Monday 15 February 2016

Being Mindful on a Monday

I'm writing this the day after Valentine's Day, a day of love and, meaningless commercial gains aside, a day to celebrate your love for someone else - but why can't it be about you?! We're too hard on ourselves too often and we don't give ourselves enough credit.

Which is what this post is all about. Being mindful of you, and taking care of you.

I'm writing this and it also happens to be Monday, the start of the week. Full of new hopes, highs, goals and aspirations but also a day where typically stress levels begin their tremors and rise as we juggle work demands with social callings and potentially, a training schedule; relentless notifications from your phone, never ending to-do lists, flagged emails in your inbox fighting for attention, life admin tasks creeping their way into your mind, keeping momentum to get to the gym after work...

Brain overload? Oh yes.

Usually on a Monday I head straight to the gym after work but last week I did something different. 'Yoga at Dusk' - an event at Harvey Nichols in collaboration with The Well Connected Company. I always love going to events at Harvey Nics, they make you feel so welcomed (you can read about other events like Madeleine Shaw's supper club here, and the time I was invited to a Grey Goose martini making event here).

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Yoga at Dusk was the perfect opportunity to unwind and chill out after a long, cold Monday.

Run by The Well Connected, who specialise in luxury (I mean amazingly luxury) wellbeing and yoga retreats in the UK (the pictures on their website + instagram will give a pretty awe-inspiring idea), we began with a chat from Nici Hewitson, from the company, about what she wanted to achieve setting up the business, and told us more about what you can expect on one of their wellbeing escapes.

In her words; "We make investing in yourself and your wellbeing, a luxury experience." 

I like the importance they place on investing time for yourself, and everything Nici was saying struck a chord with me.

Before our vinyasa yoga class, we had another talk from Sinead Duffy from Yogandha - a small, independent company specialising in oils to enhance, revive and invigorate the body. Sinead's keen to spread the message that fragrances can be used to enhance your state of mind. We sampled a range of oils - I went for 'Detox' (lemongrass + juniper), to awaken the sense of feelgood, and 'Relax' (lavender + vetiver), to induce a state of sublime calm. I've been rubbing the 'relax' oil on my wrists each night before bed to try and help me sleep better.

Then, it was time to get on the mat. Our class was taught by the incredible Charlie Morgan. I follow Charlie on Instagram and was excited to meet her in the flesh! The class was amazing - it was a really energetic, reviving practise, lots of laughter and left me feeling really relaxed. Sinead rubbed oils on our temples during the savasana and ohmygod it was great.

Also, how nice are Charlie's leggings?

We also got the chance to have a cheeky peak at the activewear range coming in to Harvey Nics this season, whilst drinking green juice. Obvs.

Anyway, it got me thinking that we definitely need to dedicate more time for 'me mindfulness' - but it's so hard to do that when we live such busy lives.

So, when you're not at yoga, or you can't feasibly run a bath and light some candles or even just take five minutes out to chill, how can you be mindful?!

My Mindfulness Inducing Statements

I think the following statements could help you get to a more mindful place, especially if you're having a bit of a down day and nothing seems to be going right...

1) What would you say to your six year old self? I'm  pretty sure you wouldn't tell her / him they're useless / not good enough, or indeed be discouraging - you'd be encouraging and forgiving, so be the same to present you.

2) You're doing ok. Really, you are. There is so much bullshit in the world and so many people get by just on this. So don't stress. Breathe.

3) You are loved. Be it by your boyfriend, mum, dad, sister, brother, best friends; you are loved, and you are special, so don't forget that.

4) What can you learn from this situation? Perhaps you've had a particularly hard day at work, an argument with someone or maybe things just don't seem to be going your way. What can you take as a learning from the situation you're in? I've been doing this lots at work recently, asking myself at the end of each week what I've learnt and how I'm going to put it into practise the following week - it's really cathartic and I've found it very productive.

Do you have any mindfulness quotes you swear by?!


Saturday 13 February 2016

Maca & Raspberry Smoothie for Valentine's Day

Hand on my heart, this smoothie is one of the nicest recipes I've posted. It's thick and creamy and so sweet it feels like you're having a dessert.

The superfood in this bad boy is Maca. Maca has so say been linked to an increased libido, which is why I picked it for Valentine's weekend, you cheeky so and so. All in all, there have been studies that suggested an enhanced libido but most of these studies have been small, and so scientists say more research is needed.

You can read more about the benefits of Maca here, here and in the Wall Street journal here. In a nutshell, it's an ancient root veg that survives way up high in the Andes. It's a good source of vitamin B6, riboflavin, thiamin, iron, calcium and zinc. It's a great source for energy, stamina and fertility.

...and it tastes great. It's got a malty, sweet smell and is a warm caramel colour. What's more you can whip this up in a matter of minutes for breakfast or a sweet snack.

