rest-day-guilt
It’s Christmas party season. Yesterday, I squeezed in a gym session between work and a festive party. The day before, I ran 6k on a hangover. The day before that it was Body Attack, and before that I can’t remember, but I sure as hell have of a lot of gym kit to wash.

Today is therefore my day off, and I should be kicking back and patting myself on the back for a well-deserved break. Instead, I feel a bit guilty.

Yep, crazy I know, but the part of my brain which should be saying ‘Jeez girl, you did well there’ is actually saying ‘Hmm, you probably could’ve gone for a quick run this morning if you’d actually got your lazy bum out of bed’.

Let me tell you, a day off is way less enjoyable if you’re constantly guilty-tripping yourself about it – but why do I think this way?

After all, I haven’t always felt like this – I remember when I was training for the London Marathon my rest days not only felt well-deserved, but I thoroughly enjoyed them, using the free time to inhale blueberry muffins and put my feet up in front of Pointless. I was working towards a goal, and I fully understood that recovery was an essential part of that.

I don’t know why that’s changed so much, although I have a hunch that social media – which has grown exponentially even in the three years since I did the marathon – doesn’t help.

Scroll through your Instagram feed and it’s full of perfect bodies and people getting up at 5am to work out before heading to the office. These people certainly don’t look like they spend occasional evenings lying at home stuffing their faces with Ben & Jerry’s and moving no further than the distance between the fridge and the sofa.

I think I’m also a victim to that constant pressure young women are under these days to be living a dream, ‘have it all’ life. Most girls my age feel like we should simultaneously maintaining the ideal relationship, the perfect job, a hardcore exercise regime, an enviable social calendar, Instagram-friendly weekend plans and holidays, and a wardrobe that would make top fashion bloggers weep with envy.

So having a rest day can sometimes feeling like admitting defeat – like saying ‘no, I can’t bloody do it all, I just want to lie down and ready The Sunday Times Style while drinking endless cups of tea, thanks’.

Of course this guilt is completely ridiculous. Aside from the fact that nobody is actually living that ‘perfect girl’ lifestyle, there’s also the fact that most personal trainers and health experts recommend regular days off in order to maintain optimum fitness. Studies have suggested that you need between one and two days to recover from a hard workout, and there is plenty of evidence to show the detrimental affects of over-training.

There’s also the simple fact that I’m spoiling my days off for myself by pondering over the exercise I should be doing. Don’t get me wrong, my guilt is not at exercise addict levels (I’ve seen enough of that to know), but I hate that little niggling voice that tells me I’m a bit lazy, when actually I’m doing a whole lot more to stay healthy the the Average Joe.

So from now on, I’m going to endeavour to enjoy my days off more, and rather than feeling bad for putting my feet up, I’ll reflect on all the hard work I’ve done to deserve. If you’ve ever experienced rest day guilt – and a quick Google search indicates I’m certainly not alone – then I urge you to do the same. You’ve earned it!

Do you ever get rest day guilt?! Let me know in the comments below!


I feel like my last post about women’s running was a wee bit negative (soz), so decided to rectify that with a post all about how being a girl who runs is actually the best thing ever.

Here are the reasons I love it so much…

1. Being your own boss.

Running is very much a ‘me, myself and I’ activity. Put it this way: no one would care if you didn’t go for that morning jog, so it’s basically your own job to motivate, monitor and push yourself – you’re very much your own boss. This is seriously freeing if you normally live a life that is constantly dictated by the needs and demands of others.

2. Bonding with other runners

While the decision to run is normally a solo one, once you start, you’ll bond with other people who share your new nerdy lingo of hill reps, splits and foam rollers. If you try and speak to your non-runner mates about this they’re like ‘END THIS MADNESS!’, but whether it’s on social media or at a running club, you’ll find people who share your interests.

3. Buying loads of running stash

Where once you would’ve rather died  than stepped out in fluoro print leggings, now you have a vast collection of garish sportswear, which is almost constantly going through the wash (one of the few downsides of running!)

4. Eating ALL the food

Picture the scenario: you meet your friends for lunch after a 10-mile run, they all start discussing which salad they’re going to order (‘I really need to be good’ etc etc). You, on the other hand, know you’ve already burnt off a whopping 1,000 calories that day, and will proudly be eating the cheesiest thing on the menu, because gurrrl, you’ve EARNED it.

5. Having usually busy places all to yourself

There is something really magical about jogging round Battersea Park at 7am and discovering you have the paths, which are normally swarming, as your own private running track. After all, there has to be some benefit to those early morning winter runs!

