I’ve made you a movement plan for December and beyond – not so that you feel you need to do more & chastise yourself if you don’t, but hopefully to inspire you to carve out a little time each day for movement that makes you feel good and helps you carry all of the others things you have to carry at this time of the year.
You can use it like an advent calendar by doing one move each day, or you can build it into a whole workout to do once or twice a week when you feel like having 40 minutes to yourself.
Recently I’ve been feeling that 2022 hasn’t been a good year, but a look through my photos has shown me that there have been so many highs, so here is a little review to remind me that not everything is always how it feels in one given moment…!
There have definitely been some heavy loads in the last few months – my Dad died unexpectedly on 2nd November, my house sale fell through around the same time and I’ve been struggling to mend two sore feet since I damaged them at the end of August! [Probably the feet don’t seem very important when compared to the death of a parent and the sadness of not moving house, but I feel them every day and they are getting in the way of me enjoying the one thing I really love to do #walking ]
So anyway, that’s the bad stuff…but here’s what I remembered when I looked through the photos on my phone:
I have two beautiful grand-daughters who fill my whole heart with joy and love and allow me to make up for all the moments I missed when I was parenting; grand-parenting is definitely an easier job and a huge privilege
this year I have completed #walk1000miles for the fourth year in a row (aiming to end 2022 on 1400 miles); I also walked around Bewl Water once per month and completed at least 100 miles each month for 8 months of the year (I missed that target in February, April, October & November but I’m learning to be ok with that). Walking, especially in huge, wide open spaces brings so much joy and energy to my life (see below)
2022 saw me set foot on the Pennine Way for the first time, and I went back and walked the first 100 miles in August – teenage dream realised!
I learned to grow and nurture a whole house full of house plants!!
I re-found my confidence and got back to working at my massage table; it still brings me unexpected delight when clients have a positive reaction to their treatment (I don’t know why it surprises me but it still does, every time!); I completed an Oncology Massage course in November so it’s full steam ahead for 2023
I’ve dared to dream of a new future for the first time in a very long time; although I’m very sad that my planned move to the seaside has not happened yet, I’m so happy that I was brave enough to imagine it and start the process of achieving it too. And I can wait a little longer to see it realised…
I’ve taken a photo every day for the 7th year in a row!! In all that time I’ve never missed a day or posted a photo taken on another day. I did cheat a little bit on the night that I was sat in a hospital relatives room, waiting to see my Dad for the last time – I asked my daughter to take the photo for me but I still edited and posted it so it almost counts as mine!
I’ve climbed the Yorkshire three peaks twice! The first time I did one each day over a three-day camping trip; the second time I did them all in one go straight after my hundred miles on the PW (hence the damaged feet!) – it was wayyyyyy harder than I expected and I couldn’t have done it without an incredibly supportive buddy #forevergrateful #youknowwhoyouare
I joined The Queue – such an honour and privilege #thankyoumaam
And last but not least, the snow last week brought much happiness to my child-like heart
Thank you 2022 – I haven’t always loved you but I’m glad we made it through together!
And 2023 I’m hoping for good things from you… #nopressure
For the next few weeks I’ll be sharing with you some suggestions for how to integrate what we do in a Pilates class into your everyday life. Maybe you already do this? But if not here are some ideas to get you started:
Think about your alignment when standing:
In particular, try to attach this habit to something you do at intervals during the day (eg. when washing your hands):
be aware of your foot placement – aim to stand with your feet hip width apart and your weight evenly balanced
position your shoulders directly above your hips
widen your collarbones with softness in the ribcage and length in your spine
gently tilt your pelvis forwards and back a few times in order to find the neutral point right in the centre – think of your pelvis as a bowl or a bucket, when we’re in neutral the water won’t spill out at the front or the back
once you’ve found your neutral position, add a gentle contraction of the deep abdominal muscles – thinking of drawing in your belt one notch whilst gently lifting your pelvic floor muscles
finally, all you need to do is breathe naturally and notice how the body feels when it is aligned
Think about your alignment when you’re sitting down:
Try to attach this practice to something you do at intervals too (eg. when sitting down to eat)
sit towards the front of your chair and feel your sit-bones sink into the chair, evenly weighted
be aware of your foot placement – hip width apart and under the knees
position your shoulders directly above your hips
lengthen your spine
gently tilt your pelvis forwards and back (without moving the rest of the body) and then find the neutral point right in the centre – think of your pelvis as a bowl or a bucket, when we’re in neutral the water won’t spill out at the front or the back
once you’ve found your neutral position add a gentle contraction of the deep abdominal muscles – thinking of drawing in your belt one notch whilst gently lifting your pelvic floor muscles
breathe naturally and notice how the body feels when it is aligned
As we bring awareness to our posture we can make subtle changes which will have a positive impact over time. None of the movements need to be big and the contraction of the tummy muscles will be gentle, but regular practice will help you to feel better in your body as you go about your day.