You'll need:

  • 1 tablespoon Maca powder (I use Naturya)
  • 1 ripe banana, chopped
  • 100ml almond milk (or more if you want it less thick)
  • 100g Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 handful frozen raspberries 
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Place all the ingredients in a blender and whizz until smooth.

ENJOY! I was lucky enough for this recipe to be picked up by Furniture at Work's Elevenses in the Office eBook - you can download it for free here :)


Friday 12 February 2016

Escaping to Dartmouth + a HIIT workout

Last weekend I was in Dartmouth with my best friends from Bristol. It was so nice and chilled and an absolutely perfect weekend.

You know one of those weekends that makes you feel teary on the Sunday night when it's back to reality?

The weather was far from beautiful... (it was so windy we couldn't even go for a walk on the beach, cheers storm imogen) but the wind and rain didn't stop us from having a good time. In fact it made it even more cosy to hear the wind howling outside with a glass of prosecco in hand...

The highlights of the weekend for me were spending all of Saturday afternoon in a spa (with a HIIT session, pool and sauna), cooking up a few recipes from The Body Coach for dinner, and brunch at the cutest French restaurant, Saveurs.

When I was (sob) back at my desk on Monday, I received an epic delivery from Holland & Barrett full of 'heart healthy' products. As February is heart health month, the idea behind the campaign was to showcase the food that can contribute to maintaining a healthy heart, along with a cardiovascular workout for you guys, to get your heart racing.

I was thinking about where to get inspiration from for this particular workout and I decided to share the HIIT session I did with the girls last Saturday.

There are three parts to this workout, and you'll need a treadmill for part B. If you don't have access to a treadmill you can cycle through and do the body weight HIIT three times, rather than twice. I've also included weighted squats, so if you don't have a kettle bell or dumbbell, just do air squats.

This is a longer HIIT workout, and should take around 40 minutes to complete.

The Dartmouth Heart Workout:


Complete each exercise for 30 secs, doing as many reps as possible, with a 20 sec rest in between each set
  • Burpee tuck jumps
  • High knees running on the spot
  • Mountain climbers
  • Squat jumps
  • Upper body get ups (moving planks)
  • Jump lunges
  • Weighted squats
  • Push ups
  • Scissor split planks (plank position, jump your legs in and out in a scissor like motion, keep your bum low!)
  • Leg raises


Treadmill sprints

  • Jog for three minutes
  • 45 seconds sprinting at your max speed (I'm on about 17.5 at the moment)
  • Jump on to the sides of the treadmill (safely, obviously), and rest for 30 secs
  • Repeat until you reach 18 minutes
  • Jog for two minutes


Repeat part A, all over again!

*NB as you all know I'm not a PT, all moves in this workout are moves I personally do - make sure you've warmed up properly before this, some of the moves are quite explosive - I'd do a 5 min jog on the treadmill. 

It's a killer whole body workout; perfect for blowing away the cobwebs for five girls who had spent a day having not left the house, fire on and wine in hand.

What are my favourite 'heart healthy' products from this delivery? 

So, I've been trying out some of the products Holland and Barrett sent me, which included:
  • Rude Health spelt flakes
  • Rude Health puffed brown rice
  • Raw Health Flaxseed crackers 
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Oatwell crispy hearts 
  • 'Seeds for Sunrise' - breakfast mix of dried fruit, nuts and seeds
  • Roasted and salted pistachios (because who doesn't love pistachios)

The crackers are a definite firm favourite. Prior to tasting, my initial thoughts conjured up a dry, tasteless brown slab - but they are gorgeous! A lot of flavour - nutty and garlicky and would be perfect with hummous. Studies have shown that flaxseed has the potential to help reverse cardiovascular disease - these little seeds also contain omega 3, fibre and lignan (which can help the cardiovascular system).

I haven't tried the flaxseed oil yet, but I'm intrigued. I think it could be nice over a walnut and feta salad.. so maybe when the weather is a little warmer.

Another winner has to be the spelt flakes; I've had them before and love how 'light' they are. Spelt can also contribute to a lower risk of heart disease. They go really well with the puffed brown rice cereals (hello adult rice crispies (without all the crap!)) - brown rice is high in selenium which can reduce the risk of developing heart disease.

For breakfast over the past couple of days I've been having oats, spelt flakes and puffed brown rice topped with a fruit and nut mix and a bit of honey, with almond milk. It's delicious, and a much healthier alternative to artificial sugar laden granola.

As well as feeling physically invigorated and rested after the weekend, it definitely did my heart and soul the world of good to be out in the countryside having a laugh with some of my nearest and dearest.

If you give the workout a try let me know how you get on!

Holland & Barrett sent me these products for free (cheers!) but naturally all opinions are my own!
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