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imageIt can be hard as a backpacker to keep fit and healthy when you’re constantly moving between places. That transient life of late nights and long bus journeys doesn’t always translate to the bohemian vegan lifestyle you imagine for travellers, instead there can often be far too many beers and dirty 7/11 toasted sandwiches. It’s easy when you keep moving between different groups of people to give into every treat meal and to lose track of what you’re putting into your body. But, at the same time, it’s more important than ever, because let’s face it, no-one wants to get ill when they’re travelling. Eating the wrong things, not getting enough sleep, drinking too much and not exercising is the perfect way to ruin your immune system and leave you vulnerable to whatever bugs are being passed around. If you’re travelling in Asia, this can be even more of a problem when even the water and the food you eat could be carrying all sorts. If you want to be a smart traveller and keep going for the longest time, while still enjoying yourself and not feeling ill, it’s important to look after yourself. I’ve written posts before about healthy eating and staying fit on the road, but this time I want to focus on some of my favourite fitness experiences I’ve had since travelling.image

Muay Thai

When I work out, I like to finish up completely exhausted and to feel that I have worked every single muscle in my body. After trying boxing back in the UK, then Thai boxing, Muay Thai, when I was passing through Hua Hin, in Thailand, I can safely say I have never had a workout that has left me so satisfied afterwards. Martial arts are great because they really do work every part of your body, they test your body in different ways and with so many different types, there really is a martial art for everyone. I love the focus you get as you perfect the moves, and the way you can quickly develop skills if you show dedication. In just one morning session, thanks to my amazing trainer, I had mastered several of the basic moves and had completely re-ignited my passion for working out – after weeks of partying it, this was no easy feat. One thing Thailand comes with is some amazing gyms, they may be basic but damn, they get the job done, and they come with some incredibly dedicated trainers who will push you until you get the results you were after. When I was taking boxercise classes back in the UK, I noticed the quickest changes to my body I have seen with any type of exercise and was impressed to see even the areas which can be more difficult to train were becoming more toned and a lot stronger. I could totally understand why so many people decide to take on week-long or even month-long intensive courses while they’re travelling, I would love to have done the same, but sadly had too many other trips planned and not enough time to stay put.imageMartial arts are a great workout choice for travellers, whether male or female, it’s a great full body workout that only needs a gym and a few pieces of equipment, it is also perfect to try in Asia where there are specialist centres on every corner. It’s a fantastic workout for building confidence and perfect for solo travellers who appreciate knowing how to defend themselves – it may not ever be necessary to use but can give great peace of mind when you’re on your own. For those who want to feel strong and need a workout that takes them further than the usual yoga and running, this is perfect for building muscle tone and for pushing your body. It’s just what you need to give you focus when you travel and to pull you out of that backpacker slump. If you need to lose weight and get healthy again, it’s a good opportunity to learn new skills while doing so, and will really help boost your immune system – it’s hard to get ill when your body is fighting fit! If you fancy trying martial arts, wherever you are in the world, why not join Martial Tribes – it’s a social hub for all martial arts and fitness enthusiasts to connect. image

Yoga

Always popular with travellers, yoga is a fantastic way to keep lean, fit and toned while travelling, but it also can be a great way to stay grounded. It’s easy to get carried away with the excitement of your life, but taking the time to practice yoga, meditation and mindfulness can really make you focus on appreciating every second. I spent a life changing week at Hariharalya Yoga and Meditation Retreat in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and I don’t think I’ve been the same person since. The week of peacefulness was just what I needed to take me from the lowest time I’ve had travelling, to one of the highest. Just days before I had nearly died in a bus crash, I was injured, aching and completely exhausted, but a week of nourishing my body and my mind with health, rest and gratitude gave me what I needed to love travelling again. Whether you take part in a retreat, take a quick yoga class or just follow tutorials on YouTube with your own mat in the sunshine, yoga is so freeing when you travel. It means taking a moment out of your busy day to reflect, then clear your mind and to stretch out your body. Just what all us backpackers need after rubbish hostel beds and overnight bus rides. It’s worth having a look online and around where you’re staying for free classes – I took part in an incredible sunset yoga session on a beach on Koh Lanta, Thailand, completely for free thanks to another traveller who wanted to share his knowledge with the world.image

Running

Running has become my go-to workout – no matter where I am in the world or what facilities are available, as long as I have my trainers in my bag and a sports bra to strap the girls down, I’m good to go! I love cardio workouts, I like to feel like I’ve exhausted myself and pushed myself further than the last time, so when I’m travelling, running is a great way to both experience the location and to stay fit. When I was in Asia, I’d get up early to run on the beach or around the city before the heat grew too fierce – beach running has always been my favourite because the sea is always such a perfect distraction and perfect for cooling off after. In Australia, I loved running – the country is made for runners with such a big focus on fitness. There’s endless beautiful trails, paths and places to explore while you’re working out. Particular highlights were runs along Bondi to Coogee coastal walk, Noosa National Park coastal walk, around the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney and Melbourne, and those sweaty runs along Darwin Esplanade in the dark. There are so many amazing places to go running, you’d be a fool not to!image

Cycling

I have a confession, before I went away travelling I had not been on a bike in about a decade. I used to love riding my bike as a kid, but just lost interest as I grew up and had no real reason to ride, but you’ll be pleased to know they are right when they say “it’s like riding a bike” – you never forget. When I was in Asia, bikes were terrible quality but cheap to hire and a perfect way to explore the countries at your own pace. I cycled around stunning old ruins in Sukhothai and Ayutthaya, Thailand, I cruised around Da Lat, Vietnam, exploring waterfalls, and through the Cambodian countryside in Siem Reap with friends. It’s a fantastic way to see the country, you just see so much more when you cycle past the world than you would from the back of a tuk-tuk or motorbike plus you can stop whenever you want to explore. If you’re not as confident on a motorbike, cycling can be a great – and much safer – alternative, just keep your wits about you when you’re on busy roads. In Australia, there are so many beautiful places to cycle and explore – one of my favourite days in Melbourne was spent mountain biking around the trails in a beautiful reserve.image

Trekking

You walk a lot as a traveller and it’s easy to forget that this in itself is a great workout. Whether you spend a day walking around exploring a new city, hiking through the jungle to waterfalls or climbing a mountain to watch the sunrise – it all counts. This is actually one of my favourite ways to workout because it doesn’t actually feel like a workout, you’re so busy looking at the amazing views or spotting creatures lurking in the woods or diving into waterfalls that you don’t realise how much you are burning. I loved huge jungle hikes in Khao Sok, Thailand, we’d be covered in sweat and chased by monkeys, but it was all worth it when you reached the stunning gorge or lake at the end of it. I had friends who climbed huge peaks in Nepal or Bali and said it was the highlight of their trip – getting outside and getting active can be one of the best ways to experience a country. In Melbourne, I spent a weekend camping at Grampians National Park with friends, we spent two days hiking to viewpoints, climbing through gorges and walking through forests – it was incredible.image

How do you like to keep fit when you travel? What are your favourite fitness experiences? What martial arts workouts can you recommend?