6. Looking gross and not caring

This might sound like a weird benefit, but who doesn’t love the fact that when you run, your appearance is the absolute bottom of the priority list. Yes, I have sweaty hair, and that be a tiny bit of dribble on my T-shirt, and WHAT?

7. Enjoying the sense of achievement

Whether it’s running a marathon, or simply knowing that you dragged yourself out to do a 3 miler when you REALLY couldn’t be arsed, the sense of achievement following a run is unbeatable. Like walking on clouds and being Beyonce all rolled into one.

8. Understanding you’re not ‘crap at sport’

Remember how at school you were labelled rubbish at P.E. and believed it just because you never actually learnt the rules of netball? Well pull on a pair of trainers several decades later and suddenly -voila!- you are quite literally doing some sport. And smashing it.

9. Not thinking

Stress-y and anxious types (oh hi there!) will love running because you don’t have time to panic about that shady comment someone made in the office when you’re chuffing along up a massive hill. Getting outdoors is great for your mental wellbeing, as is focusing on your physical side rather than your emosh one.

10. Over-taking men

There is nothing – NOTHING – quite as glorious as whizzing past a man who is also out running. Unless he’s like 80 years old.

11. Cake

I feel like this deserves its own special mention, because really, what is running for if it’s not to deserve cake?

niomi-smart

With 1.7 million Instagram followers, Niomi Smart has built a huge following for her fitness and healthy eating advice, but how does she workout herself and what gets her out of bed when she really can’t be arsed to exercise?! I asked her what we all really want to know…

How did you first get into fitness?

‘A few years ago I decided to change the way I eat to become fully plant-based. I had started reading about the benefits of eating this way and was excited by all the new foods I would get to try.

‘Within a couple of weeks it made me feel more alert and full of energy. So for me, exercise was a natural part of this new lifestyle and it became so much easier for me because I had so much more energy.’

What does your typical week in workouts look like?

‘I do some form of exercise at least every other day and I try to keep what I do as varied as possible. That way it’s more fun and interesting, and it doesn’t feel like a chore.

‘For example I might go to a boxing class on a Monday (as it’s a great way to start the week!), go for a 5k run on a Tuesday, a group HIIT workout mid-week, perhaps some yoga on a Thursday to stretch everything out and then I’ll usually go for a long run of 10k or more at the weekend.’

What are the most common gym mistakes you see people make?

‘Doing the same exercise and routine every time they go – the best thing to do is mix it up and do something different every time, it keeps it fun and interesting and you’ll stay motivated too.’

Lots of people want to tone up their abs at the moment – what’s your number one move for this?

‘I love a side plank – I try and hold it and then pulse up and down 10 times.’

What are your tips to get the most out of a gym workout?

‘For me it’s all about preparation and keeping hydrated. Drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout – this is so important. Breathe steadily and really focus your mind on your body, listen to what it’s feeling.

‘Make sure you stretch your whole body before and after your workout, the last thing you want is an injury.

‘Then have a post-workout smoothie and for an added boost of protein add in a protein powder – this keeps you really full, replenishes your muscles and keeps you hydrated after an intense workout.’

Who is your biggest inspiration, fitness-wise?

‘James Duigan who owns Bodyism in London – he makes working out fun and part of your lifestyle rather than a chore.’

How do you motivate yourself when you really don’t feel like exercising?

‘There are definitely days where I don’t feel like exercising and that’s ok, but I know that if I do exercise I’ll feel a million times better  – so I try to remind myself of that.

‘For me, it’s best to plan to exercise first thing in the morning before work. I get everything ready the night before, so I lay out my workout gear with my water bottle and anything I might need for that specific exercise, and then I get up, put on my workout gear and head out straight away – I don’t give myself chance to talk myself out of it!

‘The more you do it, the more it becomes part of your routine and the more you feel motivated.’

Niomi and Carly Rowena put on a special Barry’s Bootcamp class to raise money for Stand Up To Cancer. Check out their YouTube channels to see how they got on.

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Do you ever read a stat that makes you think: what the hell is the world coming to?

I have to say that’s how I felt when I received a press release from wow (a chia seed drink maker) saying that a surprising amount of people are posting #fitspo social media posts about workouts that never actually happened.

