Beauty

Barry M Tahitian Body Oil

I’ve been using this product since the week it came out, and have been on-off using it over the summer alongside the nice golden tan I managed to get after a week in Lanzarote. If you’re anything like me, you want your tan to stay as long as possible, and this bronzing body oil is definitely a contender for subtle enhancements to your tan.

First a little about the body oil itself, with a segment taken from the Barry M website:

“With pure Coconut Oil and the tropical fragrance of Tahitian Gardenia, In the Glow body oil will soothe, hydrate and add a subtle sunkissed glow to all skin tones.” 

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Now, I began using this product when I was pasty white in June – it was the start of summer and it was only just starting to warm up so it had been some time since my skin had seen sunlight. I was drawn to this product because I was going away to the coast for three days, and it was forecast thirty degrees, so it was time to pull out the summer dresses! Admittedly, I was a little disappointed with this product to start with. I soon realised that this product didn’t so much give you a bronzed look, but instead gives a slight glow in the sun as its tinted bronze with small golden glitter sparkles. Basically, I feel like without a natural tan this product failed to enhance my skin tone, so I cast it aside.

Fast-forwarding a couple of months, I’d returned from my holiday with my bronzed look and decided to try out this product again. I was pleasantly surprised by the difference having a base tan made! The bronzing effect of this body oil was suddenly much more noticeable, and despite the fact I went on holiday a month ago, when I wear this product, it looks like I only returned yesterday. I love wearing this product whilst the sun is out too, because when the rays catch your skin, you can see the subtle glitter sparkle (I purposely took the photo below in the sun, just so you can see the beautiful sparkle!).

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I saw many comments enthusiastically stating how this product is great value for money as a little goes a long way, and personally I’d have to disagree with this. I understand that you don’t need to apply much to your skin, but by the time you’ve worked this over your arms, chest and leg area multiple times, the bottle does slowly start to empty. At £7.99 per bottle it is a much cheaper alternative to similar products on the market, but I found the longevity wasn’t there for me and sometimes I’d find myself reapplying this on a summer’s evening.

One positive I would like to make note of is that it lives up to the claim of hydrating your skin, and the smell is gorgeous. Unfortunately I suffer from dry and sensitive skin so I’m a little hesitate to try new products, but as an oil I found it wasn’t reactive with my skin, and nor was it overly greasy once you let it dry it properly. I would advise not wearing white whilst wearing this body oil because unless you pranced around for thirty minutes waiting for the oil to dry in, you did see some transfer onto clothing (I did manage to wash it out!).

Overall, I think this is a good little summer product. As mentioned, I’m not entirely sure this works as effectively on pale skin tones, but it looks lovely in the sun with the subtle glitter, and its so easy to use.

Love Amie

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Fitness, Running

My September Fitness Goals

How on earth has another month gone by already? Over the past two months I’ve pretty much lacked fitness motivation. I’ve been going to the gym, but my heart certainly wasn’t in it and thus I haven’t exactly managed to progress at all. With exercise, I find it’s crucial to make it fun as if I’m not enjoying it I’ll crash out early. My September Fitness Goals will obviously have the primarily aim of becoming fitter and hopefully losing some weight in the progress, but most importantly I want to make it a fun and enjoyable experience so I don’t give up early on!

Running 15-20 miles per week

As it stands, I probably only run about 10 miles per week. Don’t get me wrong, I do an awful lot of walking at around 60 miles a week but I’d love to improve my stamina when it comes to running. Recently, I have begun taking my running outdoors instead of the dreaded gym treadmill, and just by doing this I’ve found I the enjoy the activity much more and suddenly I can run four miles effortlessly. With this, I plan on exploring new areas near me, possibly incorporating some slight hill runs. There are so many places to run and whilst it is easy to just get your trainers on and run out the door, there’s nothing stopping you from driving twenty minutes down the road to explore a new area and see some alternative scenery. Another thing I hope to tackle this month is a Tough Mudder run. Luckily, I’ve managed to nab some free tickets for this, but there should be various cheaper options in your area if you don’t fancy splashing the money on running whilst being caked in mud. I’d always considered completing one of the mud runs, but 5 miles with obstacles always seemed too tough for me to contemplate. I’ve since realised that trying is what counts the most, not being able to run the entire muddy 5 miles is irrelevant because it will still be a fun day out regardless!

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A new hill every other weekend

Admittedly, I used to hate walking up hills. I never understood the point of doing it when walking on flat ground was far more pleasurable. Since my boyfriend and I visited the Lake District around a month ago, we’ve been making the effort to tackle local hills in each of our surrounding areas. Obviously these are nowhere near the size of the Lake District mountains, but at a sizable 300-500m, there is at least some challenge involved and the views are still breathtaking. I’m lucky to only have the Snowdonia National Park 45 minutes down the road from me (I guess living next to Wales can be a positive sometimes!), therefore soon we’ll be extending our walking to there, and hopefully we may tackle Snowdonia by the end of the year!

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To average 100,000 steps per week

I usually manage to average around 90,000 steps per week (just) so I’m going to make the attempt to push an extra 10,000 over the course of seven days. This only averages at around 14,500 steps per day, but when you have a sedentary office and driving job, reaching 10,000 alone can sometimes feel like a mammoth task! Weekends being weekends, I usually like to chill out and relax from the working week, but throughout September I will be utilising my weekends more to push up my step goals, aiming to achieve 20,000 steps on each day through extending my running distances and going on long walks in the late afternoons.

I’ve decided to only give myself three main goals this month as it’s important to make your goals achievable. Hopefully this post may provide some of you with ideas to make your own little goals, as personally I always feel inspired reading what others are up to as it gives me fresh new ideas that I want to try out myself!