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imageIt’s hard to match the high you get from travelling solo, that constant buzz of excitement and wonder at the world around you, and your own capabilities. Being back in the UK, it can leave some feeling a bit low without that constant adrenaline rush of living an untamed life. But if you ask me, one thing solo travelers learn is to be responsible for finding their own happiness, and just because you’re home it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still be looking for new ways to get that high you once had from travelling. I’ve been pretty happy to be home so far, but a lot of that is down to finding lots of amazing things to do with people I haven’t seen for a long time, and taking up some awesome opportunities I missed out on through this blog while I was travelling. At the weekend, I was invited to try out Up At The O2 and to combine it with my love of all things fitness by trying out a Fitbit as I walked over the O2 Arena. You can’t get much higher than that without stepping on a plane – so it was perfect for someone who usually gets their kicks several thousand feet above sea level. A perfect excuse to spend a weekend in London – my sister and I enjoyed two days of food, fitness and Fitbits.image

Fitbit

Anyone who has read for a while will know I’m big on keeping fit and enjoying a healthy lifestyle, while I’m travelling my favourite ways to keep fit are walking, running, swimming and working out outside. Forget paying for gyms and classes when the sun is always shining and the beach beckons. But, it can be difficult to keep track of how much exercise you have done and quite how much distance you’re covering when you’re spending whole days walking around new cities or trekking through jungle. I tried out the Fitbit when I went running on the beach – something I’ve really missed since being away – and as somewhere I usually don’t have phone signal to track my runs, it was a fantastic way to log my time and my distance, along with keeping track of my progress and goals.imageNow the idea of wearing a tracking device on my wrist does put me off slightly, it feels a little bit Big Brother to me. But wearing the wristband around the clock also means I’ve been able to use the app to track my sleeping patterns – something really useful when you’re suffering jet lag! And I can keep track of whether I’m eating enough of the right foods, and how much water I’ve been drinking. I’ve got the Fitbit Flex, but there are lots of different styles and colours available depending on what suits your lifestyle. It really is a great addition for anyone who is interested in living a healthy lifestyle and keeping fit, or who wants to increase their fitness. I just wish I had it when I was travelling so I could keep track of the distance I covered by walking and cycling my way around Asia and Australia – particularly in Melbourne when I was working a job that had me walking a minimum of 25,000 steps a day! I’m already looking forward to taking it travelling with me again as a great way of keeping track of the distance I cover and quite how fit the lifestyle keeps me.image

Up At The O2

I may not be much of a city girl, but I love a good trip to London. It’s always a busy weekend packed full of catching up with friends and family, and lots of awesome events. Last weekend was no different, my sister and I crammed a ridiculous amount of food, fun and lots and lots of cocktails into two days, but it was all rounded off with a chance to see London from a different perspective. Travelling can be so much fun, whether you go to the other side of the globe, or you just take a chance to rediscover somewhere you know and see it in a whole new light. I’ve spent a lot of time in London over the years, and my sister lives there, so it was fantastic to try something a bit touristy and totally different. Up At The O2 takes you on  walk like no other, straight over the top of London’s O2 Arena, a venue that has housed performances by some of the world’s greatest musical acts and has welcomed over 30 million people through its doors. The 365m walk stretches over the dome, reaching 52m in height at an angle of up to 30 degrees. Despite that, it’s not a very steep walk and you don’t need to be in peak physical fitness to complete it – that’s the beauty of it –  it really is an experience that anyone can enjoy!imageIt’s an amazing way to spend an afternoon, even if it’s cloudy, gazing across the London skyline and getting some amazing photos from the 360 degree viewing platform at the top. The whole experience takes around two hours and is a perfect way to take in some of the sights of London from a different angle, we spotted lots of the city’s most famous buildings while we were up there thanks to the labels around the platform to guide visitors. Walking over the dome is so much fun, you feel like you’re moon-walking as you bounce over the tent-like surface up towards the platform and there’s so much to look at along the way. I was so distracted by the view that I almost forgot I was wearing my Fitbit until after when I checked it and saw that I had completed a total of 1,260 steps going over the O2 – already over a tenth of my 10,000 steps a day target! I’m getting slightly obsessed with how many steps I complete each day, so I was shocked to see that my sister had taken 400 less steps than me during that time – just shows you how much longer her legs are than mine. We had a great afternoon at the O2 and all rounded off with a few cocktails at a bar inside, how better to round the day off?image

Have you done Up At The O2? How was your experience? Can you recommend any other activities in London for a different experience of the city?

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IMG_1905I’ve always been a health conscious kinda gal and liked to keep track of what I was putting into my body – from the food I was eating, to how much water I was drinking, to the beauty products I chose. As someone who has annoyingly sensitive skin prone to allergic reactions, eczema and flare-ups, it’s important for me to use the most natural products available and to avoid overly-processed foods. Travelling gave me the opportunity to take full control of this and to really reap the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong, I always ate very healthily at home and exercised plenty before travelling, but going solo meant every decision was up to me and that I was able to try out different lifestyle choices that perhaps I didn’t have as much opportunity to pursue before I went away. Starting out in Asia, my diet changed dramatically as I gorged on the delicious fruits available and cut out meat almost completely, replacing it with tofu or other vegetarian options. It was something that happened very naturally and I found that I didn’t even miss meat. Throughout travelling I never gave up meat entirely but I very rarely ate it, and I almost never cooked it – watching more and more documentaries about the farming industry made me stand by my decision.IMG_1049Likewise, away from European beauty standards and living in a much more relaxed backpacker culture, I found myself living months on end without wearing make-up. I never wore that much to begin with, but never quite felt comfortable leaving the house without at least a bit of mascara or concealer. Asia changed all that, the humidity and the heat made make-up pointless unless you wanted it sliding down your face, and we all know that everyone looks better with a tan anyway. I was confident and happier since travelling, I was comfortable with the way I looked, and more importantly I just didn’t give a damn. I liked rolling out of bed and straight to the beach, I liked applying sunscreen and a dash of coconut oil to my skin, and more importantly, my skin liked it. I didn’t have spots or patches or any sign of irritation, the one thing I did have was a big smile on my face. I can tell you that my happiest moments in the last few years have all happened when I’ve been barefaced except for a smile, with messy hair that smells of the ocean. It just shows you, once you take all the clever advertising and society pressure away, when you really get back to basics, whats really important – health and happiness.13329737_10153532083212617_1471456331_nBeing more aware than ever of the importance of knowing exactly what we are putting in our bodies, when Time Of The Month contacted me to ask whether I wanted to review their organic range – I jumped at the opportunity. Starting out back in 2012, the company was founded as a way of empowering women to make their own choices about their gynaecological health while offering them products that were made of the purest and cleanest materials. Founder St. John Burke said: ” I was motivated to develop a brand I’d be happy for my daughter to use.” Your vagina is the most absorbent part of your body, and sanitary products full of harsh chemicals can be absorbed into your blood stream and cause problems with your immune system and hormones, with links to reproductive issues and cancer. We refuse to use sun beds for fears of skin cancer and regularly check for lumps in our breasts and yet we still use products in our most intimate area that could cause severe health problems on a daily basis. But it’s not something we think about because it’s never talked about!IMG_0861Did you know that tampons and towels have been around since the 1930’s and that most are still made from the same man-made materials used back then? So for almost 100 years we’ve been using the same products to deal with our periods – think how many versions of the iPhone have been released in the last six years alone. So if we can update our phones that often, why haven’t we found a healthier way to deal with our periods? For some women, moon cups have provided a better option, but for many girls that method just doesn’t appeal. The average women is using up to 17,000 tampons in a lifetime, so for those who prefer traditional methods, perhaps it’s about time we started looking at healthier, more organic options. If not for our health, then think about the damage your time of the month is doing to the planet – every tampon you’re currently using takes six months to biodegrade, while the plastic applicators take a further 25 years to break down, and don’t get me started on pads which take a whopping 500-800 years! TOTM offer a fantastic range of 100% biodegradable tampons which dissolve naturally in landfills and unlike many other brands, they only use natural, organic cotton that has not been genetically modified or treated with chemical fertilisers or pesticides.IMG_0857I don’t know about you, but doing my bit for the environment is pretty important and if it helps keep me as healthy as possible at the same time – we’re onto a winner! I trialled out a selection of TOTM’s products to see whether they would marry up to the standards I’m used to, and the truth is they far surpassed them. When you open the tampons and sanitary towels you’re not overwhelmed by that chemical smell you get from high street products, yet the absorption rate is just the same, if not better than the products I would normally use. I was also really impressed to find that TOTM run a tailor-made service to suit your period, they’ll deliver your chosen products directly to your door each month to fit with your cycle, or you can choose a one-off delivery. TOTM really puts women’s health at the heart of things, and makes times of the month as hassle-free as possible – isn’t that what we all want? I loved the way they were delivered to my home and having a regular delivery would stop you from getting caught out each month. After all that drama about the tampon tax, it’s clear that female health is less of a priority to our government but that’s why we need to make it more of a priority personally. TOTM exists to empower women to make real decisions about what is being put into your body – its a luxury that generations before us didn’t have. Let’s take advantage of it and take control.

