Don’t Forget to Breathe

Fitness
Photo Credit: Wari Om Yoga Photography

Photo Credit: Wari Om Yoga Photography

Starting a new exercise that you’ve always wanted to try, is not dissimilar to asking someone you’ve fancied for ages to go out with you. It takes confidence and you need to build up the courage to make the first move. You are leaving yourself totally exposed, treading on unknown territory and you probably put it off for quite a while. For me, my date was yoga.

Yoga is an exercise I had wanted to try for many reasons but never knew how to go about it. I had always felt intimidated about making the first move, how would I know where to start? What would people think of me? What if I couldn’t do it? I looked up classes and stumbled across different types, which of course, meant nothing to me, so I freaked out and retreated back to my comfort zone. When my friend and I set off across South East Asia last year, yoga was on our bucket list. I finally lost my yoga virginity in Indonesia, in a small bamboo outhouse in Yogyakarta, just me, my companion and a fellow traveller were led by a beautiful french instructor. Finally taking a class made me feel silly for all the worrying and deliberating I had put myself through, I was completely defying the point of yoga. The atmosphere of the class was calm, relaxed and not in the least bit competitive, in fact it was so calm I actually nodded off at the end (this is highly embarrassing and I wouldn’t recommended it, but apparently it happens all the time.)

Now, in slightly different circumstances and certainly a less exotic setting, I have found a yoga class in my hometown and I am a convert. I am only on my second class, so am by no means an expert, but already I feel like a yoga enthusiast.

We practise two different types of yoga in each session, Yin and Yang. Beginning with Yang, which involves more movement and is more strenuous on the muscles, and finishing with Yin, for relaxation. That does not mean however, that the Yin is easy, it can involve holding positions for up to five minutes, which in practice is actually pretty tough.

Two classes down, I have learnt the importance of focusing on breathing and that this may be the best life advice I have ever received. When holding a position, particularly in Yin Yoga, it’s inevitable that wandering thoughts will sneak their way in, this is where you learn to patiently put them to one side, and return back to concentrating on your breathing. Breathing is the only bodily function we are able to control, and it will always be there, taking a moment to reconnect with it is something we should actively practice, and obviously not just in terms of yoga.

What I love about the class is that our instructor drums into us throughout, that every body is different. The more yoga you practice, your body will get used to the stretches and you will find you can push yourself further, but there is no competition.There is no right way to look when you are holding a stretch and there is no shame in not being able to push yourself as far as the person next to you, each of us is made up differently and we all have our own limits. Yoga is individual and unique to each person.

For me, this is what yoga is about, taking time out to feel calm, be myself and absolutely not think about anything else. In turn, I’m hoping this will make me happier, healthier and more productive in other – less calm – aspects of my life.

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Running for Colour – Color Run UK

Fitness

A Color Run had been on my bucket list since they first hit the UK, and exploded all over my social media sites, last year. I had wanted to sign up to a fun run/race to keep me motivated in my running, so when I saw the Color Run was coming to Sunderland this July, I rallied some friends together and signed up. As it happened, I shortly after disappeared travelling for four months and returned home just a couple of weeks before the run took place and I wasn’t anywhere near as prepared as I wanted to be. Even though the run is only 5K, I was anxious about my lack of practice but the only person who was bothered about my performance not being good enough, was myself.

Arriving in Sunderland and seeing the swarms of ‘Color Runners’ heading to the start line in their temporarily white T-Shirts I felt the buzz of excitement and any unnecessary anxiety was diminished. Aside from the gallons of coloured powder thrown over you at each Kilometre, the most refreshing thing about the event was that it encouraged everyone to take part. All ages, all sizes and all abilities can revel in the truly unique experience without worrying about how fit you are or the pressure of winning. The race isn’t timed, and no one is judging whether you run, walk or dance your way to the finish line but you still get that sense of achievement and rush of endorphins as you cross the finish line. It’s the ‘happiest 5K on the planet!’