I’d love to hear what your fitness goals are this month, so feel free to comment below!

Love Amie

Fitness, Travel

A day in the Lake District: Skiddaw

Seeing that it’s now been nearly a month since my boyfriend and I went on our annual walking holiday, I thought I’d better get a move on and actually write a post about it before I forget. Like last year, we decided to complete the three-hour journey up to the Lake District, to a small market town nestled in the northwest of the Lakes called Keswick. Due to it being a bit of a last-minute trip, we decided three days would be a suitable stopover to walk a couple of hills, see the area and obviously hit the pubs after a long day of walking. With the exception of geography trips, I’d only ever walked a couple of mountains for pleasure that were around 400-600m in height, so when my boyfriend stated we’d be walking the third highest mountain in England, Skiddaw, which has a summit of 931m, I certainly doubted my capabilities of being able to reach the top.

With the expectation that Skiddaw would be a rather difficult climb that would take the majority of the day, we set off at 9am to grab our sandwiches and make the ten-minute car journey to the car park. I’m not usually one to be up and about at this time, but it’s always a good idea in places like the Lakes, or Peak District, if you want to grab a parking space, because by 11am they’re pretty much packed full. Arriving at the car park with Skiddaw towering over you was certainly intimidating, and not to mention being surrounded by pro-mountaineers with all the top gear and equipment – it almost felt like we were about to climb Ben Nevis. The route we decided to take began from the car park nestled next to Latrigg which would eventually take us past Lonscale Fell, over or past Little Man and up to the top of Skiddaw.

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Skiddaw range from Derwent Water

Walking pole in hand, we began the ascent and as it turned out, the initial 60 minutes of the walk turned out to be the most difficult. The walk was steep in the beginning. Not steep enough to consider crawling up, but I definitely appreciated having the walking pole and a light rucksack. The pathway up is fairly friendly, it’s well-trodden loose stones which admittedly did become a little slippy following the rain on the way down, but was otherwise a bliss compared to our Red Pike climb the next day (hopefully I will actually get around to writing about this too). Skiddaw lacks the crags, edges and rocky faces that many larger fells experience, making the walk up fairly pleasurable. I think there is an element of good fitness required, but if you take it slowly, it’s easily doable. By the time you pass Lonscale Fell, the slope begins to even out a little on the way towards Little Man, and although you’re still ascending, it almost feels like you’re walking on flat ground compared to the slope you just tackled.

Eventually you will reach somewhat of a crossroads, left will take you up and over Little Man, and straight on bypasses Little Man. Both paths eventually meet around 20/30 minutes later. We noticed quite a commonly-occurring rookie error at this point later on. Despite it being August, on the day we walked Skiddaw we were greeted with clouds, cold and bitter winds. This meant that by the time we reached Little Man, we were entering the cloud cover, and all that could really be seen was Little Man on your left or a long path straight on which didn’t appear to be going upwards. Without the help of a map, we would have definitely assumed Little Man was Skiddaw, and on the way back down we noticed this happening a lot, unfortunately Skiddaw was another hour’s walk from the bottom of Little Man. We chose not to walk Little Man, and instead bypassed it as we were unsure how much longer or what the path was like up to Skiddaw. By now we were fully in cloud cover in which you couldn’t see anything beyond 10 metres ahead.

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The walk up to the summit of Skiddaw was a little steeper than the middle section of the route, but nothing too strenuous. We reached an area which we thought was the summit, as the path on-wards only appeared to go downwards, but luckily we had talked to a few people returning from the summit, in which they said “when you think you’ve reached the top, you haven’t”. So we walked on-wards and downwards for a while before finding another ascent, realising this was the summit of Skiddaw due to the marker. With the cloud cover and being at a summit of 931m, it certainly was freezing cold (we estimated around 5/6 degrees) and the winds seemed to be around 60mph, so thank you to all those who have kindly constructed the stone shelters on the top. It’s a shame the cloud cover limited the views on the top as you can see from the photos, as normally there is plenty to see from the flate vale of Keswick and Derwent Water to Newlands Valley and Bassenthwaite.

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We made it to the top..

All in all, the route was actually much easier and took a lot less time than expected. With a couple of breaks going up it took us around two hours to reach the summit, coming back down added another hour, and with us being of average fitness levels, I’d say this can definitely be achieved within four hours.  It is a walk I’d recommend doing in the Lakes, because although it looks like a monster from a distance, it’s a pleasant walk up and by the end of it you’ve summit-ed one of the highest mountains in England, and of course, you then have an excuse for a pub lunch and a quick pint in Keswick afterwards (maybe even treat yourself to some fudge from the sweet shop too)!

Hopefully I will soon get round to writing my post about day two because it was an unexpectedly strenuous day action-packed with adventure and interesting routes up waterfalls that I’d love to share, but until then I’ll just keep telling myself to get into gear!

Love Amie

 

 

Travel

Five quick tips for travelling with a 9-5 job

How do you make room for travel in a busy working-life schedule?

