Category Archives: The Aaargh to Zzzzzz of Exercise

Fun, alternative forms of exercise for gym phobics

Shredded Weep

Shredded Weep

Shred my ass. No, please, do

Just bought my first ever exercise video, Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred.  Did I get Shredded? Broken into pieces, more like! (Actually, it wasn’t quite as bad as I thought it would be. She’s not annoying, anyway.)

True, I laughed, I cried, I was a little bit sick. Maybe I shouldn’t have tried it just after my dinner. Why on earth would I cry? Involuntary response, I think, a release of hormones and my body’s last attempt to fight back with psychological warfare.  But my body lost, and despite the sheer exhaustion (I’ve never sweat from my eyes before) I actually feel better already. They are very intense workouts; relatively quick, too, like ripping off a plaster.

Jillian Michaels is a great motivator, like Linda Hamilton would be if she made a workout video at the start of Terminator 2, getting all the inmates up and at ‘em in the asylum. She kept telling me not to “phone it in” and was very encouraging, saying “only one more left now!” But she lied. SHE LIED!

By the end, I was feeling just like one of Linda Hamilton’s  inmates.  I was hoping  the Terminator would come in and put me out of my misery.

After being a size 6 most my adult life, I never had to worry about workouts. I walked most places and danced a lot, like a crazy little fairy. At school, it was easy; walking a mile a day, badminton, hockey, and I was a fussy little beggar when it came to food. Now? Not so much.

After moving in with my husband, we made the classic mistake; I used to eat little and often, he would eat  like a boa constrictor; one massive meal would last him a week. We ended up eating huge portions quite often – not a bad compromise, or so we thought.

Then I got pregnant, I found myself hauling  the equivalent of a bag of potatoes around, which made my stomach look like a balloon that had been blown up and left to fly round the room. I was lucky not to “shred” my stomach muscles apart, like some mums.

My first pregnancy gave me wicked heartburn. Old wives would say “you’re having a hairy baby!” Those old wives would be proved right. She was a monkey.)

The heartburn while preggars was intense. I couldn’t stand Gaviscon so I self-medicated with icecream. I don’t even like icecream, dammit! I put on four stone and only lost two stone after the birth. I can’t blame the icecream completely; I was pretty ravenous for nine months, which makes me think there is more to this hormones lark, as I wasn’t hungry at all when I was having my boy.  Which takes me back to The Hormone Diet…


The Hormone Diet


Instead of jumping on the ‘New Year New Me’ bandwagon, I’ve decided to ditch the diet mentality altogether and make lifestyle changes for…well, life, I guess. Trying to ignore the word ‘diet’ in the title, this excellent book  The Hormone Diet by Natasha Turner has been a real turning point for me, as it explores how hormonal imbalance can sabotage weight loss and helps you achieve optimum physical and hormonal health through eating and exercising the right way.

Looking back, I’ve been majorly affected by my hormones all throughout my teens and twenties; and not just in a good way either! I burned up energy fast and tired easily, felt the cold terribly (Bristol seemed to be the coldest place on the planet, if my memory serves) and I was anaemic for probably two weeks out of every four.

Now I realise how different things could have been if only I’d had this book. (I also think if we’d had the tinterweb 20 years ago, I’d be ruling the world by now, but hey, shoulda woulda coulda.)

The first rule of Hormone Diet is get enough sleep (see my post on sleep here.) Even after a couple of days, you will notice the difference, I promise. For the first time since I’ve had kids, I feel like I’m truly awake during the day.

The second rule of Hormone Diet is to cut out wheat products and cows’ milk. I’ve tried to buy organic wherever possible, but even organic cows’ milk  contains lactose which can be a problem depending on your level of intolerance which can get worse as you get older.

I’m having problems with cutting out cows’ milk  as I’m a strong builders’ tea addict (partly funded by free donations of Make Mine a Builders – what will I do without you now? Buy it, I guess.) I’m trying all kinds of replacements – milk made from soy, oats, rice – you name it, I’ve tried it. I’ve not yet come across the perfect ingredient to make up my strong milky tea but I tend to “cut” cows’ milk with the alternatives and I’m weaning myself off the bovine variety a little at a time. So far, I’m finding the best supplement is Oatly Healthy Oat Milk (organic of course)

I’m also discovering good alternatives to other dairy products. I’m quite partial to warm goats’ cheese and spring onion salads and I’ve found St Helens Farm to be the least ‘goaty’ of all the goats products I’ve tried so far, including their delicious goats’ natural yoghurt which I add to smoothies and curries.

Natasha Turner has just brought out The Supercharged Hormone Diet which includes a two week diet plan, high protein detox and new recipes. I shall be looking into this book and reviewing it in the near future, so watch this space.

