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.

screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-17-56-52

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!

 

relax stop worrying

What’s on your worry list at the moment? 

Might seem like a weird question, I know. Firstly, what the hell even is a worry list, and secondly, what place does it have on a fitness blog?

But I feel like 99% of women will certainly be familiar with the concept of a worry list if not the term, and if it sounds totally alien to you, then you’re lucky, because most of us have one: a pile of concerns and anxieties that mainly revolve around things you feel guilty about, an ever-growing catalogue of to-dos and imaginary but frightening possibilities of ‘what might happen’ in the near or distant future.

As for covering it on my blog, I’m a big believer that a healthy body is worthless without a healthy mind, and that stress and worry can be seriously damaging. Also, it’s my blog, SO THERE.

But back to the serious topic of the absolute tidal wave of worry which seems to be crushing young women at the moment.

As I mentioned before, the worry list is a varied and ever-changing thing, ranging from mundane, real things that are actually happening, to vaguer, wider terrors. On any one day, I may be simultaneously stressing about:

  • The Whatsapp I haven’t replied to from a friend who wants to meet up
  • The lack of literary genius in one all of my article introductions
  • My boyfriend getting squashed by a lorry (“that MUST be why he’s 5 minutes late” says my brain)
  • The plumber/gas man/opticians appointment I really need to book, if only I could find a minute
  • The important work meeting I need to prepare for (and will probably say something ludicrous at)
  • Getting blown up on the tube *looks around nervously*
  • The fifth square of chocolate I probably shouldn’t have eaten

It might not be full blown anxiety; I don’t have panic attacks or fear leaving the house, and I know most of it is ridiculous, but it’s exhausting, and I know way too many friends who feel exactly the same – like there’s a constant list of concerns nagging at them, or specific times when this worry list just blows up and keeps them awake at night.

It seems to be a distinctly female thing too – whenever I ask my boyfriend, male friends or relatives if they feel like this, they look at me like I’m crazy and say “But why would I worry about something that hasn’t actually happened?”

Sometimes I’ll be sitting in bed at 11pm, eyes wide open, and my boyfriend will ask me what I’m doing. “I’m doing some worrying” is my honest and obvious answer, which to him is just daft – why waste your time on such an unproductive feeling?

And he’s right – in some ways we’re our own worst enemy here. Of course there are some people with proper, medical anxiety who need expert help, and I have huge sympathy for them, but I know myself that I’m actually just a massive worrier, and sometimes I need to snap myself out of it.

So here are my best, tried and tested tactics for doing just that. Follow these to cut down the worry list pronto!

  1. Don’t look at work emails. Even if there’s nothing negative in your inbox, they’re bound to stress you out by reminding you just how much you need to do.
  2. Once a day, set aside 30 mins to go through all your unanswered texts/whatsapps/emails and get that mega burden of guilt off your mind.
  3. Talk through your worries with an understanding friend who can show you that your worries are probably unfounded.
  4. Make a to do list of everything you need to do, so you don’t feel like life is spiralling out of control.
  5. Stop reading everything in the news about events that freak you the hell out (see: all the hyperbolic MailOnline coverage about London preparing for ‘inevitable’ gun attacks and the website’s minute-by-minute updates about planes having emergency landings) 
  6. Watch or read something that really makes you laugh. I can never stay too anxious while watching Peep Show.
  7. Remembering this line, from an Edinburgh comedy show, which really stuck with me, even if the name of the comedian hasn’t: ‘What makes you think you’re so fucking special?’ His point was that we all worry about these crazy, horrific events that’ll happen to us, but that the huge majority of people just have fairly uneventful lives and pop their clogs from normal illnesses in their 70s and 80s. As someone prone to catastrophic thinking, I find this weirdly comforting!
  8. Remember everyone cares about themselves more than anyone else. I don’t mean in a dickhead way – I just mean, if you are feeling super guilty about not getting back to a friend or over-analysing some “stupid” comment you made during a conversation, the other person probably barely registered. Everyone has, quite frankly, got their own shit going on!

 

Do you have any tips to share? Leave them in the comments below!

Muddy trainers winter exercise tips
Recently I stepped out of the gym at 6pm only to discover – shock, horror – that it was already getting dark.