There's annual leave I guess. In the UK we're considered lucky to get 28 days off per year, across many countries this is far less, but I can't be the only one left thinking that it just isn't enough to satisfy by inner travel bug? If you've read my other posts, you'll know how meticulously I plan my time off from work, I carefully plan out all my holidays a year in advance in order to make the most of them. Personally, I struggle to work more than ten weeks at a time without a break, I can't decipher what it is but I just run out of steam, I basically start counting the hours until my next holiday, even if it is still three weeks away. Whenever I have time off, I always intend to use it to go somewhere, it feels like a waste not to. My work colleagues are often confused about how I still have half of my holidays left because I seem to be off and about to so many places, in the UK and abroad, so here are a few of my tips on how you can fit travel around a busy 9-5 working schedule:

Use weekends

Utilising weekends for trips away is so easy and doable that I'm surprised I don't do it more often. Luckily for me, I live bang in the middle of three major UK airports; Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham – all of which are around an hour away. This tip may not work so well if you live some distance from airports, but there's always the euro-tunnel and ferries you can use to venture into Europe.  If you intend to use your weekend to visit somewhere, I'd always recommend visiting a smaller place that will be doable in the two days you have since it would be a shame to rush. Also if you're in the position where your work can be flexible, you could always ask for a couple of hours off on the Friday to allow time to travel, if not, using one day's holiday to take the Friday or Monday off is never a bad idea and can give you more time to explore.

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Incorporate bank holidays into your week off

Now, this may only apply to people in the UK, since I'm not sure if other countries even have bank holidays, but this is a very important point! A large amount of us are annoyingly forced into taking bank holidays off as part of our annual leave, me included. If you're not, well I'm very envious of you! Taking bank holidays as annual leave can be annoying, a lot of places are closed, public transport is a myth and wherever you go it's busy anyway, so why not use it to your advantage? One of my favourite times of year to take time off is during Easter, and I will continue to do it every year that I can. Since you already get four days off (Fri-Mon), why not extend your leave? Take the following Tues-Fri off following Easter Monday and all of a sudden you have ten days off work. There's plenty of places to visit at this time of year; jet off to the Southern hemisphere where March/April are pleasantly warm months, or embark on a European city tour (you could easily squeeze 2, 3 or even 4 cities in 10 days). I tend to take all of my extended holidays (more than a day or two) on weeks where there is a bank holiday so I can use them extra days elsewhere through the year.

Choose somewhere easily reachable

Not all of your trips away have to be to extravagant places far away! Whilst these trips are nice, there's plenty to do on your own doorstep. I get just as excited going somewhere in the UK for a day or two as I do jetting off to the Caribbean for a fortnight. Again this maybe UK biased, but there are so many beautiful places across England and Wales (I've never been to Scotland so can't give tips here) such as Snowdonia or the Welsh Coast, multiple national parks across England, the warm southern coast and idyllic medieval cities, honestly there's plenty to see and you can often be amazed by what's out there. If the UK really isn't your cup of tea, there's many other places in Europe, why not head to Berlin, Amsterdam, Brussels or Paris? All you need to do is hop on a plane or a train. People often forget how many destinations are only a short flight distance away. Take Ireland for example, from leaving home, travelling to the airport, waltzing through security and landing in Dublin, only three hours had passed. Places in England alone can take double that to reach (yes, I'm looking at you Cornwall with your horrendous traffic congestion problems)!

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You may have to give up other important events

Until the last year or so (since I got a full-time job), I would always ensure I was home for birthdays, Christmas or other important events, I would even feel incredibly guilty for going away on my own birthday or anybody's because I associate it with a family gathering. Over the past year I've learnt that its okay to skip these events and that you can't live your life around them. My birthday has always fallen on or near the August bank holiday meaning I've always refused to travel somewhere over that weekend, sacrificing one of the few bank holiday weekends to spend it at home instead. Although its nice to be at home for such occasions, you can always arrange something else for another weekend, it's really only another day in the calendar and why give up visiting a brand new place for something that happens every single year? It's also more cost-effective to travel on days like Christmas or New Years so I guess that's another reason to do this!

Plan any work trips for a Friday

This is a great one my boss actually shared with me, and whilst it may not be beneficial to some, it may help others. I recently started travelling across the country for my job, and whilst it can be super annoying, sometimes you get to go to some nice places, for example when I had to go to Wiltshire/Dorset. I had to plan this trip months in advance so decided to arrange it for a Friday. This meant I could travel up on the Thursday night, attend to my work commitments on the Friday, and then I could spend the weekend in a  beautiful place! I'm certainly glad I did this and was finally able to explore the southern corner of the UK, something I wouldn't really have been able to do any other time since it's a four-hour drive on a good day. Learning from this, I am definitely considering doing this for all long journeys in the future and would recommend everyone does the same when given the opportunity!

So these are my five tips for travelling when working a 9-5 job. I've so far found that it works just enough to satisfy my travel bug. Of course, given the opportunity and unlimited money, I'd give up my job in a second to travel every corner of the world, but until then, follow these tips and I'm sure you can travel just as much as I do with some small adjustments.

 

 

 

Love Amie

Fitness, Health

One week with my Fitbit Blaze

I’ve been following the Fitbit craze since January of this year, and have loved every second of it. My poor Fitbit Charge HR had fallen victim to the standard problems of deep screen scratches, cracks running down the plastic and the band bubbling, basically in simple terms, it looked awful. Of course I was a little nervous about purchasing another Fitbit, but ultimately decided I couldn’t function without it, so with a reasonable discount code in hand, I decided to order a Fitbit Blaze. One week on, I’ve pretty much fallen in love with it, and can’t stop showing it off to every person that I know. The Blaze is a huge improvement on my previous HR, and I certainly feel like I’ve been missing out for the past seven months. Here’s what I’ve found good about the blaze so far:

Right until the last minute, I had full intentions of ordering a Charge 2, but due to the discount I had, the price difference between the Charge 2 and Blaze was a mere £10. One of the factors that swayed me was the aesthetics. I always found it heartbreaking that I couldn’t wear my old Fitbit on a night out or a meal, therefore losing precious steps, and personally I felt the same about a Charge 2. Despite the fact the Charge 2 was more attractive than the HR, I still felt it looked out of place on a night despite the fact you can change the bands. To me, the Blaze looks a lot more like a watch, and with exchangeable bands you can easily customise with metal or leather to match your jewellery, whilst still having an upmarket, smartwatch feel.