How has travel affected your health? Have you become more health-conscious since travelling? How do you feel about the sanitary products available and knowing what you are putting in your body?

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imageEver had one of those moments in your life where you feel like everything is falling down around you? Those times when you suddenly realise that you’re nowhere near where you hoped you would be in life and yet everyone else seems to be giant strides ahead of you. We’ve all been there, we’ve all felt like shit because we don’t think we’re doing as well as everyone else looks like they’re doing on social media. But that’s okay, it’s okay to feel like you’re failing a bit. Why? Because it’s these moments that help us to really view our lives clearly, to make cut-throat decisions about where we want to be, what we want to achieve and who we want beside us. I definitely had a moment like this just before deciding to come travelling – it was one of the hardest times of my life and yet now I look back on it as the deciding moment that changed my life. My career, relationship, home were all gone in a second and yet I’m now happier than I’ve ever been – it took rejecting all I knew to achieve all I never knew I wanted. But trust me, that’s the hardest decision to make. It’s so much easier to carry on as you are and bury your head in the sand.

It’s been almost eighteen months since I left the UK to travel Asia and Australia, and it’s now been over two months since I arrived in Melbourne. For the first time in a while, I actually feel really settled and like I’ve actually got my shit together. It’s an amazing feeling after living such an unsettled existence for the last two or three years. I have a home, a steady job that challenges me, a great group of friends and a plan for the next six months – its an odd feeling but a great one. For a long time all I wanted was a life of excitement and uncertainty, of adventure and of freedom. But now, after over a year on the road it’s really nice to be able to live a different way and to have a whole new adventure – living abroad – and to tick another item off the bucket list. Finally having a routine again and being in that familiar cycle of work/fun/sleep/repeat really gives me the opportunity to reflect on my 18 months away and to think about how far I’ve come, what I’ve experienced and where I’m going in life. I feel like I’ve got my shit together and it’s a great feeling – so now I want to share all the tiny things that help me feel like I’ve got it together. Tiny changes can really make a difference to your whole outlook on life.

  1. Sleep – erratic sleeping patterns really affect your mindset and your motivation. Getting a good night’s sleep can really help you be productive and feel like you’re on top of things.
  2. Eat well – healthy food, healthy body, healthy mind. By looking after your body, you feel better and that gives you the energy to take charge of your day. Eating rubbish makes you feel sluggish and lazy.
  3. Drink lots of water – this is something that affects me more than anything, I get dehydrated really easily and hate the headaches that come with this, drinking lots of water helps you think clearer.
  4. Build a home – whether it’s a temporary home or something long-term, having your own space makes a huge difference. You can have a home anywhere you can feel comfortable – in a huge house or a busy hostel – it’s what you make it.
  5. Make goals for your career – whether it’s short-term saving for travelling or long-term career progression as you climb up the ladder. It’s important to have a clear idea of what you want to achieve or you’ll stay in that job far too long.
  6. Clean up – just having a tidy, uncluttered space can make a world of difference. I can’t cook in a dirty kitchen, and I can’t stand to live in gross conditions. Just wiping surfaces and cleaning the floor can make my mind clearer.
  7. Exercise – running helps me clear my head when I’m stressed or indecisive, and the endorphins you get from working out can affect your mood more quickly than anything else.
  8. Look at your behaviour – if you’ve stopped having fun but feel like you’re always partying then perhaps you’ve slipped into a rut. It’s easy for one night of fun to become a vicious circle when you’re surrounded by certain people. Make a decision whether you want to behave like this or whether you’re just wasting time and money. The same goes for those who are working all the time and are having no fun.
  9. Make a list – I swear by to-do lists. For the food shopping, for work, for jobs at home, for my bucket-list, for books to read, the list goes on. They keep me focused, simplify things so they seem less intimidating and they help me stay on track. Often I don’t even write them down, I just make them in my head, but there’s nothing more satisfying than ticking everything off.
  10. Make a plan – if you’re not happy then think about why, what is stopping you from being happy? The remove the obstacles one-by-one, it’s not hard when you break it all down to a few steps and it really can change your life.
  11. Play your favourite song – every day when you get out of bed, or when you’re on the way to work, listen to your favourite song and feel it changing your mood. Music has an amazing way of affecting the way you feel and it can change your whole attitude.
  12. Take time out – it’s so important to give yourself time to think, to just be. Whether you meditate, read, listen to music or do yoga, it’s a great way to soothe your mind of stress and worry. It really does help you to put things in perspective.
  13. Get away – head out of the city or just explore somewhere new, whether it’s for a few hours or a few weeks, it really helps you to clear your head and think about what you want to do in the future. A bit of space and distance can change your whole outlook.
  14. Talk about it – often just uttering the words that something is wrong can take a weight off your mind. Talking about it to friends or family can often make you realise that actually you have a lot more going for you than you think.
  15. Cut yourself off from social media, or see it for what it is – no-one actually has their shit entirely together, the sooner you realise that, the happier you will be.

What tiny things help you feel like you have your life in order? When you’re struggling, what helps you stay on course?

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imageI may have been living on a budget since arriving in Australia, but travelling through Asia, there was something I never scrimped on. Even when we’ve given up all our worldly possessions in favour of a super-saver life on the road, we all have to admit that there are times when all us backpackers dream of a little luxury. One thing in particular I miss since being down under is massages – back in the UK my mum and I always made sure we had a little spa break booked in to treat ourselves. Both working pretty stressful jobs with constant deadlines, it was so nice to have a full day dedicated to relaxation and pampering every now and again. Even when I couldn’t afford a day at the spa, I’d often have an evening dedicated to facials, manicures and pampering at home. It’s important to look after yourself and to allow yourself the time to really unwind. So when I arrived in Thailand, I was over the moon to realise quite how cheap and incredible the massages were – I’m not gonna lie, at one point I was getting one every day for a week until I realised I was getting addicted. You really notice the difference as a traveller, especially when you’re sleeping on rubbish bunk beds with springs in your back, or when you’re spending all day walking the streets of Bangkok or up all night dancing at a party in the jungle. Trust me, that leaves your with sore feet and a few too many knots in your shoulders, plus, if you’ve just left a stressful job and life behind, it’s nice to treat yourself and not break the bank.