My first thought was, obviously, ‘WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?’ While many people are wanging on about how much they’re looking forward to winter coats and boots, I am pro-Summer all the way.

My second thought was how much harder it’s going to be to motivate myself to exercise now it’s getting cold, dark and dismal outside.

Exercise in the summer comes to us easily, especially if like me, you’re the type of person who bounces out of bed when the sun rises (HOLLER to all those weirdos who can’t sleep past 5.45am come June).

Even if you’re not, there’s no denying that a jog through a sunny park is way more appealing than pulling on your trainers while staring grim-faced out of the window at rain, clouds and cats sheltering under cars.

However, with the season of autumn comes comfort food, which means you can’t really afford to just give up on fitness completely, for fear you might start to resemble an actual sticky toffee pudding.

Body-consciousness aside, I also find that going into hibernation mode can end up making you feel low and listless – you need some time in the great outdoors in order to feel happy and healthy, even if motivating yourself to get out there can be tricky.

With that in mind, here are my top tips for keeping up your exercise routine in autumn, all learnt from my own experience…

1.Start a group activity

The main draw of group classes at this time of year is obviously that they’re indoors, so a drizzly day is no excuse not to get involved. But more than that, they provide extra motivation when you’re feeling sluggish, because once you’re in the room with the instructor bellowing at you, there’s little choice but to see the class through to the end. Plus, if the colder weather has turned you into a hermit, they provide much needed interaction with other people. I recommend an upbeat activity like aerobics, spinning or Zumba.

2. Buy the right gear

Newsflash – running in the rain is actually possible, particularly if it’s just a light shower. Ditto running when it’s super cold. However, many people are put off by both of these because they don’t have the right clothing. All you need’s a light jacket (please say you got the Miss Congeniality reference here?), plus gloves, a hat and scarf for colder days. You can get inexpensive waterproof gear from any big sports store – choose luminous colours so you’ll be easily spotted in the dark.

3. Run to or from work

Ok so you’ve got the gear, but finding the motivation to run when it’s grim outside is tricky. I’ve found that incorporating the run into a journey you would be doing anyway – i.e. to or from the office, is an excellent way to make it happen. Buy a good running backpack – one with straps that go round your chest and waist – and download an excellent playlist for your run (if you live too far from work, try just running part of the way). There is honestly no better feeling than arriving through your front door in the evening, exercise session out of the way and the prospect of a cosy night in ahead of you!

4. Set yourself a goal

The best way to keep yourself exercising throughout the winter is the pure terror of knowing that, at the end of it, you have one whopper of a fitness challenge to come up against. Take, for example, the winter of 2013, when I started training for the London Marathon in January and kept running through snow, ice, rainstorms and yep, more snow. I’m not suggesting you need to go quite so extreme with your goal, but certainly signing up for a challenge that takes place around April/May will give you the kick up the arse you need for an active winter.

5. Go for long walks

One thing I’ve learnt since getting my Fitbit is that walking is a seriously underrated form of exercise. There have been some days when I’ve really beaten myself up about missing a morning exercise class, but after going for a long walk in the afternoon, I’ve actually burnt off more calories than I would’ve in the session I skipped. And what could be nicer than covering a good mileage during a crisp, bright day, all wrapped up in a coat and scarf with the beautiful autumnal colours all around you? NOTHING.

6. Opt for evening workouts

As I mentioned before, I find getting up early in the summer a breeze. In the past two weeks, that has COMPLETELY changed, and every morning I find myself eyeing up my alarm furiously as it goes off next to me, thinking ‘Surely it’s only 2am?’ Then when I crawl through to the living room and rock back and forth in my dressing gown watching BBC Breakfast and drinking tea. All in all, it’s really not conducive to a morning workout, which is why I tend to switch my normally early fitness sessions to evening time in the winter. If you plan to do this, remember to take a late afternoon snack to work with you (for hanger prevention) and make yourself a little toiletry bag full of all the stuff you need (contacts, socks, hair bobbles, padlock, deodorant, water bottle) otherwise you will forever be rocking up at the gym post-office and realising you’ve forgotten something essential!

How do you motivate yourself to exercise in the winter? Share your tips in the comments below!