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With fashion purposes aside, lets get onto the actual fitness aspect of the watch. My favourite new setting is the ability to track your exercise manually. I always found on my old Fitbit that sometimes it would lag behind, or not account for some of the exercise. With this added feauture, I can not only register more exercises (treadmill, weights, stairmaster, hikes etc.) but I can view the time, steps, calories and pace for the exercise I’m currently doing in real-time, not to mention it is also a lot more accurate at counting the steps – all of a sudden my twenty minute run is 4,000 steps instead of 3,000. Another aspect I’m beginning to enjoy is the use of Fitstar. With my previous Fitbit, I found Fitstar to be rather useless as following the exercises whilst having to constantly look at my phone was difficult. However, the use of Fitstar straight from the screen with guided workouts is much more useful, and I find myself quickly doing a ten-minute workout when I have spare moments due to the reduced hassle of having it right there on my wrist.

There are also little improvements I’ve noticed on the Blaze compared to my Charge HR, my favourite of which being the reminder to make you do your hourly 250 steps. Before I’d forget, or I’d lose track on how many steps I’d done that hour and just assume I’d completed the 250 so now I find myself completing my 12/12 hourly steps much more often. The further in-depth sleep cycle analysis is also more insightful than the previous version. I like being able to keep track of my sleep as I often struggle to get my head down for the entire night, so being able to track the different sleep zones (light, deep, REM, awake) can be great, and has helped me realise which pre-bedtime activities help with a good night’s sleep. The last small change I like is the cardio fitness calculation. This is a great little feature in my opinion, because now that I can see my cardio fitness level, I want to improve it as much as I can, and its so motivational watching your score increase as you slog out hours on the treadmill!

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Now, I can’t decide if I’m being biased, but I’m struggling to find any reasons why I dislike this product. If anything, the watch is a little uncomfortable to sleep in, it’s a little heavy and bulky which will definitely annoy some. Admittedly I’ve woken up a couple of times and had to pull the watch down as its ridden tightly up my arm. Prior to purchasing, I also read reviews that the Blaze screen is somewhat easy to scratch, however I quickly eBayed a screen protector (you may have seen on the photos that I’ve clearly done a terrible job of applying) for this and am yet to have any problems, I certainly didn’t want to risk scratching the screen after the horrendous scratches that appeared on my Charge HR within a month. The battery life seems a little shorter than my previous version as I’ve so far only managed around four days charge compared with the five-six days I had with the Charge HR, but this is possibly due to me constantly looking at my shiny new toy more and playing around with the settings, so I guess only time will tell with this one.

All in all, I’m thoroughly enjoying this new fitness tracker and have certainly been recommending it to everybody I know over the past week. Eventually I will be getting round to writing a post on why you should get a fitness tracker, but until then, you’ll just have to trust me!

Love Amie

Beauty

Coconut Oil: My travel godsend

I guess this is more of a beauty (hair?) blog post, but it does fit into my travel theme ever so slightly – promise!

For the past decade, I have truly suffered with my hair. It’s thick, it’s dry and it frizzes the second the temperature gets above fifteen degrees.  Blow-drying my hair is a nightmare, and don’t even mention trying to straighten or curl it – no amount of heat protection serum has managed to save it yet.  Now, I’m sure you can imagine my endless frustration of going abroad on summer holidays where the temperature hovers around thirty degrees and you spend the days jumping in and out of salty oceans and chlorinated pools. My hair just refuses to cooperate and it usually results in me trying to hide it in a bun.

About eight months ago, I finally caved and decided to join the coconut oil fad. I purchased the Vita Coco Extra Virgin Organic Coconut Oil 250ml sized product from Tesco as at the time it was on offer for around £3.50 (currently on offer at £3.99 for 250ml at Tesco or £9.99 for 500ml at Boots). I was hesitant at first as to whether it would be beneficial to hair as sometimes bloggers/influencers can give a false representation of a product, but I gathered I could always use it for cooking if this was the case. A year on, and I’m thrilled I made the decision to purchase, and as of yet, it’s been the only product that has made a impression to the appearance of my hair.

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I found it took some experimenting to know how much to use as it really depends on the thickness and quantity of your hair. Over the past six months, I’ve had relatively thick hair and have used the coconut oil around twice-weekly, and as it currently stands, I’ve probably used around half of my original coconut oil product (I’ve purchased the new one primarily for the sake of photos, and because eventually I will get round to using it). The only problem I’ve found with using this product is when you accidentally use too much and you look like you’ve gone for a swim in a bucket of oil. I made this mistake when I recently got my hair cut and thinned out –  I literally had to re-shower because I used the same amount of oil as when my hair was significantly longer. It’s also so easy to do as when applying coconut oil to wet hair, you just can’t feel the product at all. Usually it can be saved by curling your hair, and I’ve had a few comments where I’ve been out with my curled, coconut-oil-heavy hair, and people have expressed how healthy and shiny it looks (it also holds the curls really well), but straightening your hair when this happens is a huge no (try it out once and you’ll see why!). With a lack of instructions on the packaging about how to use coconut oil in hair, the following steps are what I’ve found works best for me:

  1. Wash hair with shampoo and conditioner products. Fully ensure that all the conditioner is washed out.
  2. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature. Warm the product with hot, running water until some of it begins to liquefy.
  3. Squeeze water out of hair or even towel dry slightly so the hair is still damp, but not dripping with water.
  4. Use around one-two teaspoon (varies) of liquid coconut oil and massage into your hair. Avoid the root area.
  5. Rinse hair.