Travelling across Asia, you really start to notice the similarities and some of the differences between the massages you experience – you really become an expert in knowing when you’re getting a good massage or when you’re getting one from someone who has no idea what they’re doing. I actually walked out on two massages because the masseuses clearly had no idea what they were doing and were starting to hurt my feet – but that doesn’t even make a dent in how many incredible massages I had over the five months I spent travelling Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. The further afield you go, the more you get to experience slightly more unusual types of treatment which are often quite an experience in themselves. In this post, I’m going to focus on five main types of massage I experienced while in Asia – I’m sure there are many more but these were the most incredible and the ones I would seriously recommend you try for yourself when you pass through Asia.image

Foot/Neck Street Massage

It wouldn’t be a trip to Thailand without at some point experiencing a massage on the street as you watch the world go by and let the craziness of Bangkok wash over you. I love to people watch and this was a great place to do it after a long day of walking around the city. It was heaven to slip into one of these comfy chairs while a Thai man or woman massaged your feet, or shoulders. At only around 150 baht (around £3) you can’t really go wrong can you?! My favourite place to stop was right next to a little bar that always had live music playing and it was usually the perfect accompaniment to the massage.

Thai Massage

Now this one is an acquired taste – some don’t enjoy this vigorous massage and prefer something more relaxing but Thai massage has a great effect on the body. I always left a Thai massage feeling invigorated and revived, and it is great if your muscles feel tight from lots of activities – a bit like a deep tissue massage. I personally wouldn’t have this one very often because I found that sometimes my muscles ached afterwards because it was quite rough compared to other types of massage, but if you get the right masseuse it can be amazing! This one cost around 400 baht (£4) when I was there.

Full Body Oil Massage

My absolute favourite is the one with coconut oil – this was my special treat every few weeks. I loved the way the oil felt on your skin as you were massaged and it stopped the massage from being as rough as in Thai massage. Plus the smell of the oil was just divine, your skin felt incredible afterwards because it was so soft. My favourite coconut oil massage was the very first one I had where I lay on a platform facing the ocean just after sunset on a tiny Thai island, it was beautiful watching the clouds go all shades of pink and blue as the sun slipped further below the horizon and the waves lapped against the shore. This one cost 5-600 baht (£10-12) depending on where you were.

Four Hands Bliss Massage

This one was a pretty unique experience and one I couldn’t pass up. When I was in Cambodia, I stayed at a yoga retreat where they offered this type of massage and I was urged to give it a try. Two specially trained massage therapists would mirror each other’s movements and rhythm on your body to overload your sensory capacity and send you into deep states of bliss and relaxation. It was a once in a lifetime experience and I’m so glad I tried it, at just $20 USD it was a bargain! Many came out of this massage in a real daze they were so overwhelmed by the sensations, I personally found it very invigorating and was bouncing off the walls!

Blind Shiatsu Massage

Another experience I will never forget was my hour spent with Leab at the Cambodian retreat, he is actually the person who massages Angelina Jolie at a five star hotel not far away when she visits the country, but I got to experience the deep tissue massage for just $15 USD. This was just one week after a bad bus crash left me limping and in serious pain throughout my legs and especially in one knee. I didn’t even tell Leab about this but in seconds he could tell where the pain was and set to work, we barely spoke as his English wasn’t very good, but his hands were an absolute miracle. They made an incredible difference to the pain and stiffness in my legs, I walked out of there not limping for the first time in over a week. The whole experience, just being in his peaceful presence was so healing and I was gutted when it was over! If you ever get a chance to experience type of massage – do it!

imageEven just writing this I’m desperate for a massage – the last eight months of working and partying flag out, plus three months in the bush, haven’t done much for my knotted shoulders and aching back. My mum and I are already planning a mother-daughter spa day for when I return, and I can’t wait for it after working what was probably one of the worst jobs of my life. If you don’t already have a spa day planned or can’t spare the time and money to try these Asian delights – why not put aside some money each week and treat yourself a little closer to home? You could check out Urban Retreat’s Moroccan Hammam experience at Harrods which offers a centuries old full body experience to purify and revitalise the body and soul, including exfoliation. Anyone who’s tempted to book a massage after reading this post should have a look around and definitely consider treating themselves!

Tell me about your favourite spa experiences – were they in the UK or abroad? Have you tried these massages – what did you think? 

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* this post was a collaboration with Harrods

imageChristmas and New Year are definitely some of those times when people really start to think about their relationship status – a bit like the post-Christmas bloat, it’s something that hangs over every festive party and moment under the mistletoe. It can suck a bit to be single at Christmas, to not have someone special to keep you warm and to get you that extra special present. But it can also be great to be single at Christmas – you don’t have to feel guilty when you sit there and eat an entire cheeseboard in one sitting then spend the night farting in bed, and no awkward decision about whose family you’ll spend the day with. When it comes to New Year, this was my first as a single girl for nine years – which seems crazy to me. Basically as long as I’ve been old enough to go out drinking I’ve been in a relationship, more than a third of my life. And it was a good relationship, a great one in fact, but 2015 was all about the start of something new, about taking control of my life and doing something for me. I broke off my relationship and left to travel the world solo, a year later I should be heading home but have decided I’m not ready for my adventures to finish yet. Last December 31st I was surrounded by good friends and spent the night celebrating with my other half. But this year, it felt right to celebrate independently after the year I’ve had. I’ve conquered all sorts and I’ve done it all by myself, so I was more than happy to be a single girl as I took my first steps into 2016.

This time of year it’s easy to get caught up in the romance of the season – all those engagement rings popping up on my newsfeed, all those cute couple photos in matching Christmas jumpers, and all those New Year kissing photos. We’re blasted in the face with the expectation and the pressure to be in a happy relationship or left to feel like failures, but I have to ask, isn’t it more important at this time of year to be looking inwardly and thinking more about the relationship we have with ourselves? New Year is always a great time to look back over the year as it comes to a close – at what we’ve achieved and suffered, learnt and lost over the last 12 months. We’re all planning and making goals for the year ahead, but so many are setting goals, more like ideals for where they see themselves in 12 months. They’re thinking about things like relationships statuses, job goals, having their own homes. All of these are great in their own way, but why not take the time to think about how mentally healthy and happy you are. Two Christmases ago I took a two week break from work and from life – I finally had headspace to think and after the two weeks was up I realised I didn’t want to go back to that life. That was when I realised that how I was working and living was not making me healthy or happy – it was time to plan an escape and my next moves. That was when I began saving, when I bought a plane ticket. A year later, I hopped on that plane and never looked back.

It’s not the answer for everyone and I’m not saying this to tell you to go do the same. Travel might not be your way of healing but starting 2016 on your own could provide you with a good opportunity to really look closely at your life. Are you happy? Are you on your way to achieving what you want out of life? If not, why not? This is your chance to claim 2016 as your year to work on you – do what I did, step back and reassess. Our goals change as we grow as people and sometimes the ones you set a while ago will no longer fit the person you have become – if you no longer want something why work towards it? Evolve your goals and you will find happiness in working towards what you truly want. If a job no longer makes you happy, look elsewhere and find one that does. Feel like work is taking over your life? Take a step back and explore your passions in your free time. Unsure whether a relationship is still giving you what you need – make a change, end it or go in search of something new. It doesn’t matter how trapped you feel, even if it feels like there is no way out, there always is. But you have to be willing to make the first move – once you’ve taken that first step it turns into the easiest and most natural thing in the world, but first you have to take a leap of faith.