Until next year, here’s a taster of the day’s colour!

IMG_0122 IMG_0123 IMG_0136 IMG_0145 IMG_0160 IMG_0162 IMG_0163 IMG_0178 IMG_0184 IMG_0187 IMG_0188 IMG_0158 Photography by Same Page Arts – www.samepagearts.wordpress.com @samepagearts

Overcoming the Post-Holiday Blues

Features, Fitness

They say all good things must come to an end, so what happens afterwards?

I hadn’t thought much past the four flights and two days of travelling which I faced in order to get home. When I had thought about returning home, it consisted of the very basic and shallow luxuries such as sleeping in my own bed, not having to worry about toilet roll and eating copious amounts of cheese. It hadn’t occurred to me that after the jet lag had worn of, reality would kick in and I didn’t have a plan for reality.

After a few flight extensions I had spent a total of four months in South East Asia with little else to worry about apart from what I would have for dinner that night and whether I would get any sleep on the night bus. I hadn’t had a moment on my own (aside from showering) the whole time and this was perfect for me. When you’re on the other side of the world with your whole life confined to a backpack, problems I faced at home on a daily basis were non existent. My own head was no longer the enemy, it was my survival kit.

Life was much simpler and I had subconsciously gained perspective and a contentment with myself, but on returning to the UK, familiar feelings of anxiety, emptiness and a lack of motivation had me wondering if this had just been circumstantial.

Most people are familiar with that impending feeling of dismay that surfaces in the final few days of the holiday and sticks around for at least a good week afterwards. Returning to reality after having a week – or a few months in my case – of escapism is an anticlimax to say the least, everything seems dull compared with the sun-soaked greener grass. It seemed I had an extreme case of the post-holiday blues.

I’m sure I won’t be the only one to find themselves suffering this summer, so here is my tips for dealing with a case of the blues.

 

1. Sort your life out

I have a terrible habit of not unpacking when I return from a trip, usually because I’m depressed and I hate unpacking. Actually, as soon as you get home you should unpack your clothes, do your washing and de-clutter your life. It will give you so much space – both physically and mentally – and make your home a much nicer environment to be in.

2. Relive the memories

As painful as it may seem at first, getting all your photographs together and looking through them is a great remedy for holiday blues. Put a slideshow together to show your family and friends, they will appreciate it, plus you get to relive all the best times through them, you’ll soon be laughing as you try to explain that photo!

3. Go outside

If you’re lucky enough to have a bit of British sunshine, make the most of it. If you’re not working have a day out, go on a picnic or even just sunbathe in the back garden. It might not be as spectacular as your previous surroundings but the sun has the same effect wherever you are, and vitamin D is your best source of happiness.

4. Catch up with friends

Make time to see friends you haven’t seen for a while, this will cheer you up instantly, they will be dying to hear your stories and you’ll find yourself eager to tell them.

5. Eat well

Summer is the season of strawberries – and all other fruits – so there is no excuse not to be consuming them by the punnet. For me, coming home meant I could indulge on all my favourite foods I had craved whilst being away, but getting back into the routine of eating a balanced diet is so important to help you feel good. If you’ve overindulged on the all-inclusive, make sure you go back to a balanced diet as soon as you get home. Eat well and you’ll feel well.

6. Get moving

This point needs little explanation, but get exercising (outside if possible) and you’ll have your positive frame of mind back in no time. Especially if you’ve spent the last two weeks lying on the beach, it’s time to get moving again. The longer you’re stopped, the harder it is to get going again.

7. Grab a new book

The bookworm that I am, finding a new can’t-put-down novel always cheers me up and keeps me occupied. Summer is a great time for new releases and must-reads so engross yourself in that book you’ve been meaning to read, to help pass the long summer hours.

8. Think positive!

Thinking positive can seem impossible when you feel surrounded by negativity, but it is so worth it. Just one small positive thought can make a world of difference to your mood. Try and look for the positives in every situation, you might be feeling miserable because your trip is over but that is only because you had such a damn good time.