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Assuming you used the correct amount for you hair, once you’ve dried your mane, you should notice how much silkier your hair is. After the week of thirty plus degree weather in the UK, followed by a week in Lanzarote, I found I haven’t been plagued by my usual frizzy and limp hair problems that I’m usually susceptible to.  My hair is suddenly soft to touch, and pretty much frizz-free, with an exception near the roots. Following a hair-wash session, it can often be difficult to style hair – especially curling, as usually there is a lack of natural oils to hold hair in place leading it to be limp, but with the addition of coconut oil, I’ve curled hair before now, brushed it, slept on it, and still had curls 48 hours later. I’ve decided this will certainly be a travel essential from now on, and will be on the hunt for a miniature-sized product for hand baggage when I jet off to European city breaks (I’m really hoping they do them because space is key when you can only take hand luggage!).

I’m not entirely sure what the long-term benefits of using coconut oil is but I’ve noticed on days where I’ve showered and forgotten to apply the oil, that my hair is back to its usual self, and despite all the blogs and articles claiming it works long-term, for me it’s more of a one-time, hair mask that disappears as soon as it’s washed out again. I’d certainly be interested to see what experiences others have had with long-term use and whether they’ve found it to be beneficial or a disappointment.

Love Amie

Fitness, Health

Has illness killed your exercise motivation?

This is a bit of a long post, but a twitter user inspired me to write it, and as I wrote I had so many ideas that I couldn't leave out! They reached out asking how I would tackle increasing, and maintaining fitness levels with a syndrome called chronic fibromyalgia. Completely unheard of to me, I decided to research into it, and upon doing this, I found not only is this quite a common condition, but I myself, and I'm sure many others, have suffered the individual symptoms such as fatigue, muscle stiffness, sleeping difficulties and IBS, and although I'm no GP, a little advice can often go a long way.  It must be noted that as with any condition you may suffer with, you should speak to your GP and physiotherapist before engaging in any exercise routines. 

Illness can be a killer of both motivation and fitness levels, from a mere cold, to something more acute or chronic. As we speak, I'm recovering from a flu, and after five days of lying in bed and barely hitting 3,000 steps, I already know my fitness levels will be at risk. Since exercise is so important for a healthy lifestyle, some people (myself included) can feel demotivated after or during any kind of illness. It can be horrible knowing you're not as fit as you were two months ago, or you can no longer run that mile in the same time, so I've put together some advice to help you firstly, regain fitness levels, and secondly, maintain a positive mindset:

It's okay to have slipped behind

Noticing and accepting that you're not up to the standard you once were is difficult. A couple of months ago I ran 5K in 27 minutes, my fastest time to date, and now, I'm struggling to run 5K at all, never mind in a sub-30 time. Over the past 6 weeks, I unintentionally took a break from running, I went abroad, then felt constantly fatigued, then I caught a flu, and although it sounds like I'm making excuses, my body just wasn't ready to perform to how it once could. The hardest part of this was accepting it. I had to accept that my body needed the time, and I had to accept that I'd need slowly get myself back up to standard. Remaining positive in your mind will honestly excel your fitness levels and your ability to reach your goals. The amount of times I've had a negative outlook for a couple of weeks and have flopped in fitness and at the gym is unreal. Tell yourself it's okay to be where you are, and reward yourself when you do well – always stay positive!

Tackle sleep problems head on

Like many others, I struggle with sleep. I wake up at least three times a night and panic like mad if I don't fall asleep within ten minutes – then I know it'll be a long night with a joyous two hours sleep! I used to write off exercise the following day if I'd struggled with sleep the previous night, but as I began to exercise more, I eventually found you feel more energised exercising after a bad nights sleep. Don't get me wrong, I can't do my standard exercise routine, and when I start feeling tired, I know it's time to leave the gym. Following a bad night's sleep, my routine will usually involve; slow (5.5-6.0kph), uphill walking (10-15% incline) for around 20-30 minutes  followed by body-weight / light-weight exercises (I usually decide to do core and shoulders on these days as they're the least strenuous, 3-4 sets of each). If you have access to a swimming pool, I would also recommend a twenty minute light-intensity / moderate-intensity swim at the end. It's also important to tackle the problem at the centre. Sleep is again important for so many things, and there are various techniques you can try for better sleeping habits. In recent years, I've found that it helps to; stop eating three-four hours before bed, avoid caffeine (I actually stop drinking any caffeine at around 4pm), removing the clock from the room (this is probably me being weird but, the ticking distracts me and knowing the time if I'm struggling to sleep just makes things worse) and having a normal bed-time routine.

Set goals

Having a goal is the most motivational thing you can do if you want to increase your fitness levels, but make sure it's realistic. Your goal doesn't necessarily have to be a time or a distance, it can be completing some sort of exercise five times a week or signing up to a gym or exercise class. A goal that is too hard to achieve will put you off when you realise it's too much of a challenge. For me personally, I've decided that my goals will be; to be able to squat 60kg again, to run another 5K in under thirty minutes, and to swim at least once a week. If you're new or just getting back into exercise some goals you could try are; running a mile in 10-12 minutes, walking a mile in 14 minutes, swimming half a mile without stopping, using dumbbells whilst completing muscular exercises, walking a nearby hill etc. There's so many options, you just have to chose what's right for you and your current level of fitness, and as you reach your goals, you can easily adjust them by taking time off, increasing the distance or climbing an even bigger hill!

Push yourself, but not too much

When you suffer with illnesses, you'll have your good days and your bad days. It's important to let your body rest if you physically don't feel up to it, but by slowly engaging in exercise, it can often have a positive overall impact on your health, and maybe even alleviate symptoms.