It can be a huge change that all your family and friends talk about, or it can be something tiny that just makes a world of difference to you. Either way, having the courage to examine your life and really think about where you want it to go can be simultaneously the scariest and most valuable thing you do this January. Why? Because it will help give you focus and goals for the year ahead – to find the happiness you’ve been searching for. 2015 was my happiest and freest year yet – it was so amazing that I skipped my flight home and chose to stay and carry on for as long as possible. I’m looking forward to seeing what 2016 brings – I’m just hoping for more happiness, the love of many new friends I have yet to meet and even more opportunities to follow my passions. Most importantly, I’m not sitting around and waiting for life to happen to me, I’m out there making it happen for myself.

Have you made any New Years resolutions? What are your goals for this year? Is travel in your plans for 2016 – where are you heading? 

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imageI’m so excited to share this post with you guys, and I warn you in advance its going to be a long one, because it’s all about one of the most amazing places I have ever been – a place of healing, of peace and of happiness. Hariharalaya Yoga and Meditation Retreat was the only reason I stayed in Cambodia for as long as I did, and it was the only reason I didn’t immediately book a flight to Bangkok after that crash. I was devastated after the crash, worried I wouldn’t physically be able to cope with a week of yoga and exercise but it turned out there was so much more to Hariharalaya – and that week turned out to be one of the best of my life. I have never felt more welcome than at the moment we pulled up through the gates, it was like coming to a sanctuary, like coming home. And for one week, the staff and the small group of us who had signed up for the experience were a little family, supporting each other through and helping each other to deal with personal problems, get back to basics and focusing on what is really important, and just building new life-changing habits. I can’t thank Leah, of Roots and Toots, and Christine, of Don’t Forget To Move, enough for the recommendations – this place couldn’t have been any more perfect for me at this point in my life.imageimageLeah actually said something really interesting to me after the crash about how perhaps all those struggles leading up to it and finally arriving at Hariharalaya were supposed to happen – to make it an extra special experience when I actually made it there. And I think she’s right, because it really did make it all the more amazing to know what I had been through to get there – it made me really value every single second of the days I spent there and I really took a lot away from it. Being there, in the Cambodian countryside, completely cut off from technology and the outside world, I really had the opportunity to focus on myself and to live truly in the moment. When leaving the retreat five days later, I cant even begin to express how much had changed – I was a completely different person. I walked in there completely disheartened and basically a broken person from all this travelling – I was exhausted from moving so quickly between places and I was tired of feeling unsafe and victimised by the country. Then, thanks to the crash I was physically broken as well – my body had had enough of it all and was screaming stop. In just five days I was bouncing off the walls, happy and comforted by the amazing individuals around me, I regained my excitement and passion for travelling. I felt strong again, my body responded so well to the programme of yoga, meditation, great food, massages and even acupressure thanks to another guest.imageimage

So what did we actually get up to at Hariharalaya?

Our programme started daily at 6.50 when we were woken by a gong that gave us ten minutes until our morning yoga and meditation session, this took place in an open studio where we could see out across the lawns. The morning session consisted of an hour of yoga, which varied daily depending on who was taking the class, followed by 30 minutes of meditation and sometimes we also led into this with chanting led by the owner, Joel. It was a peaceful start to the morning during which no one communicated other than the teachers – it was a time for self-reflection and preparing for the day ahead. After this, we would enjoy a super healthy, vegan breakfast – I cannot rave about the food enough, it was just out of this world and I have never missed meat less in my entire life. Every mealtime we were piling our plates high with all this delicious, nutritional goodness and knowing we were fuelling our bodies for the day instead of poisoning them with oils and fats hidden in usual backpacker fare. After a break during which we could read, play chess, use the gym, cycle around the village or do whatever we wanted, we would have the opportunity to sign up for extra afternoon sessions after another delicious meal.imageThese afternoon sessions included body language workshops, movement workshops, one-to-one yoga sessions to develop a personal programme, or even massages with experts. I took the body language workshop with Sean and found it really interesting to learn from someone who is also the most well-known magician in the whole of Cambodia and uses body language in a lot of his tricks. The One-to-One session with Maike was fantastic, she talked with me about what I wanted out of yoga and helped me to develop a personalised programme that worked towards my goals and used moves I had grown to love over the week – it was so good that I’m still doing it over a month later! And the massages – oh the massages! There were two to choose from and I simply had to indulge in both the four hands massage – which was fabulous and very invigorating – and the blind shiatsu massage, which was my favourite. The blind massage was done by a gentleman who actually massages Angelina Jolie at a flash hotel in Siem Reap for hundreds but I had the chance to try it for just a few dollars and oh my word it was easily the best massage of my life – it also really helped my bruised legs.imageAfter, we would be called in to our sunset yoga and meditation session which was timed perfect to catch the last rays and really was quite powerful for all of us. We all loved this wind-down session before dinner because it totally relaxed us all and gave time for some real peace and quiet. The evening meal was always something to look forward to and it was always so lovely to all sit round the table together discussing everything from the yoga sessions to heavy metal music – it all came up and it was great to spend time really getting to know each other and laughing, a lot. In those final hours before bed, we would spend the evenings being wowed by Sean’s magic by the pool, watching movies, playing table tennis and pool in the games room, playing card games or dancing the night away as musicians from the local village played. It was a beautiful way to round off the days and we always fell into bed shattered from the day. image

Why should you experience Hariharalaya?

This point is one I have mixed feeling about – on the one hand, I loved it so much there that I just want to be selfish and keep it as a secret all for myself. But the other, much bigger part of me is so filled with love for this place that I can’t bear to not share it with you. Hariharalaya is such a special place filled with love, it really helps you see things clearly and to change your view of the world. It’s not just the incredible team of staff who work hard to make your experience everything that it could possibly be, but also the guests who really teach you something. Coming from all different backgrounds and ways of life, I made the closest friends with people I probably never would have met outside in the real world, and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity. Hariharalaya draws a whole other crowd of travellers, completely unlike those you will meet anywhere else and that is what makes it so amazing. It provides a home, a shelter, for anyone in crisis, and even those who aren’t, to come and feel safe, to take a break from the outside world and to rebuild. Whether you just love yoga and want to break the trend of doing it in fitness clubs, or whether you just need to reassess everything in your life, this is the place for you.imageimageimageimageThat doesn’t convince you? Well, while I was there, I was lucky enough to share my experience with one girl who connected with Hariharalya much more than any of us, she was already on her second visit in just a few months, and before the week was out she had signed up to do her third week from the following Monday, with hopes of training to become a yoga teacher the following year. I’m so happy I could be there to see how she drew as a person in just days, and that I had the chance to be a part of our little family. I know that no matter how far we are scattered around the globe, that we will all be friends for life after sharing that time together. You can find out more about Hariharalya, and how to sign up, at the website.

Have you been to Hariharalya? Tell me about your experience. Can you recommend any other yoga and meditation retreats in South East Asia?

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imageWhen you first pack your bags and head off into the big wide world on your travels, it’s a pretty exciting time. It’s been a long time coming and you’ve lost count of how many times you fantasised about being on that beach thousands of miles away from the stresses of home. It’s easy to get swept away in the excitement and say yes to everything, to everyone who invites you for dinner, sightseeing, or just to hang out. And why shouldn’t you? Hell you should grab every opportunity with both hands, make new friends at every turn and have an amazing time because you’re no longer holding yourself back. I certainly did – I’ve now been travelling for about four months by myself and it has been a truly amazing four months spent exploring Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and now Cambodia – it’s been more than I ever dreamed it would be.