Go to Sleep!

Go to Sleep!

Sleep?! Yes, I know, easier said than done when you have kids. Even the older ones have nightmares, or can keep you up most of the night with coughs and colds.

I breastfed on demand and co-slept with both my children, so even when that was over they were still in the habit of waking me up in the night. We got them both nightlights and implemented a reward system for staying in their beds. Eventually they got the message.

But after telling the kids time and time again, “Go to sleep!” I just couldn’t do it myself anymore. My own body clock changed. Insomnia can be worse at certain times of the month, and if you’re the wrong side of 40, menopause could be just round the corner – yay! This can lead to waking up in the night because your core body temp is too high.

To keep your body temp down I recommend taking a bath or shower a few hours before bedtime, use bedding and nightwear in natural fabrics like cotton or silk, and drink a glass of cold water before you go to bed.

I read that lack of magnesium can cause problems getting back to sleep; and if you wake up between 3 and 5am it can be due to your liver or kidneys detoxifying. So make sure you drink enough water in the evening (not too much though, no point defeating the object by needing to get up to go to the loo.) I try not to go to bed on a full or empty stomach, either. Lettuce is said to promote sleep, so a salad sandwich in the evening and a glass of milk could be the best prescription to aid a good night’s shut-eye. No cheese though, you don’t want nightmares!


Although if you believe The British Cheese Board, a study of 200 volunteers commissioned in 2005 indicated that different cheeses cause different dreams, never nightmares, only pleasant dreams, (Red Leicester or Cheshire) or at a pinch, just a little bit weird (Stilton). I guess it must depend on the dreamer.

In a radio interview, Nigel White, Secretary of the British Cheese Board reported that one volunteer  dreamed of a vegetarian crocodile who was upset because he couldn’t eat children. And another one dreamed that they had soldiers fighting with each other with kittens instead of guns. But there were consistent reports by volunteers who ate Cheddar that they dreamed of celebrities. Which could be classed as a dream or a nightmare, depending on who it was.


The BEST exercise EVER!

The BEST exercise EVER!

Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking! I wasn’t going to say that. But hey, whatever floats your boat…!

Do whatever exercise works for you, and have fun with it. It’s been great fun trying out different things, so maybe variety is the best way to keep interested. Remember it has to become part of your lifestyle, and should never feel like a chore.

Of all the forms of exercise I’ve tried, nothing beats the fun and sheer joy on my children’s faces as we are dancing in the kitchen. Maybe  more mum and baby groups need to account for the fact that mum has no time to exercise and make sure mums get included as well.  That’s something I’ll be investigating in weeks to come.

There are so many tunes that make you want to dance, but our absolute family favourite is Hey Ya by Outkast. Altogether now; Shake it like a Polaroid picture!

Other tunes to get us up on our feet include:

Rock the Casbah by The Clash

Rappers’ Delight by Sugar Hill Gang

But whatever gets you moving, stick it on your family…iPod!

I’m a big fan of Spotify and it’s very freeing to be able to ditch all your CDs and find new…and old stuff. I’m a believer in Nostalgia Therapy and fascinated by the effects Ellen Langar’s work has had on old people, reversing the ageing process. There have been reports of improved cognition, movement, even hearing! Who knows what else. But there’s no doubt the right music for you makes you feel good. (NB if you’re husband’s a closet Goth and you’re not; don’t listen to his stuff, it’ll only bring you down.)

Heavy Metal Bellydancing


Rock it! Bellydancing to Heavy Metal and Rock

The studio at Yorkshire Dance Centre is light and air conditioned, a welcome relief to an unseasonably hot day. The dancers go barefoot, generally in gymwear, some wearing authentic bellydancing hipscarves. Saskia, our teacher, had made hers using drinks can rings – very rock and roll, and eco friendly too!

Rock Goddess

Saskia is every inch the Rock Goddess, with her flowing locks and rockstar black t-shirt (available on the website). She takes us through some really cool, sassy routines to both old school (ACDC Back in Black) and modern rock and metal bands like Shinedown. Watching the other dancers is almost a  form of hypnosis in itself, very zen.

I felt very comfortable there, the class is very friendly and you don’t feel you like you have to hold your stomach in. We are, after all, celebrating the female form. I even started to feel good about myself. OK, so belly’s gonna get ya when you pig out, but for nine months that belly was a safe, secure home to grow beautiful babies, and isn’t that more important than worrying about a bit of muffin top? As mums, we all should be really proud.

I think I may have found my perfect exercise. I’d love to be involved in a show in Leeds, and maybe make some rock goddess costumes too. Watch this space.

Rock it Bellydance: Based in Manchester, they also run classes in Leeds on Thursday nights at Yorkshire Dance Centre.

