to work out what is right for you personally. Something else I really respect is that there is no "Thou shalt not eat..." approach: whether you are a steak fan or a vegan or somewhere in-between, the ways to get the best out of your diet are covered. 

balanced diet
balance carbs & protein

The Nuts & Bolts:

In short, I am finding this course invaluable. I still have three sessions yet to complete and I am overjoyed with what I have been able to understand already. I am beginning to get a handle on what I should be eating and drinking, when, and most importantly why. I know where to look for up-to-date advice on supplements, and I know how much water I should be taking on. Implementing all this know-how and seeing the benefits doesn't happen overnight, but I fully expect that what I have learned will prove to be powerful and useful. 

The whistle-stop pace means that you cannot possibly learn everything you'll ever need from this course, but with the key building blocks provided here and the suggested reading I'm really satisfied that I'm well set up to better understand the value of any advice I might be curious about in the future. 

I would consider studying another course with Shaw Academy, now that I have seen the standard of what they deliver (they do offer Advanced Sports Nutrition). 

Also, I would thoroughly recommend this course to anyone who finds themselves, like I did, completely at a loss as to what, when, and how much to eat to fuel their active lifestyle. I guarantee it will make you wonder why you didn't learn all this important stuff about how your own body actually works back when you were at school!

Click below to go straight there: 

shaw academy

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Yoga Bloomers Review & Greenfibres Discount

Ethical Sportswear

As you will know, I am a big fan of ethical things to wear whilst exercising. But finding clothing that fits the bill, and still ticks all the comfort and style boxes is easier said than done! 

Which is why I was thrilled to discover that Greenfibres, based relatively close-by in the South West of England (in Totnes in Devon) have a great little selection. 

Yoga Bloomers
Working on my Wild Thing

Yoga Clothing:

I fell in love with their Yoga Bloomers before they even arrived; charcoal grey: my favourite colour, pockets: yippee, high waist: even better, relaxed fit without a harem-style low crotch: bingo!

And when I received them I was not disappointed: they are made from wonderfully soft organic cotton in a great medium weight. I was also delighted by the accompanying handwritten note, the herbal teabag, not to mention the Greenfibres catalogue- what a treasure trove!

A magic little package

stylish grey
Wear the waist turned up or down

yoga bloomer details
Deep waistband and cuffs


There is no compromise on style with these bloomers: the deep fold-over waist band and matching cuffs give plenty of character and femininity. 

I was impressed with the fit too: it is always difficult when buying online to know if something is appropriate size-wise, but they are true to the size guide which is very helpful. 

Relaxed and Comfortable

To The Test:

Putting these bottoms to the test in my yoga class I was really impressed that they were not too hot, and that they stayed in place, also allowing plenty of flexibility. They are not so loosely cut as to feel like a drag, but loose enough to allow movement. 

I particularly the fact that the Bloomers are the right length to be worn as relaxed joggers, but that if you want to turn them into crops you can just slide them up, and the cuffs keep them in place. 

As you can imagine, this was useful for my post-yoga paddle. I can see that I will be wearing my Bloomers often: they were so comfortable that I couldn't take them off after my yoga class!

Perfect for Paddling

I will buy some other bits from Greenfibres. I have got my eye on some undies, perhaps a yoga bra to wear with my fantastic bloomers. Plus, I just adore their unisex Breton sweatshirt. Their range is so good that it would be worth checking there first to see whether they stock an eco version of whatever it is you're looking for! 

Bloomers for all occasions. 

Discount Code:

And, I'm thrilled to tell you that I have a discount code to share with you! Just quote pixie10 when you buy and get your 10% off! Click the banner below to go straight there. Thank you Greenfibres, it is great to work with you!

 Click here

Product kindly supplied by Greenfibres, all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

On Busting Through A Workout Slump & 3 Best Online Workouts

Lost Your Mojo?

It's no secret that I love working out. 