You should primarily be focusing on aerobic exercise and resistance/strengthening workouts. Aerobic workouts are low to moderate exercises which you are capable of sustaining over long periods, for some this may be a fast walk, for others it can be a gentle jog. Aerobic workouts are fantastic for improving overall fitness, they strengthen your heart and burn fat at the same time. Personally, I would recommend using some sort of fitness tracker / heart rate monitor so you're able to track your workouts. After some time, you'll notice that your heart rate begins to fall whilst doing a particular exercise. At this point, your fitness levels are improving as your body becomes accustomed to fast walking or light jogging and you'll be able to push yourself a little more to ensure you're still effectively working out. For me, I aim to do 60-120 minutes every day of aerobic exercises – this includes my walk into work, a walk at lunch, a gentle run at the gym and any other errands I may have.  Whilst this may not be doable for everybody, I'd recommend at least 30 minutes of fast walking daily, although it really depends what you can manage. Other alternatives to walking may be cycling, swimming or light rowing.

For the strengthening exercises, I'm going to compile my favourite exercises for each muscle group. On resistance machines, or whilst using free-weights, you will need to experiment to find the right weight for you. I'd always recommend 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps for new starters, and the advice I like to follow (thank you trainer at my gym) for finding the correct weight is: The first set should be easily doable. Set two is a bit harder, by rep 10 you're starting to struggle to the end and well set three, after about rep 8 you're using all your strength to fight to rep 12. Remember to always take a sufficient rest period between each set, I take around 3-5 minutes. Here are my favourite exercises in the order in which I complete them:

Cycle 1 – Shoulders and core

Cycle 2 – Legs

Cycle 3 – Back and biceps

Cycle 4 – Chest and triceps


Complete each cycle three times / or do three sets of each exercise. Remember to alternate your days, do not do a cycle two days in a row and try and leave at least three days between each cycle! I've also linked all the above exercises up to show you what they are, and how to complete them correctly!

I hope this post has helped those who are struggling to make a start. Over the next couple of weeks, I'm going to be writing about my day of tackling working 9 hours, eating healthy and exercising all in one following my stint off ill from the gym which will again include my workout plan for the day, so if you're interested, keep a look out on here or social media.

Love Amie

Europe, Travel

The bucket list: Where will my next adventure take me?

It’s no secret that I am continuously planning my next trip away. I use my 28 days per year annual leave from work very cautiously – I will never use a holiday if I don’t intend to go somewhere, because wouldn’t that just be a waste? With it now being over half way through the year, 2017 has been average for travelling. I’ve ventured back to Eastern Europe to Budapest, I’ve just returned from a much needed break abroad to Lanzarote, and have explored the UK southern coast.

A couple of years ago, I made a goal to myself to visit at least two new countries every year, so I could scratch them from my travel map, which is currently staring at me from my wall, un-touched for the past three months. Thus, this year, I have only managed to visit one new country (Hungary), leaving my ambitions to run wild and start planning the next destination. So where has grabbed my attention the most?

Rome, Italy

I’ve wanted to go to Rome for as long as I can remember. Perhaps I was inspired by the romantic scenes of Lizzie McGuire at the Trevi Fountain (if you’re old enough to remember this movie) – who knows? I always been set on a huge Italian road trip including Rome, the Amalfi Coast, Florence, Venice and Milan, which as magnificent as it may be, is certainly not feasible for some time due to work, time-off and money. So why Rome? Rome is full of world-famous attractions, and I intend to cover every inch of them. My biggest must-see on my itinerary is arguably Italy’s most famous sight, a 2000-year-old Roman amphitheater, the Colosseum, followed by the Pantheon, at least one of the Catacombs Rome has to offer, and throwing my two coins into the Trevi Fountain. Another definite-do is to visit Vatican City. The Italian Renaissance Church of St. Peter’s Basilica and Castel Sant’Angelo being the primary sights, however there are always fantastic museums to see in this area. Let’s not forget the food though, I think we all love the Italian cuisine with its breads, pastas and of course the pizza. When in Rome, it would be rude not to indulge in ridiculous amounts of fine foods. With only four days to spare for this trip, I’m nervous that it may potentially be a rush to squeeze everything in, and with the trip potentially being in October, I’m sure the rain will come to ruin it.. despite this I still think this is top of my 2017 list!

I’m pretty much sold on Italy being my second country to visit in 2017, although nothing is booked quite yet so perhaps another eastern Europe trip or a venture into Scandinavian could steal the title. With this, I’ve also been taking the next year into consideration, there’s so many places to go that it’s a shame I can’t have an unlimited pot of money and time. Here’s the other places that are top of my list:

Caribbean Coast, Mexico

For the past two years, we’ve been saying ‘next year we’ll go to Mexico’, and 2018 is the year that I’m determined to make this happen. I’m not entirely sure where about as of yet – somewhere with nice Mexican food and a pool is always a winner, but I’d like it to be the Caribbean Coast. Not only for the crystal-clear turquoise waters and white sands that I’m dying to revisit, but it must be within travelling distance of the Chichén Itzá. Chichén Itzá is a complex of Mayan ruins, originally an ancient Mayan city in the Yucatan peninsula, which is around 1500 years old – if there is any trip that I wish to take in Mexico, it will be this!

Scandinavia

I’ve left this one pretty open for the reason that I’m dying to visit all three countries and I just can’t decide which one I want to visit more. I’ve always wanted to visit Copenhagen in Denmark because it looks truly unique and beautiful, Sweden has won me over recently, not only for the cities but because of the glacier mountains and vast lakes, and of course Norway for the Northern Lights. I will definitely be making which ever place I choose a winter break, so still plenty of time to decide on this one!