A few weeks ago I wrote about trying to up-spec my eating game to include at least 30 different varieties of fruit and vegetables a week, and I’m still doing it!
Obviously there are plenty of items that repeat weekly, but I’m trying to add in a few newbies each week too. Across the last four weeks I have eaten 50 different fruit and vegetables in total, which is probably four or five times more varied than in the four weeks before that! As an example, the salad above included mixed lettuce leaves, pea shoots & spinach as a base, topped off with olives, garlic, lentil sprouts, avocado, pickled red cabbage, tomatoes, hummus and sesame seeds – 9 veggies added to the list in one meal!
I’ve bought myself two sprouting jars and I’m really enjoying growing my own vegetables in miniature. Favourites so far are sprouted sunflower seeds and lentil sprouts (below), both of which work well in cold or hot dishes. Sprouted pulses and seeds taste amazing, add texture and colour and a whole heap of nutritional value and they are super-simple to grow.
Two jars allows me to stagger them and keep a continuous supply, or sprout two different things at once. I currently have lentils and broccoli sprouts ready to eat and I have sunflower seeds soaking in a separate pot ready to add to one of the jars when the sprouts have been moved to the fridge/eaten. Of course you don’t need to buy a special jar to sprout seeds and pulses but it makes the process very easy. And also I felt that having invested in the jars I might be more likely to keep using them long term…?!
Since the first week of doing this, I have found a few things which help me to stay on track:
keep a pencil and paper in the kitchen to write everything down on a meal-by-meal basis
start the week well – by bedtime on Monday this week I had already eaten 17 different fruit and vegetables, so I felt like I was winning right from the start
make up batches of meals which contain a lot of different vegetables so I have them in the fridge or freezer when I need them
use different fruits to make up fruit compote to go with porridge/chia pudding/granola/etc (frozen fruit is great for this)
collect windfall apples, pick damsons or forage for sweet chestnuts if you see them while you’re out and about (I’m not sure whether sloes for sloe gin counts but I guess you can decide for yourself!)
don’t forget to include frozen, tinned or bottled fruit and vegetable options to your list – sauerkraut is one of my favourite fall-backs when I don’t want to cook but I need to up the veggie-quota
Now that I’ve started, I’m going to keep the momentum going on my #30fruitandvegetables mission. It makes sense on so many levels – upping nutrition for heart, hormonal, bowel & cognitive health; promoting a feeling of self-care; managing energy levels; and creating a better connection with & enjoyment of eating.
You may already be far more evolved than me on this issue, but if not, and even if you don’t want to go for the full 30 in one go, why not start by adding one extra portion of vegetables to each meal or try buying one new vegetable ingredient each week. Small changes really do add up over time…
Did you know that eating a broad range and number of fruits and vegetables each week can support your hormonal health?
Last week as part of a course I’m studying, and with my own health in mind, I felt inspired to see if I could follow the advice to eat 30 different varieties of fruit and veg in one week.
The aim is to use dietary measures to naturally support the body in processing & managing oestrogen levels, which in turns supports us through times of hormonal change, such as peri-menopause. In addition to eating a range of plant-based foods (including legumes, nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables) and brightly-coloured foods, the goal is to broaden the range of fruits and vegetables we consume.
I am vegetarian so in theory it maybe shouldn’t be that hard. But I’m also lazy about cooking for one and a bit of a fussy-eater after a childhood of strict ‘eat what you’re given’ parenting, so I was really intrigued to see how I would get on.
I started last Tuesday and tracked back over the previous day to start my count. I had also recently done a good food shop so I already had a few different options available to get me started.
I arrived at 17 different items quite easily and really enjoyed challenging myself to fit extra vegetables into my meals:
red lentils (not sure if legumes count but I counted them anyway just in case I fell short!!)
At this point I realised that back-up supplies would be needed so I trawled the supermarket for as many different things as I could find, including some things I had forgotten about & some that I don’t really like.