I am a massive fan of the classes available in my local gym- group exercise works well for me and I love the variety. I like to supplement this with self-directed activities too. But sometimes... well, I just can't find my workout mojo! 

I'm sure we've all been there, haven't we? 

No matter how much you know that you love exercise, need to do it, and know that you are committed to it, it doesn't always feel like something you want to do.

I get the impression that is commonly viewed as being weak-willed, or having poor self-discipline, but I really don't see it like that. 

What's Your Motivation...?

Hitting a Plateau

I like to think that these blips in training can give us much-needed pause for re-analysing our goals. 

It's useful to think about just why you're not fired up: do you feel a particular workout has taken you as far as it can? Is it too easy, or even too hard just yet? Are you bored? Remind yourself why you personally began working out anyway. 

Sometimes, of course, you might get a dip in motivation because it is your body telling you that you are over-doing it. It is necessary to challenge the status quo in our workouts, otherwise we are simply maintaining form rather than improving it. However, there is no benefit from overtraining to the point of causing physical damage and emotional stress. 

Plateaux can be Overcome!

Ideas for overcoming burn-out:

Occasionally, a change in the content of a workout is just what's needed to get you fired up again about getting sweaty. Whatever you normal routine is, why not mix it up a little? 

If you usually hit the gym after work, why not try getting up early for a week and going before you clock-on? If you're strictly an indoor person why not try an outdoor run now that the weather's nicer? Perhaps plan a long hike- it's not high intensity, but it's still exercise and you'll be burning fat. Why not find a workout buddy? Or try something completely out of your comfort zone like paragliding. Ok, not so much of the paragliding, but my point is that by trying something completely different you might remember why you started to exercise in the first place, and you might even realise how much you have already achieved. 

Stay Positive!

Another idea to motivate yourself is to think of a treat that you'd like just for you: some people look forward to a bubble bath, or there might be a book you are saving, or a workshop you'd like to go on or a day out you'd like to have... whatever motivates you personally is a useful reward: decide what you will do before you will take a reward, stick to it, and enjoy the sense of achievement when you get there.

Sticking to it is also a key thing to mention: if your workout schedule has come off the rails, be sure to ask yourself whether it was realistic in the first place. Do you have as much time to devote to exercise as you thought you did? It's easy to get demoralised if you've set your goals too high. 

For me personally I find that doing a few good workouts at home can out me back on track: as much as I like a good class, sometimes going to the same ol' place can begin to wear me down. And at heart I am a home body, so it suits me to stay in my bedroom with the laptop sometimes. 

Stay Positive:

Stepping away from working out for a little while doesn't make you a failure! And it doesn't make you bad at keeping fit either. For all the reasons above (and I'm sure many more that I haven't thought of), taking a short break to regroup is no bad thing. 

This is another reason to ask yourself why you need a break- if you don't then the feeling that you are not doing what you "should" be can overwhelm you. If you can keep whatever is dragging you down in perspective then it's likely you can solve it and bounce back into a fitness regime (even if it is a modified one).


Favourite Sources of Exercise Videos:

I've put together some recommendations if you fancy giving exercise videos a try- YouTube is of course full of 'Best Workouts Ever', so I thought it wouldn't hurt to give you some tried-and-tested tips. 

1. Sweaty Betty click here 
This is a great little resource- just enough variety to keep you entertained! Personally I am a big fan of the Barresana and also the Boxing Yoga.   

2. Udaya click here
I've reviewed one video from here on a previous post, but I have tried quite a few and they've all been a challenging workout. This is not a free resource, but when I joined they were only charging £5/month. Even if you're not a dedicated yogi I suggest you give something a go as they are really great workouts that you can do without much space. Just beware of any containing the splits of handstands which might throw you a little

3. Beachbody click here
30 days free? Yes please! Includes Insanity, Piyo, and a whole bunch of other exciting workouts.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

My Walking Week, plus 5 Tips for Walkers

Walking Cornwall

I have really enjoyed going out walking nearly every day this week. In Cornwall we are blessed with an abundance of beautiful woodland trails, picturesque rivers and lakes, moorland, and of course the Coastal Path. 