Travelling by yourself means you have to give 100% every single day, you never have anyone else to pick up the slack if you’re hungover or tired, so it’s that much more exhausting than travelling with someone else. I know, how can laying on beaches be tiring – well consider the time that goes into travelling between places, the organising of transport, accommodation, the arguing with tuk tuk drivers, having to find new friends at every destination… The list goes on. There’s a lot more to travelling than just laying on beaches – I write this after travelling through the length of Laos and Vietnam in one month – that’s really not long and trust me I’ve barely slept for the whole time. Between late nights hanging out with friends in Laos and sleeper buses/trains throughout Vietnam, plus the constant movement, sightseeing, exploring, and all the physical activities like mountain biking and canyoning – it’s bloody knackering! I’ve actually had to take a little holiday from travelling and am spending a few days catching up on sleep on a beach in Cambodia.

What’s my point in all this? Well, it’s suddenly struck me that if you are travelling for any length of time last a few months, you really need to take this into account when you plan. You need to realise that at one point or another you will hit a wall if you go full pelt every single day, you need to allow your body time to recover and to relax as well as trying to fit everything in. This is something I’m learning as I go, and to be honest I’m not great at – I just get so excited about everything that I want to do everything at once and don’t want to miss any opportunity! I’m the sort of girl who does three festivals in a row and works two jobs in-between instead of allowing time to recover – and I need to learn to change my ways. I’ve noticed lately that I’m getting tired so much earlier in the day and it is my body telling me to rest instead of organising the next stage of my journey – so as I’m coming to the end of my time in Asia I have plenty of R&R time booked in. I’ve made the decision to stay on this beach for a few days before heading to a yoga and meditation retreat for a week, followed by a few days of shopping, being pampered, going to the gym and relaxing by a pool in Bangkok before heading to Australia. Then I can arrived refreshed and ready to take on a new world of travelling.image

Have you got traveller burn out? My top tips for how you can beat it:

Don’t be afraid to say no. Travelling solo means often you feel obliged to take up every invite extended to you but that’s not always the wisest move – this can mean you’re too busy to really appreciate any of what you are doing. Sometimes it’s best to pick out what you really want to do instead of following the crowd on everything – after all, that’s why you came away by yourself.

Spot the signs. Feeling achy or getting ill? Tired for no reason, not sleeping well, can’t be bothered to socialise? All signs you’re getting burnt out and need a break – listen to your body, it knows what it’s talking about! Give yourself time to relax and unwind, eat properly, drink lots of water and don’t feel guilty!

Know that time spent alone is time well spent. I find it hilarious that actually in the time I’ve been travelling I have usually had to fight to get time alone rather than being surrounded by a gang of people – Cambodia is actually the first country I have predominantly been alone! But that does mean that often you lose the fight and end up spending all your time with other people, getting locked into a pattern where you feel like time by yourself is wasted. It’s not, it’s very important. If you can’t be happy in your own company, you never will be with others, so take time to get to know yourself and your own thoughts.

Get your priorities in order. Sightseeing is not the most important thing and if you don’t end up seeing some temple because you needed a lay in, fancied a leisurely breakfast or just wanted to lay by the pool – that’s okay! You don’t have to see every historical landmark, every temple, every bridge and every pretty viewpoint. Pick wisely and see just what you want to see, that will give you time in-between to chill as well – often if you try to see everything you end up not enjoying anything and that is why you are there! To enjoy yourself!

Remember what you did to get there. Think back to the time you were working five jobs to find this trip, to when you cried in the toilets at work because you were so stressed out over something that just didn’t matter, or to when you had spent 20 out of the past 24 hours working and we’re seeing double you were so tired. Now ask yourself why you’re pushing yourself so hard and demanding so much – you came here to relax and be happy. So do it and don’t feel like you have to achieve all the time. You’re free of that damned rat race and you need to enjoy it before you get sucked back in.

Have you had traveller burn out? How did you beat it? Any other tips for getting back on track?

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imageA final part of my journey as booked by the Thai Tourism Agency was a hill tribe trekking experience in Chiang Mai – something I was looking forward to after a few weeks of cycling and walking, it felt good to do some exercise again and I was looking forward to a challenge of hiking through mountainous jungle. Because of this trip, I didn’t actually end up spending much time or doing much sightseeing in central Chiang Mai, so I won’t write a post on what I haven’t experienced when I can tell you all about this instead. When I arrived in the city, I went straight to BMP Backpacker which is a cool little backpacker hangout, a places with private rooms at low to mid prices depending on what you want and the use of a lovely swimming pool in the grounds. It is near one of the Chiang Mai gates and very close to a fabulous food market that opens at night with all kinds of delicious snacks and meals for sale. After a meeting with my hill tribe trekking group about the itinerary for the next day and dinner with some travelling friends at the market, I headed to bed ready for what the next day would bring.imageI had a brilliant group made up of a mixture of German, Australian, Irish, French and Maltese travellers – it was great to have such a diverse group of different ages and travelling experiences and it definitely set us up for a lot of fun. We were put in a van and set out on our journey to the national park near Chiang Mai, with some of the boys feeling a little worse for wear after a big night out it was pretty funny to guess which of them would throw up first. If you’ve been following my travels on Facebook and Twitter (which you should for all the very latest updates) you’ll already know what happened next. As we turned a sharp corner, another van drove straight into ours hitting it head on. None of us had any warning as we couldn’t see through the partition between the back and front and luckily there was so many of us lacked in there we couldn’t really move from the impact so no one was seriously injured. The other driver’s fault, the accident had happened because he drove out at a junction when he wasn’t supposed to, despite having seen us driving towards him at high speed, but it was too late, our van was a mess while the other was barely dented. Thanks to the quick work of our tour guide, we climbed into a new van, covered in bruises, just 15-20 minutes later and were on our way. Ironically the whole thing had happened on Friday 13th.imageOnce we reached the national park, we had a quick lunch and set out on our first trek of the three days, through the dried out jungle towards the hills and the village where we would spend our first night. The trekking was pretty easy to be honest, after the 16km hikes I was doing in Khao Sok this was nothing and was nowhere near as interesting because it was firmly the dry season at this point and everything around us was dead and desperately in need of rain. But it was fun with our group and within a few hours we arrived after a pretty steep last climb through smoky hillside where they were burning the jungle for farmland. We could feel the intense heat from the fires in that last section and hoped they had them under control when we saw the wooden huts just a bit higher up the hill.

The village was made up of a collection of huts overlooking the jungle with dried banana leaves forming their roofs and pigs, goats and dogs running around all over the place. It was great, totally remote and just what we were all after. After a sit down and a beer, we went off to explore the higher part of the village and found a local woman weaving, while others farmed. Later, we watched on as the tour guide and villagers prepared our healthy, delicious dinner over a roaring fire inside a wooden hut – gotta love Thai health and safety! The food was fabulous and after we spent a night round the campfire drinking beers to celebrate being alive, our Irish friend’s birthday and learning Thai songs like Chang Chang Chang. We spent the night sleeping in a huge communal hut on what was pretty much a wooden floor with a few blankets, rustic and pretty uncomfortable but we woke up ready to start the next adventure.imageThe next day was spent trekking to the next hill tribe, which was actually the home of our very own tour guide, so that we could have lunch before beginning the next part of our journey. We hiked an easy route – except for the slippery, steep ascent at the end – and arrived at a beautiful wooden hut overlooking the fields and rice paddies, with smoke-encircled mountains I. The distance. Stopping for some noodles, we enjoyed a rest and the amazing panoramic view from the platform before continuing down the hill, into the village and onwards towards the jungle and our stop for the night. That night we spent eating more amazing food at the base of a stunning waterfall. We had low expectations considering the dry season, but this one was in full flow and a welcome treat after a sweaty last section of the hike.