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Vienna, Austira and Bratislava, Slovakia

Originally, this trip was planned for April 2017 where I’d planned a 10 night trip to take me across three countries. Realising this was a little too ambitious in the time allocated, off we went to Budapest instead. Prior to booking that trip, I’d read all about what to do, see and eat in Vienna and Bratislava, and have since been excited ever since, which is why it is definitely on my list for next year.

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So this is what I’ve so far planned for the next year. Read my blog in a couple of months, and I’m sure I will have added much much more to this, but for now I’m trying to keep it realistic. I’d be interested to see where you have planned for the next year, maybe it’ll inspire me and I could end up changing my entire list around, so, where is it that you’re going?

Love Amie

England, Europe, Travel

Proving my tainted memories of South England wrong

When I think of holidays (or vacations if you’re from the other side of the pond), I think of jetting off to hot European islands, splashing around in swimming pools and strolling around towns bursting with European culture. I have fond memories of these travels, they were my happiest childhood memories and personally, I struggle to associate a getaway in the UK with a holiday. I remember being much, much younger (I’m talking like ten years ago here) and for the first time in my life, my family decided to holiday in the UK. We made the five hour trip down to Cornwall, nestled in the South West corner of England, ready to embark on a week-long adventure along the English coastline. It had the makings of a great holiday, but if you know anything about the unpredictable English weather, you’d know where this story was heading. Yes – it rained. Not just a bit, but torrential rain for an entire week. Since this, my family have vowed never to ‘holiday’ in the UK again, and ten years later, we still jump on planes every year. There have been plenty of occasions where my friends have suggested going away for a couple of days, only for me to turn my nose up and come up with an alternative abroad for the same price. I always questioned why anybody would choose to travel across the UK when a holiday in Europe is often the same price, if not cheaper.

Just last week, I was tasked with travelling four hours down South for work, and honestly eight hours of travelling in one day didn’t really appeal to me so I forced my boyfriend into a weekend away in Wiltshire, as you do. Whenever we go away places, we are usually faced with ridiculous and completely unexpected weather. We went to Majorca and it rained for an entire week, we visited Budapest late April and it snowed (the list goes on). Much to our surprise – the UK experienced a heatwave this weekend, which I guess as it reached 30 degrees, it was ridiculous and unexpected, but I’d much rather take that over rain.

Over the course of the trip, we stayed in Salisbury. Not long ago, Salisbury was voted one of the top ten cities to visit in the World, so I was quite excited to see what it had to offer. Despite the fact the city has quite an obvious traffic congestion problem (which was extremely infuriating at times) there was a lot to see, such as the famous Gothic Cathedral housing the Magna Carta, historical timbered buildings and thatched cottages, museums and local markets. Not only this, the world-famous prehistoric monument, the Stonehenge is only located ten miles down the road in Amesbury, if that’s your cup of tea. We found Salisbury to be a fantastic central location for the surrounding area. Salisbury itself if situated within Wiltshire, and offers spectacular views of rolling hills with multiple places worth visiting within an hours drive.

If, like us, you manage to get lucky with the weather, Salisbury is located around 45 minutes from the coast. The neighbouring county, Dorset, offers a coastline that gives Cornwall and Devon a run for its money and prior to embarking on this trip, I’d heard tremendous reviews about a town called Bournemouth. Despite this, we actually decided to go a little further down the coast towards Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door, primarily because the traffic towards Bournemouth was ridiculous, clearly everybody in Salisbury had decided on at trip to the coast at exactly the same time as us. From what I gathered, if you enjoy seaside resorts, head to Bournemouth, however if something a little different interests you, Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door could be right up your street. Once you reach the Lulworth Cove area, there is a coastal hill walk that takes you around a small cove, past Durdle Door and up onto the surrounding hills. The walk itself is described as challenging, and oh my it was certainly challenging in thirty degree heat. On a slightly cooler day, I think it could have been bearable, but at one point we were tackling 30-40 degree inclines, which is a huge no when the sun is beating down on you. In the end we didn’t complete the full walk, and instead decided to reach the highest hill just for the view and then re-walk the coastal section. Do not be phased though, if you struggle with walking, there is a large car park near Durdle Door to avoid the 500ft climb at the start. Overall, I’m thrilled I managed to do the walk, and the view from the hill of the beaches below was brilliant enough to sit there for twenty minutes gazing across the water. I also found myself saying “wow, these beaches remind me of abroad” far too often, continuing to shut down my theory of how terrible UK beaches are.

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On our final day, we ventured up towards the spa town of Bath. Again Bath was around one hour away, but we chose to go here as firstly, I’d been told previously that it was a nice day out, and secondly because it was on the route home. If you’ve already been to Bath, Bristol is only a little further, which has been voted one of the nicest UK cities. Descending the hills which surround Bath makes for an interesting view as the city lies on a floodplain enclosed by the Avon Valley and the southern edge of the Cotswolds (a range of rolling hills in the South of England) – I certainly wished I had stopped to take some photos on the way down. Beside from the picturesque location, the most unusual thing about Bath itself was the buildings. These are either remains from the Roman period such as the baths themselves, or are primarily made from the local, golden-coloured Bath stone – as seen in the photos below. There are multiple areas of interest in Bath itself. The most popular of which being a site of historical interest – a well-preserved Roman bathing site. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance to see this due to an excessively long queue in thirty degree heat, however when I next return to Bath, this will certainly be top of my list. You can read more about the Roman Baths here. Aside from this, Bath offers a medieval, gothic Abbey founded in the seventh century, Pulteney Bridge, the Royal Crescent and plenty of museums to sink your teeth into.