I added a few ‘deli’ items:
artichoke hearts (I’d forgotten how much I love these)
sauerkraut (love this and eat it often but had run out)
Some vegetables I normally avoid:
brussels sprouts (which were better shredded and pan-fried than any other way I have ever eaten them)
parsnips (I don’t mind them but wouldn’t usually choose them)
mustard cress (tasted way better than I remembered)
celery (I hide it in ragout-type recipes)
cauliflower (I had some in the freezer so I used it to make cauliflower, parsnip and garlic mash)
Some basic extras:
white cabbage (I made coleslaw with added apple and sunflower seeds)
And, last but not least, some lovely additions:
pea shoots (such a great flavourful addition to a salad)
mango (post 10-mile hike purchase)
blackberries (picked en-route)
So I finished my week on 32 different kinds of fruit and veg (33 if I include the red lentils, but in that case I can also include butter beans and cannellini beans so 35!) I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t really more on fruit (as I am a bit of a fruit-bat) and actually I really enjoyed finding new ways to include more vegetables into my meals.
One of the things I learned from this (which came as no surprise but all the same it was a good reminder) is that I basically eat the same ingredients nearly every week. Probably many of us do. Food shopping can become a bit of a chore and I think I have been following the same path through the shop each time, so that I buy food without ever needing to veer off-course. I really enjoyed thinking about what I could eat to increase my veggie uptake and it was good to look along shelves that I normally by-pass.
The best thing I gained from doing this, was a stirring in my soul – a little bit of excitement about my meals, a joy in new found flavour (& texture) combinations, and a better connection with what I was eating. My meals are usually ‘bistro bowl & single utensil’ options so that I can eat without thinking, mostly sat on the sofa, distracted by a bit of catch-up TV. Last week I think I used two utensils together more than once, I sat at a table to eat more often and I actually took notice of what I was eating.
I felt like I was bathing my body in nutrients, colour, flavour and a big dose of self-care.
I ate (& craved) less chocolate & consumed significantly less cheese-as-a-meal-substitute last week. Interestingly I don’t think I spent any more than usual on food because I didn’t buy snacks or lots of cheese like I might usually do. I guess time will tell how much it costs but I plan to do lots of batch-cooking of dishes which include as many vegetables as possible. Yesterday I made a green lentil ragout with eight different veggies in it – knowing that I have portions of this in the freezer will be a real bonus when I’m short on time and need a veggie-boost.
There was a downside…I used the dishwasher more than usual, but I guess that’s just part of being a grown-up & cooking actual meals?!
One week on and I’m still going with the goal of 30 but I’m trying to make some changes from last week so that I don’t stick with the same 30 each week. So far I’ve added in beetroot, spring greens, pomegranate & raspberries; I’ve grown broccoli sprouts and I’m sprouting some sunflower seeds; and I have pak choi and sweet potatoes lurking in the fridge. I think the key is to layer in a couple of extra veggies at every meal – so instead of a meal consisting 3-4 ingredients, I will bump it up to 7-8 different ones, so that every meal makes a contribution to my total count (and more importantly my health!)
So how about you? Do you (or could you) eat 30 different varieties of fruit and veg in one week? If not, might you give it a try?
If you are a way off to start with, you might not want to make such a sweeping change all in one week so perhaps start by gradually adding in a few new items each week until you get there.
Please let me know if you give it a try – would love to know how you get on and what differences you notice, particularly if you are also trying to balance your hormone levels.
The past three weeks have been a whirlwind (under-statement?!) but hopefully the dust is beginning to settle on our strange new world. Now that we know we’re going to be ‘here’ for a while, we need to think about making plans so that we come out the other side in the best place possible…
Like all of you, my head has been all over the place at different times since the COVID-19 crisis began to impact our daily lives. Emotions are finely balanced and there have been a few wobbles along the way, but the thing that is helping me the most, is making plans.
I’m not actually a huge planner in life – I’ve always tended to drift a bit and see what happens – but right now I recognise that I need a plan! It’s definitely not about having a busy, packed schedule; it’s more about having a general idea how I’d like my day to look & feel and building in time to nurture myself. Having a plan gives me reassurance that I’ll still be standing at the end of this pandemic, and also keeps me grounded in the moment so that I can get through each day in turn.
Of course there’s no ONE way to handle this – we are all unique and armed with our own coping strategies – but talking to other people (remotely, of course) it seems that there are three common approaches at the moment:
make plans, find time for supportive activities, think about the end goal, get on with the ‘new-normal’
sit it out, do nothing, wait for it all to pass, hope that we’ll all go back to ‘old-normal’ afterwards
over-plan for the children, forget about yourself, feel stressed about no-one else sticking to the schedule you wrote for them, get up and do it all again tomorrow…!
Maybe you can recognise your own approach somewhere in this list? Maybe it changes from day-to-day? Maybe its a mixture of all three? Maybe you’re still settling?