Email or call Emma on 07870 915148 or Saskia on 07738 441192

Impact: Low – Medium. Good for back pain and menstrual issues

Dress code: Barefoot, hipscarves optional

Lose Weight Instantly. Size Zero(…Gravity)

Lose Weight Instantly. Size Zero(…Gravity)

I’ve found an unusual new way to motivate you into losing weight. Ever since coming back down to earth from a trip to Las Vegas,  I’ve felt heavy and lethargic.

Not because of the rich American food, you understand (although that hasn’t helped.) No; while I was out there, I went up on a zero gravity flight, and since having that lighter than air feeling, nothing on earth will feel the same again!

After a light breakfast and a training session. Then we were told the surreal news that The Osbournes would be joining us on the flight. After spending the first two days wandering round Vegas, blinking and pinching myself, wondering when I was going to wake up from this bizarre dream, and now this? I couldn’t quite believe it.

Waiting for Takeoff

We were told that Jack was filming Celebrity Adrenalin Junkie, and he was bringing Ozzy and Sharon along too! Even when they got on the plane just before takeoff, I thought, ‘no, it can’t be,

they must be lookie-likies.’

During the flight, we experienced three types of gravity. The first was Martian Gravity, or one third of your weight. The closest feeling I can describe is bouncing up and down on my parents’ bed with my sister, and the heady, giggly feeling I got when I was bouncing upwards while my sister was bouncing down! The second gravitational flight was that of Lunar gravity, the exact feeling the Apollo astronauts would have felt on the moon. This is one sixth of your weight, or for me, weighing less than my two year old son. This too was a wonderful feeling, marred only slightly by the uneasy feeling I was about to have a nosebleed – I didn’t really fancy droplets of my blood floating around –  what a faux pas! (Especially when everyone was eating M&Ms and drinking spherical globules of water in mid air…not good.)

When the plane was coming out of its parabolic trajectory and we were about to fell the force of gravity again, they shout “Feet down, coming out!” and we all had to lie on the floor and fix on a spot on the ceiling so we didn’t feel motion sickness. Lifting up your hand is really hard at this point, you feel like you’re a magnet on a very large, padded fridge.

I really don’t go for tons and tons of comps, (honest!) I just get a feeling about which ones I’m in with a good chance of winning. For the Vegas comp, it was promoting Toshiba and the new Star Trek film, so I had to buy a Toshiba DVD player (we needed one anyway) AND write a slogan. Fortunately for me, the characters in the film were the same as the old Star Trek show (I’m not a Trekkie) so I wrote a cheeky poem including all the characters:

Toshiba’s ab-SULU-tely great, that’s what I hear
With my two SPOCK ears on either side and a final front-ier
Going boldly through zero gravity, my BONES feel light as air
Great SCOTT! Hope that’s not the Captain’s log floating over there!

Even without the zero-g flight, Vegas is quite an experience. Pure hedonism. My favourite moments were having lunch in The Restaurant at the Top of the World, (or rather, the Stratosphere) towering 1,149 feet above Las Vegas, with stunning views of The Strip with all its hotels, and the surrounding mountain ranges. Our friendly host Rob came and pointed out landmarks and chatted about the wonderful things to do while we were there. I was told not to leave my handbag near the window, as the floor revolves but the windows don’t. More than one diner has lost her handbag; if they’re lucky they will be reunited with it 90 minutes later.

My husband didn’t fancy Vegas, so he stayed at home with the kids (he’s a legend) and I took a friend called Julia because her husband won’t fly; she rarely leaves the country. Plus, she’s been an absolute angel, babysitting the kids, feeding us and taking Jim to pub quiz every week, so it was my way of saying thankyou.

Julia wanted to treat me to a show; she suggested Cirque du Soleil. Initially I resisted because my preconception was all a bit too Saturday night TV for me. I finally relented at the Cirque du Soleil production of Love, featuring music by the Beatles remixed by George Harrison and Paul McCartney. The opening track was “Because” and that was it, I was hooked. I had goosebumps from start to finish (which had little to do with the overzealous air conditioning.)

Two hours with no interval just flew by. I can thoroughly recommend going to a “Cirque” show; I balked at the cost (usually over 100 dollars at ticket, although we got ours at a discount rate from Tix for Tonight) but I can see now where every cent was spent; in production and choreography and costumes, not to mention the stunning new soundtrack and accompanying film.

Having been a “Vegas Virgin” and having no desire to go there, I was determined to keep an open mind and just enjoy what was going on around me. Now I’m back, I dream about flying in zero gravity, and would love to do it again, although at five grand a pop I’m not sure I ever will. Better keep doing those competitions…