Bodmin Moor pony
Bodmin Pony

Walking for Fitness

Walking is great for maintaining fitness: it is lower impact than a lot of aerobic activities and so places less stress on joints, and yet if you keep to a decent pace you can really hit the fat burning zone. I love MapMyRun for finding out exactly how many miles I walked, how much of climb the walk covered (often a huge amount on the cost path), and how many calories I might have burned. Of course, this is a great site for keeping track of your running too. 

Dozmary Pool
Dozmary Pool: legendary Arthurian home of The Lady of the Lake


Another aspect of walking that I love, is how the slower pace enables you to engage more fully with the wildlife around you. This week's sightings include moorland ponies and cows, sheep, goats, numerous beautiful birds, and a close encounter with a fox. 

Bodmin Moor Cows
Beautiful Cows on Bodmin Moor

Walkers Yoga

I can never resist a little bit of outdoor yoga though, as it is the perfect way to stretch out the back when you have been carrying a backpack. I also love connecting with the landscape in a whole new way- there is nothing like getting down on your hands, moving through different planes and looking from different angles for experiencing a place in a whole new way. 

yoga on Bodmin moor
Outdoor Yoga


Yesterday I was quite touched to be asked by Tim to accompany him on the first of his sponsored hill walks, on Dartmoor. You can read more about his aims and sponsor him here, but I will sum up his challenge by saying that after a lifetime of hill walking, Mountain Leading, instructing and assessing Duke of Edinburgh awards and Ten Tors, he is now in recovery from a heart attack and having to engage with his passion for the outdoors in a whole new way. We had a really pleasant day despite the bitter wind, and ticked off a couple of the peaks from his list: well done Tim and thank you for having me along!

walking Dartmoor
Dartmoor Tor

Walking with Poles

Tim is an advocate of walking with poles, and it does seem that apart from the basic mechanical benefits of giving you extra stability, walking poles can prevent excess wear and tear to your joints. I found this interesting page here which examines some of the other advantages. 

golitha falls
Golitha Falls

Five Tips for Walkers:

1) If you are driving to your walking spot, make sure you take a change of footwear and dry socks for the journey home. This is a reminder to myself, after my boots leaked yesterday. I had clean shoes but no socks, which made for a less than perfectly comfortable drive home. 

2) Make sure you backpack is comfortable. Take it for a trial walk with something fairly weighty in it (flask of coffee?). Experiment with the strap lengths and adjustments so that the bulk of the weight is spread comfortably over your back- if it rests on just your sacrum for example you are going to be sore quite quickly on a days walking, so it is better to get this worked out before you set off. I love my Fjallraven backpack. It looks so unlikely to be comfortable with its thin straps and no waist/chest fastenings, so I don't really understand the engineering, but it is the most comfortable day pack I've ever had. 

3) I stole this one from Tim: cut up an old carry mat (a yoga mat might do), so that you have a small portable seat that stows away in your pack. Sitting on rock etc is not only uncomfortable, but can get you cold and sometimes wet very quickly. Something like this to sit on will insulate you, is light to carry, and costs very little. 

4) Go prepared: take plenty of food and drink, especially water, plus a sun hat and warm layers. This is particularly important if you're going with kids, who are generally terrible at protecting themselves from the elements. We can be so blasé about our British climate, but perhaps we should have a little more respect for its power. 

5) Have an emergency plan. Most of the time our climate is temperate and hence ideal for walking, but it never hurts to think about the "what if...?" scenarios. It might be a beautiful sunny day when you set out, but things can change extremely quickly. What will you do if the weather closes in? What about if someone injures themselves? If you get lost, what then...? If you need to phone the emergency services, but there is no signal what will you do? You will probably never need any of this, but it doesn't hurt to spend five minutes pondering.