All of these are perfectly good IF they are working for you – ie. that you feel mentally & physically supported to get through your day; that you have a balance of different activities to keep you engaged; that you are able to manage your stress-load effectively; that you’re able to carry on with the mundane everyday tasks that we all need to do; and that you are sleeping and eating to support your body.
But, if your current approach isn’t working for you, or if it stops working for you, perhaps it’s time to start making plans?
For me, planning is not about creating a rigid schedule. It is simply about recognising what you need and making plans to include some of that in your day/week, because now more than ever, what you need is truly important. It is not selfish to take care of yourself and focus on what you need. If you are supporting other people right now, make sure you also support yourself.
I know that we are all in totally different places right now – physically and emotionally and practically – but within all of our circumstances there is an opportunity to make plans to support ourselves.
Write them down – make them happen:
Ideally your plans will be written down (in your diary, on your family calendar, in a journal, on a scrap of paper, in an online planner…) and shared if you’re in a shared space right now (because it’s important that other people know what you need to do today – it’s not all about them and when they want to eat again!)
I’m a Filofax kind of girl so my plans all go in there, but I’m also fond of keeping a pen & a piece of paper by the kettle for any thoughts that occur while I’m there. My diary tends to work best for my weekday planning; the piece of paper plan is most often used at weekends, when I try not to be in my office near my diary! Right now there’s a bit of a cross-over but I’m trying to separate out the working week and non-working weekends as much as possible for a semblance of normality.
Writing plans down is the best way to make them happen!
What to plan:
My key planning tactics over the past 3 weeks have included:
planning my work schedule to support clients whilst also being mindful of the times I need to support myself
booking online yoga/meditation/breathing sessions which are FREE of charge – this is important because it would be easy to get carried away and spend more than I’m earning!
booking online yoga/meditation/breathing sessions which are PAID activities – this is important because I want to support other people who are in the same financial position as me
planning what food I have that needs using by a certain date to avoid waste and make sure I am engaged with my own nutrition
planning when (& where) I’m going to take my daily walk – so far I’m saving this until the late afternoon so I have something to look forward to when I might otherwise slump into a ‘sofa/chocolate/rubbish-on-the-TV hour or two’
planning when I can face-time my three girls without it being too noisy or chaotic!!
Some plans are made for weeks ahead (work for example), some are made at the start of the week, some are made at the start of the day. I like to keep a balance of these so that there is some flexibility within the structure.
Best laid plans…
Yesterday my day was thrown off course completely because I didn’t have a plan beyond 12pm!
In the afternoon, I spent three unexpected hours sorting out some technology; I had a face-time call with Imo who wanted to see where her little bed was, and see the tortoise, and see the dog, and see her high-chair (basically I think she was checking that I’d cleaned the house!!), and then after my walk, I slumped into bleurgghhh!
I didn’t eat the food I had defrosted (I had apple & chocolate for dinner instead!). I didn’t do the online class I had intended to do because I didn’t book it and therefore it became easy to ‘forget’.
Instead, I watched boring TV, went to bed and played a stupid game on my iPad until later than I should have…and weirdly it didn’t feel like a satisfactory kind of day at all!
Getting back on track:
Of course, one wasted afternoon doesn’t matter very much. But right now there is more opportunity than usual for multiple wasted afternoons which is why making plans is crucial for keeping me sane (or at least as sane as usual!)
If you find yourself feeling all-at-sea right now, think of ways to plan a different reality to get you back on track.
As a bare minimum, try to include a balance of:
some kind of movement
some quiet time
some (physically distant) social time
some time outside
some time caring for others (directly or indirectly)
some creative time
some time that’s just for you
something that makes you laugh
Of course we might not achieve all of these things every day, but thinking about them when making your plan will make them more likely…
Happy planning! Jx
Click here for details of how I can help to support you with some daily movement habits
Some useful articles on planning as a stress-reduction tool:
With Pilates the way in which the exercises are executed is of more importance than the number of repetitions completed or the exertion used. Mastering a simple exercise is often far more complicated than forcing the body to create a larger movement. Pilates teaches us to bring subconscious control into habitual movement patterns so that we can move with more ease and efficiency.
Following the eight principles of Pilates helps us to get the most from our practice. Last time we looked at concentration.
This time we’re going to look at centering.
In Pilates the ‘centre’ refers to the neutral position of the lumbar spine (lower back) & pelvis. Joseph Pilates describes ‘the centre’ as the area between the ribs & the hips, at the front & back of the body. Nowadays we have extended that definition to include the sides of the torso.