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In total, our weekend was around three days long once you account for travelling times. It certainly was action-packed, and if you wanted to take things at a slower pace, you could quite easily spend four or five days undertaking similar activities. My perspective of holidaying in England has well, been “seen in a new light”, and looking into the future it may well be something I consider more often. Although I’m not sure how often.. swapping my abroad holidays for unpredictable English weather will not be happening any time soon.

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social media

Struggling to grow on Instagram?

Growing your presence on Instagram can feel like an uphill battle that never gets easier. You can put months and months of effort into your account, and never gain anything from it. I certainly felt this at the start, much like the majority of users. Around two years ago, I made the decision to try to expand my Instagram, before this I just used my page to upload random, pointless and plain terrible photos for no apparent reason. Around July 2015 I was hovering around 800 followers, nothing special but certainly not terrible either. By December 2016, I had finally reached my goal of 10,000 followers, before rapidly extending this to 26,000 six months later – now I’m just along for the ride and I’m not really sure where I want to go with Instagram. Moving this to one side though, there are definitely ways to improve your Instagram faster, so I’ve made the following list for you:

Stick to a theme

If you want to gain a strong audience, you should decide on a theme and stick to it. That’s not to say you can’t sometimes post fitness/food photos on your beauty-based page, but if you’ve gained your followers through posting beauty products and make-up tutorials, chances are that your followers are more interested in seeing this. Personally, I always like to break my photos up. My instagram primarily focuses on travel or shots of the surrounding landscape which can easily become very monotonous, like most themes, when posted about daily. Likewise, I love beauty accounts and I wish I was talented enough at make-up to run my own. But I can’t count how many accounts I’ve come across where the last fifty images have been a product on a backdrop. Every five(ish) posts, I’ll change it up and throw in a fashion photo, or perhaps an dog pic because who can resist them! This can be both an advantage and disadvantage in itself. I’ll gain some followers from audiences that I normally wouldn’t have, but I’ll also forfeit likes, as my regular followers aren’t overly-interested in what outfit I decided to wear that day.

Keeping on top of daily posts

This is probably the most important tip – posting daily is so so important if you want to retain your followers.  There have been far too many times where I’ve been lazy and haven’t posted in week or two and suddenly my follower count has dropped by 100. Posting daily not only keeps your current followers interested, but it means you’ll appear across other feeds more often. Quite simply, the more active you are, the faster you’ll grow (although how quickly depends on if you follow the other tips here). Now, this is one of the most difficult tips to stay on top of, because unless your full-time job is photography, or you live somewhere exciting that has photo opportunities every day, you’re going to struggle. I’ve recently found myself running out of content to post, so have turned to shoutouts. Shoutouts are a great way to not only help yourself, but help others too. Find users with content you like and offer them the opportunity to feature on your page – it keeps your account active, but also helps your instagram community grow themselves.

Hashtags might seem desperate, but I can’t express how important they are

Is it just me who thinks hashtags are like a desparate plea for likes? Probably. I used to be so ashamed of hashtags that I’d post an image, and then quickly delete the hashtags five minutes later (just long enough to get some likes, but not so that everybody saw). Now I’ve learnt to embrace the hashtags. Honestly, they work, and there is no better outcome than clicking the hashtag you just posted, and seeing your image sitting there in the ‘top posts’ section. Hashtags allow other users with similar interests to find your profile. Most of the time this just correlates to an increase in likes – but get enough likes and your photo can be in ‘top posts’ for days. So hashtag away, as many as you can think of – the more the better, but make sure they’re relevant, and avoid the overcrowded hashtags like ‘likeforlike’ because they get posted so often, that your image will just drown in the thousands of other images sitting in that feed.

Search hashtags to find similar users

The easiest way to find other users with similar interests to yourself is by searching a hashtag. For example, I love landscape photography, so I might search #landscape #sunsets #nature etc. and there we go, hundreds of images posted within the last five minutes that I can like to my hearts content. The best part about this is that it means all the users posting are active. You can click and view profiles, like as you please and give them a follow if you’re really interested. There is absolutely no point in running down the list and hitting follow on every user. Gone are the days where everybody would just follow you back because it’s no longer just a numbers game, but an engagement game too (the next tip don’t worry). If you want people to follow you back, you need to show your worthwhile their follow. I almost always ignore people that follow me on Instagram that don’t leave likes and comments on my images. There are usually the people that un-follow you a day later anyway. On the flip side, somebody that showers me with love and makes out that my profile is the best they’ve ever seen will always be worth a profile view as a minimum.

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Download an engagement app

This isn’t necessarily a tip to grow your followers, but will make your profile much more appealing to brands. Engagement on Instagram is so important. As a minimum, for a brand to work with you, you’ll need a 10% engagement rate. In simple terms, this means if you have 10,000 followers, you need to be achieving 1,000 likes per photo. Engagement apps will allow you to banish them pesky ghost followers, make your engagement rate increase and allow you to market yourself better. Not only this, they’re also a great way for you to determine how well your posts are doing. I personally found this great for when I was just starting Instagram for a few reasons. Firstly, they list the followers that do not engage with your images. Is this because you’re ignoring their profile? Go offer some likes and see the outcome. Secondly, the time of day that you post your image can massively alter the engagement. If you aim for a high engagement rate, your image will reach more feeds. Deduce the best time of day for your followers –  if the majority of your followers are located across the world from you, they may never see your image to start with. Apps will also allow you to observe other statistics such as average likes per photos, posts per week etc. which can provide insight to whether your account is improving.

Following these tips has allowed me to grow my profile significantly over the last six months. It may seem like hard work at first, but it does get easier. Once you get more followers, it certainly becomes easier to gain them. I wish you all luck with your Instagram journeys, don’t give up too soon x