Several beers and a campfire later, someone decided a midnight skinny dip was in order and we all headed bravely, or stupidly, into the water which was bloody freezing! After warming up by the fire we headed to bed where I slept in a bamboo hut by myself for the night – at least until I woke up with three cats spooning me, no idea where they came from as the door was firmly shut the whole night. Our final day was spent rafting around the river, which although low had enough water for us to enjoy, have water fights with locals and to race each other. This was followed by elephant riding, which I refused to do (see my later elephant posts) and actually after explaining why to my fellow trekkers there were only three people who bothered to do it out of over ten of us. It just shows that education can make a change. We spent time feeding the elephants instead.imageHeading back to civilisation, some were heading off straight away on the next leg of their journey, while I had the evening to relax before heading off to the Elephant Nature Park the next morning. We all had a fantastic time on the trip, and although it was a little disappointing because it didn’t really feel like the jungle with it being the dry season, it was a fun experience and worth doing. We had an amazing group who still keep in touch and although I’m not sure of the exact cost as it was booked in a larger package for me, it can’t have been a very expensive trip – well worth it for the experience, just don’t expect any difficult hiking.

Have you been hill tribe trekking – what did you think? Where else in the world would you recommend for trekking? 

Ab Lucy sign off

image Okay so you remember that time I wrote about smear tests? This is going to be a little bit like that… Probably one for the girls and a bit much for the boys to cope with – just warning you now. So Dad, if you’re reading this, you can give this post a miss. Periods. Pretty bloody inconvenient aren’t they? It was never something me really thought about before coming away, but I certainly wish I had now so I could have been more prepared. This is something no one warned me about and something I had never read about, but I know I’m not the only female traveller to be caught out unexpectedly. I’ve met several women on the road who have been only too quick to tell me about the horrors they have faced using Thai toilets when they just want a nice clean toilet with loo roll on hand. When you’re packing to come away, it’s just not something that really crosses your mind because as Westerners, we are so used to having sanitary products on sale in every shop with clean dashing toilets everywhere, and those super hygienic disposal buns for anything that won’t flush. But what happens when it’s not all so convenient?

Surfing the crimson wave, or riding the cotton pony, never seems to come at a good time and it’s far more annoying when you’re going on holiday and you just want to be looking fabulous in a bikini instead of bloated and like a beached whale with spots the size of maltesers. Painting a beautiful picture here aren’t I? To be honest, I’ve never been one of those girls who has been that bothered by periods, they’re an inconvenience but I just get on with it. If I know I’m going away on holiday or something, I will use my contraceptive pill to control when I have a period, so I can time it for a week later or even a month later. Good old microgynon! But what happens when you’re going travelling for a year? Well it’s one thing to run two packs of pills together, but a years worth isn’t quite so good for you I’d imagine, so how do you cope with having a period in Thailand and what do you need to know?

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  1. First of all, it is important for you to realise the toilet situation is pretty different in Thailand. After travelling through the south I have only been exposed to the best toilets so far, but have heard some of those in the north are a lot less desirable. Down south, most of them have flushes, but I have seen a few that require a couple of buckets of water instead.

  2. Toilet tissue has to go in the bin (in most places) and so do all tampons and sanitary products – that means when you change your tampon, it is left wrapped in a bit of tissue in the bin. Seems pretty gross to a westerner, but it’s either that or the whole bathroom with be flooded with whatever else is down there!

  3. Go prepared. Much of Thailand doesn’t sell a fantastic selection of sanitary products, so don’t walk into a 7/11 and expect to find all your favourite brands. You will want to make sure you have a good supply of tampons in particular as I haven’t actually seen them on sale anywhere yet – Thai women apparently use sanitary towels instead as tampons are considered unclean. Pack as many as you can! I met some girls who were having them posted out to them from mum.

  4. The sanitary towels are nothing compared to the slim fit ones at home – while slim, they often seem to come with huge wings. Not quite as discreet and comfortable as the ones from back home, but they do the job when you’re desperate and run out of supplies. Just be sure to stock up when you see them on sale as you often won’t find them in shops in some more remote places. I think some of the Thai women must be shoving a rolled up newspaper up there instead!

  5. Things like wet wipes and anti bacterial gel are really helpful when you want to make sure you have clean hands and a clean body in slightly less clean places. As a backpacker, you quickly lower your standards of cleanliness to fit with the place around you, and when you add in limited clothes and underwear in your bag, sometimes you just want to feel fresh – these can make all the difference.

  6. If you have quite heavy periods, it might be worth seeing your doctor before you go and seeing if they can put you on a contraceptive pill that will help to lighten them and to make you more comfortable when travelling – but this is totally a matter of personal choice. I’ve met girls who have the injection, the implant, the coil and a range of other methods for dealing with periods while on the road.

  7. Don’t let it scare or stop you! Having a period in Thailand is really not that bad and it is certainly no excuse to lock yourself in a dark room and cry. It doesn’t have to stop you from doing anything, I still hiked, swam, sunbathed and explored plenty of places and it didn’t stop me enjoying myself. Just make sure you don’t push yourself too hard, if you have bad period pains then give yourself some painkillers and take care of yourself. It’s okay to have a lazy day when you’re feeling rubbish, or to head to the city when you’re too bloated to feel comfortable in a bikini. That’s the beauty of backpacking, it’s so flexible and will fit around how you feel.

Okay that’s all my period advice for today – girls I hope it helped you. Guys, well done if you made it to the end of this post.

If anyone has any questions, I’m always at the end of a comment, so leave one below and I’ll always get back to you. Or why not share your period horror stories from your travels? 

Ab Lucy sign off

IMG_0244It’s been a while since I wrote a fitness post and to be honest, although I’ve still being going to the gym – it’s been a while since I felt very enthusiastic about it. I go through serious phases when it comes to working out, for a while I’ll be really into it and working towards a goal, almost to the point that I’m overdoing it. Then suddenly I’ll lose all motivation and barely be able to muster up the energy to bother. I always push myself to carry on, but when you can’t be bothered, you sort of wonder what is even the point. My last phase like this happened after the summer, I had a busy couple of months of trips all over the place (including my visit to Ireland for a wedding) which meant my routine was all over the place and I couldn’t get there as much as I would like. Plus the fact that I was spending a lot of time eating rich foods and drinking meant I really didn’t have the energy to work out.

After a few months of going through the motions rather than enjoying my workouts, I seem to be back on top of my game and raring for action. I think perhaps my fitness lull was caused by the weather – when things started getting autumnal, I instantly wanted to spend all my time in bed with a hot chocolate and watching Netflix. Now the weather actually seems to have warmed up again and I’m finding I have more energy to do stuff – either I’ve got used to winter or I’m more affected by the weather than I think! For some, December is all about letting the flab spread and digging into the mince pies. I won’t lie – I love Christmas food. I love mince pies, Christmas cake, turkey sandwiches, loads of gravy and Yorkshire puds – and don’t get me started on the cheese! (hyperventilates) So as you can tell – I’m not the sort of girl to give up these delicious foods and I don’t see the point in diet versions to be honest. But I do believe in upping your fitness game to match what you are eating.