That’s right, next time you’re scrolling through your Instagram feed and feeling guilty over the fact that everyone else seems to spending their morning exercising while you’re just lying in bed in your pants, bear this in mind: a staggering 14 percent of people have updated followers and friends via social media about a gym visit that NEVER actually happened

Now I have to wonder – who are these people? Because I barely have enough time to Instagram what I AM doing (see me, sweaty-faced, above), let alone set up a whole fake scenario purely for the purposes of an Instagram snap.

Apparently, one in ten people have uploaded a picture to Facebook or Instagram dressed head to toe in the latest gym gear – only to get changed seconds later.

I feel like this is more damning evidence that fitness has become way more about image than actually about doing and enjoying exercise, something I previously ranted about covered here.

You can tell when you look at Instagram that some people spend more time in the gym prepping themselves for the perfect picture than they do huffing away on the treadmill.

And I’ll be honest, I can’t really cope with the people who feel the need to post details of EVERY. DAMN. RUN. they’ve done on Facebook, although I appreciate that if this is what keeps them motivated then they’ve gotta go with it.

But I’m really shocked to learn that so many people are creating purely pretend scenarios for the sake of social media. What have we become? A bunch of narcissists, that’s what, and at the risk of sounding like a hand-wringing octogenarian, I do sometimes worry about just how self-obsessed kids are going to grow up to be, living in the thrall of social media and all it’s ‘me me me’ culture.

So next time you see someone looking suspiciously unsweaty in their fitness post, or bragging about how they’ve been #eatingclean for the past 15 months, just comfort yourself with the thought that they are probably occasionally slobby, croissant-snaffling norms like the rest of us, and go on with your life unfazed…

rachel

Here’s a ‘wellbeing’ question  I want answered – how do you become a laid-back person?

There are some people who seem to breeze through life with a ‘zero shits’ attitude and an absolutely unflappable demeanour, and then there’s the rest of us: swearing, sweating and getting thoroughly wound up by all that life throws at us.

Today, for example, I felt on several occasions like life was having a laugh at my expense.

Firstly after leaving my flat, all proud of myself for being on time, I turned up at Brixton station and was confronted with a 15 minute queue just to get INSIDE the station. As in, people were queuing on the road because they couldn’t find a spare bit of pavement to stand on. This meant I would absolutely, definitely be late. Great.

brixton station tube queue

Obviously, in this situation, I wish I could be the type of person to giggle or roll my eyes and think ‘oh well, that’s my plans changed’. I wish I could look at the bigger picture and think ‘I’m still alive, and that’s all that matters’. I’d love to be the ‘cool girl’ out of the novel Gone Girl, who just shrugs in the face of  any kind of upheaval.

Sadly, I’m the opposite. After the initial gasp of horror at seeing the queue of doom, I shuffled forward an inch at a time, quietly seething at myself for not leaving earlier, at TFL for their shoddy effort despite me paying them THOUSANDS a year, at every other human in the queue for wanting to get on the tube at the EXACT SAME TIME as me.

My second incident came after I rushed off from work to get to my Pilates class for 6pm, only to be told on arrival that the class I had booked several days earlier was full. This was a day when I hadn’t even brought trainers with me, so I just had to pack up my stuff and go home.

Except of course, I didn’t do just that. Instead, I bowled over from the overfilled studio straight to the reception desk so annoyed I could barely talk. A workout missed! Precious time wasted! The unjustness of being booted out of a class I’d booked! Luckily, the lovely lady on reception was an absolute pro and calming people down, but the speed with which I could go from neutral to fuming was quite frightening.

I’m a terrible person aren’t I? But actually, I think I’m not that unusual – for every person reading this thinking ‘what a nightmare this girl sounds appears to be’ there will be another one like ‘YEP that’s me’.

And sometimes, it’s good to be a stress head. Unlike some of my laid-back mates, I’m not flakey or super late for everything. I can step up to the demands of a deadline-driven job. I’m a really good pal to those who are stressed themselves because I can completely empathise. And my fight or flight mode is totally on point should anyone try and snatch my handbag on the way home.

In fact, according to a new study, stress can be good for us, as long as we’re in control of the situation. The research found that those who had highly stressful jobs but were in control of their workload were 34% less likely to have died by the end of the study than those who were less stressed, but had less freedom to make their decisions.

That explains why, for me, the stress of a busy tube station or an over-subscribed fitness class is so much worse than say, having to juggle six different tasks in the office – because I have NO control over these situations. And I have noticed that it’s when something I’ve meticulously planned gets mucked up that I really lose my rag, which probably suggests that I need to work on reining in my control freakery.

So all you super laid-back and chill people out there – how do you do it? Please share you advice (or empathy) in the comments below!