 

 

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The Tracking Debate

Fitness

In an age of ever expanding technology, are fitness trackers and Apps a motivational tool for monitoring our progress or an express ticket to obsession?

 

 

This is a question which is difficult to answer and a great cause for debate. Like anyone, I have found myself filled with excitement when downloading calorie counting Apps to my iPhone and I can’t leave the house for my run without setting my Nike Running App first – it is a great motivator! However I feel that, as with everything, it may have been taken too far.

UP by Jawbone, is a new health monitoring bracelet which is with you literally 24 hours a day. Finally! A 24/7 personal trainer! You might think, but as well as motivating you with high fives and encouraging “Amazing”’s and providing you with great accuracy on how long you’ve slept, how long it took you to fall asleep, whether you’ve reached your step goals, to name just a few, UP also has the potential to torment you with guilt, obsession and quite possibly make you lose your mind.

It is quite simple, all you have to do is sync the bracelet with your iPhone a few times a day and you    can see your sleep patterns and step count compared with what you have ate and drank and if you like the thrill of the game, you can even monitor your UP friends progress on a Facebook-like feed.

The primary aim of trackers and Apps like this is simple, to improve health and fitness, which I believe is of the upmost importance. Is this healthy though? Where it might have an – at least short term – impact on physical health (anyone being tracked 24 hours a day will surely make a conscious effort to be the best they can be), I seriously doubt it can have any positive impact on mental health, in fact, I’m pretty sure any impact it has on the mind, will be quite the opposite. 

UP isn’t the only one of kind by a long way, with $800 million sales of wearable sensors in the US last year, and for the many who aren’t willing or simply can’t afford the prices that bracelets like these cost, there is an ever growing collection of mobile Apps to download which do more or less the same thing, just less accurate and intensified. 

 

Nike Running+ App

Nike Running+ App

Argus App

Argus App

 

Argus App, water reminder

Argus App, water reminder

Constantly checking what you have eaten, excessive exercise in order to meet goals, comparing your fitness progress with other people’s. These are all things which in the real world are considered unhealthy, obsessive and disordered eating behaviour. Like it or not, the trackers are here to stay and the boundaries or self-tracking are only ever expanding, but if you want my advice, I would tread carefully.

 

Fit Not Thin

Fitness

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This summer, The Sunday Times gave a hashtag to what many women out there already knew. Being thin is no longer sexy, being fit is. The campaign ‘#fitnotthin’ for which Daisy Lowe is an ambassador, encouraged women to tweet photographs of themselves in their workout clothes, in order to show their support. Although I, personally, can’t see how sending in Instagram photos of your Nike’s is helpful in any way, to a fitness regime, it is great to see that the message is finally being acknowledged. Society is finally beginning to glamourise something other than starvation and size zero, the women we aspire to be a strong, healthy and confident. What is even better is that we aren’t suddenly grabbing our running shoes because Vogue told us to, we’re doing it because it makes us feel good.

Although plenty of people will believe that this is just another body image pandemic, and  ‘#fitnotthin’ has even been labelled ‘as bad as thinspiration’ but as far as I’m concerned, there is one major difference. Food restriction isn’t healthy, exercise is.

Exercise doesn’t just improve physical health, it is also a key factor for having a healthy mind. Running, in particular has been proven to help combat symptoms of depression, releasing endorphins and making you feel happier in other aspects of life. Running can be a focus, a release and a personal challenge and once you overcome the initial hurdles it is – actually – really good fun.

As well as all of the obvious positives, exercise helps to curb a healthier attitude towards food, and some women who have recovered from eating disorders even find that running is a good way to become fit again, and means they can eat a healthy balanced diet, without feeling guilty.

While the physical changes will be come, the most important change will be to your confidence. Feeling fit feels a lot better than feeling thin, so what are you waiting for? Get running!