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If you want to eat twice as much as usual – which, let’s face it is VERY likely at this time of year – then you need to get to the gym a bit more and build more exercise into your daily routine if you want to fit into that dress for the Christmas party. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with putting on a few extra pounds at Christmas time, and I know I certainly will. But my main goal is reducing how bloated and sluggish I feel after eating so much. I hate that feeling when you’ve done nothing but eat for a week without working up a real appetite – so I make sure I work out, walk, dance, jog and exercise along the way as well. I’m usually not too concerned with how big my belly is over Christmas because quite frankly I love jumpers and scarves so it’s never on show. But bear in mind, I will be spending January on a beach in my bikini in 2015 so having a huge bloated belly is not high on my Christmas list this year. After a request from a reader, I thought it was about time I shared my latest fitness routine!


 

So what is my latest workout?

Cardio

I like variety so I’m enjoying mixing up my cardio workout, but most importantly I’ve managed to get my mojo back with running. Now I’m trying to run for around 30 minutes, or do interval stints of a minute walking and four minutes of sprinting for the same length of time. I alternate this with half an hour on the crosstrainer using different programmes which target different areas of my body – either the interval or the gluteal ones are my favourites.

Once I’ve completed one of these, I tend to add on a bit of cycling or rowing – usually around 15 minutes. I like to go until I have jelly legs.

Weights

A weights workout is very individual and I use a personalised programme courtesy of my friend who is a personal trainer. As I have improved and moved up weight groups I have changed it accordingly. I start my leg workout doing two reps of 12 on the Leg Adductor followed by the same again on the Leg Abductor. This is followed by the Leg Press on which I either do two reps of 12 where I stack the entire weight (proud of that I am) or I do pyramid training. Plus a few squats thrown in for good measure – I like to use a weight when doing mine.

My arms workout is made up of two reps of 12 each on the chest press, bicep curl, shoulder press, tricep dip and lat pull-down. All of these are on various weights but yours will depend entirely on what you can lift. I do also sometimes swap these for free weights to change it up a bit.

My abs workout is my favourite. I start with side crunches off an exercise ball – doing 25-50 on each side depending on how much time I have. This is followed by long arm crunches off the ball using a 10 weight, plus 40 Russian Twists on the ball using the same weight. After that, I move to a mat on the floor where I start by doing around 20 long arm crunches with the same weight, 20 regular crunches, 20 crunches where I reach for my knees and 20 where I reach through my legs. After this, I do 40 twist crunches (not sure of the name for these but each elbow reaches to the opposite knee) followed by 20 crunches with a leg extension for the lower stomach. This is all finished off with another 40 Russian Twists using the weight, but this time on the floor, and some leg extensions off a bench.

Stretching

I always finish off with some stretches for my back, legs, arms and particularly my shoulders. I do a few pilates stretches I learnt when I used to do classes, and the rest is done on one of the stretch frames we have in the gym.


IMG_0245I like to have a gym workout at least twice a week or I feel lazy – it just shows how used to my routine I am! I’m also managing to fit another smaller workout, or a swim, in on the weekends now as well. I really am enjoying going to the gym again, and I enjoy it even more because it justifies eating lots of lovely food. I refuse to feel guilty for having an extra slice of cake and I never feel like I have to go work it off, because I generally am very healthy and I go to the gym enough to burn it off. I’m looking forward to finishing work in a few weeks so I can have more time to enjoy the pool and sauna at my gym over the coming weeks as well. Love food as much as I do but don’t want to have to buy bigger clothes for the Christmas party? Why not do what I do and balance all that food out with a few workouts? Don’t forget that you don’t have to hit the gym to burn off some calories – go dancing with the girls, or go for a long walk with the family… or why not just spend a few hours under the covers with your other half and burn the calories off that way?

What’s your fitness routine like over Christmas? Any workout tips you’d like to share?

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jphugs_blueI stumbled across something wonderful last week and it made me feel so happy to read about that I just had to share it with you guys. The Jubilee Project is a team of volunteers who work together to create short films and documentaries in their spare time to increase awareness and inspire action. Their vision is to produce entertaining content that will empower, enable, and inspire others to do good as well. Three guys started the project following the Haiti earthquake in 2010, when they started busking with hopes of raising $100 for the relief efforts. They fell short so made a video about it, they ended up raising over $700. Now they continue to create meaningful videos that will affect audiences and make them think about wider issues, with the mantra #DoingGoodIsContagious. So their latest video – which you’ll find below – is what I wanted to share with you.

It shows the incredible difference between adults and children – culture and society. With 50 adults and children asked the same question – If you could change one thing about your body, what would it be? And without a moment’s hesitation, all of the adults launch straight into things they don’t like and parts they wanted to change. The children? They seem stumped at first, unable to think of anything to change. But then they launch into superhuman additions they would like to have – mermaid tails (yes please!) and cheetah’s legs – because they don’t think there is anything wrong with the body they were given. So innocent and pure, they minds are yet unchanged by society and the horrible body shaming and expectations that are thrust upon us over time. Is this not yet more proof that no-one is born hating their body – we are the ones teaching them to?

I know I’ve written before about body confidence (here and here), but I haven’t yet focused on the problem of body shaming in society. The fact that you can be as confident as you like, but advertising and media and even just people on the street are often waiting to tear you back down again. It’s so sad to see how the views of these youngsters will change over time as they become more affected by the views of those around them, which in turn have been placed on them by advertising campaigns like the Victoria’s Secret one, or even music like the Meghan Trainor song. You can take either of these are you want – and to be honest, the song doesn’t really bother me a huge amount as I think it’s garbage anyway, but the underwear campaign is a different story. I don’t really understand why anyone would have let that campaign be released in the first place when it gives such a clear message that anything other than a Victoria’s Secret model is not perfect. What planet are these people on? Do they really think that 99.99999999% of the world’s population are the exception instead of the rule?bodyHearing all of the adults listing several things they would change and clearly feeling very uncomfortable about parts of their bodies was really sad. To think you have these amazing individuals who have had lives, friendships, have loved and had children – and yet they are still unhappy with the way that they look. It really warmed my heart to hear one of the young girls saying she actually really liked her body and wouldn’t want to change a thing – I wanted to scream at the screen and say DON’T CHANGE! Don’t listen to the media, ignore those billboards and stay happy as you are. She was one of the slightly older ones and you can tell it won’t be long until she too is affected by both and becomes insecure about her appearance. The clock is ticking. But then that final clip of the video makes all the difference – the oldest lady in the video says that she is happy with her body, her grey hair and her wrinkles because without those she wouldn’t be her. That woman is an inspiration and someone we should all take note of – I know I would much rather be like her than any of the other adults in the video.

It makes me feel quite sad that the majority of people will go through their lives without feeling truly happy with their appearance, despite it making up such a tiny amount of who they are. Why do we have to spend the majority of our lives – from being a child to entering our golden years feeling insecure? We’ve all got bits and piece that work, legs that get us from A to B, noses that can smell and tongues that can taste… So why, when we have all this on our side, do we have to go full circle before feeling confident again? Well as far as I’m concerned – we don’t. We all make our own decision to be happy or to be sad. We choose whether to let the haters bother us, whether to listen to those around us. Whether to feel fat on the beach in a bikini. So it’s time we all stopped listening to everything around us and start listening to that voice inside that says “You’re fabulous”. It’s easy to miss because it often gets squashed down by the one that says “You look gross” or “You’re fat” – but is far more important to pay attention to. I’m not saying it’s the easiest thing in the world, but changing your mindset is the first step to feeling content. The best way to change your mindset? Stop jumping straight to telling yourself about those ugly, fat or wobbly bits when you look in the mirror, make it your business to compliment the bits you like first. Three nice things for every one complaint and you’ll soon start thinking and feeling differently.girls1

What part of your body do you love the most and why? How do you feel after watching this video?

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