Your centre is the pivotal point of the body from which all movements start. Movement, balance, force & strength all come from the centre – a weakness in the core will affect the body’s ability to perform any of these functions.
It is important to understand that core control is more important than core strength. Abdominal control provides fluidity of movement which is crucial; abdominal strength provides support which is beneficial but secondary.
Your centre is controlled by use of the abdominal muscles, the muscles in the lower back and the pelvic floor muscles. These muscles surround your abdominal cavity and form a central cylinder (see diagram below)
When you activate your core (ie. all the muscles surrounding your central cylinder) you are better able to manage the intra-abdominal pressure which gives stability to each movement.
Once the core/centre has been activated, we add arm & leg movements to challenge your stability and develop better muscle tone.
Finding your centre:
One of the keys to success is being aware of when you have ‘lost’ your centre, and making sure that you work within the capabilities of your core control – if you try to progress too soon, or push ahead without maintaining your centre, you will not develop a stronger core. Instead, you will risk overusing the muscles in your lower back or adding downward pressure into the pelvic floor or adding outward pressure into the abdominal wall (or perhaps all three!) potentially leading to less stability than you started with (& maybe some pain too).
There are many ways to find and activate your centre/core and we spend time doing this each time we move into a new position. We find a neutral pelvis, where the core muscles are in the optimum position to ‘fire’, and then we think of drawing gently upwards and inwards with the pelvic floor and deeper core muscles as we exhale (we’ll look at breathing as a separate principle).
Ideally you will keep an awareness of your centre during the class, but if you find you have forgotten about it, simply take a breath and come back to it on the next movement. Outside of your Pilates class, it is useful to keep an awareness of your centre to improve your posture in everyday life.
Finally, remember that we are looking to achieve a light connection with the core muscles – you don’t want to activate them to 100% otherwise movements will not flow and your posture will become unnatural – aim for 30% contraction so that you are just aware of a gentle feeling in the tummy wall.
Next time we’ll look at breathing as the third principle of Pilates – breathing.
I am hereby throwing down the tmf 60 x 60 challenge in a bid to keep you [me!] motivated to move more for the last 60 days of the year/decade! If you’re reading this on Friday 1st November you have exactly 60 days left (allowing a day off for Christmas). If you’re starting a bit later that’s ok – it’s better to start late than not at all.
Recently (or more accurately for at least the whole of this year!) I have struggled to motivate myself into doing any regular exercise, other than daily walking. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a complete couch-potato – fitness is my business after all so I am active most days. I think nothing of walking 20 miles at the weekends and I do feel relatively strong and fit-ish. Just not as strong and fit-ish as I used to/would like to feel…
In an attempt to motivate myself, I have set myself the goal of doing 60 reps of something every day for the last 60 days of the year #tmf60x60. I would really love it if you could join me and it doesn’t cost you anything other than your commitment!
I’ve called it a ‘challenge’ but more than challenging you [me] physically, I hope this inspires you [me] to get more active over the next 60 days, and that it helps you [me] to build good daily exercise habits to carry over into the next decade. If your [my] body feels fitter, leaner, stronger &/or more flexible by 31st December as a result that’s an added bonus!
You can choose whether you do the same reps of the same exercises every day or whether you mix and match according to your mood; you might do 10 reps each of 6 different exercises or you might do 60 reps of one exercise; you might do your reps all in one go or spread them out over the day – really you can make this whatever you want it to be but now is the time to commit!
I tried it out this morning and it took me less than 5 minutes so that’s the ‘no time’ excuse knocked on the head. I’m planning to vary my 60 reps (easily bored!) and I will try to get them done before I start my day, but you can shape it to fit your lifestyle. If you have kids why not get them joining in to?
Click on the link below to read more and see some simple exercise suggestions from me. You can print this off to refer back to whenever you need ideas:
Just to let you know I’ll be hijacking my blog with walking posts and updates over the coming weeks…
In 8 days time I’ll be setting off on my first long distance walk (the South Downs Way) so I’ll be covering some walking-related topics and blog posts before and after my adventure. I probably won’t add much during my walk because a big part of it is about going off-grid, but I’ll try to keep a journal every day so I can share later on.
Someone asked me this week if I was walking for charity and I told her I’d share the details here. There have been some very generous donations already but no amount is too small and every penny will be put to good use. I truly appreciate all your support.
There is still time to make a donation to my JustGiving page if you would like to support The Sam West Foundation, who provide in-school mental health support for children and young people. And as it is Mental Health Awareness week, what better time to support their work?