fitness · mental health · Workouts

First steps to healthier eating.

I am a big fan of small but substantial changes, because these tend to fare better long-term. Fad diets, restrictive diets or the omitting of a certain nutrient is not sustainable in the long run. That is not to say that restrictive diets does not have their place, but when you look to improve your diet you need to find something that suits you and that you can stick with.

With mental health, or any kind of illness, diet is an important part of recovery. I, myself, feel the good effects of eating better. Eating better gives you more energy, makes you less tired and makes sure that your brain can function properly.

In the flood that is the internet it is often easy to get lost in all the information and it hard to get it all down at once. I have therefore created a short starter list for healthier eating. The list is meant to help you make healthier eating choices.

  1. Wholewheat and wholegrain choices. 
    Most people know that it is healthier to eat wholewheat and wholegrain, but still chose to eat white bread and pasta. Wholewheat is a good source for dietary fibre, something that most people do not get enough of. Fibre is very important for our digestive system. For this reason alone wholewheat pasta is better than regular pasta, because more fibre will improve the health of your digestive system.
  2. Portion sizes. 
    The next thing that is rather important to take note of is portion sizes, because most people are not aware of what a normal portion size is. In most ready meals you purchase you get way too much rice and not enough vegetables. Loading your plate full of rice will make you consume much more than you need. Two heaped tablespoons is one portion rice, couscous or pasta (dry) that would fill much of a whole dinner plate after cooking..
    The British Hearth foundation has a good guide you can look to for guidance of portion sizes (Click here).
  3. Eat more Fruit and Vegetables.
    Fruit and vegetables, in addition to provide vitamins, provides you with fibre. Fruit also provides a good source for natural sugar, so if you are looking to curb a sweet tooth you could try slicing an apple and add some cinnamon.
  4. Cut down on the sugar. 
    The more sugar you eat, the more sugar you crave and the less sensitive you become to the taste of sugar. In effect this means that if you eat a lot of sugar, then fruits for example does no longer taste as sweet to you.
  5. Cut back on the salt. 
    We eat way to much salt, and we do not need it. Almost all processed foods contain a lot of salt. The recommended daily limit of salt is 6 grams. Make sure to read the food label because even if you do not add salt to your food, you might be overeating salt because it is already added to the food you buy. My tip is simply to never add salt to the food you make (unless you make it from scratch). The same thing that happens with sugar happen with salt, the more you eat of it the less sensitive you get to the taste of salt.
  6. Make more food at home.
    Set yourself a goal of cooking at home 2 – 3 days a week, make some good home-made food from scratch. That way you can see what goes into your food. After a while you will probably prefer the food you make yourself to the food you buy out.

Those are just a couple of quick tips to eat a little healthier, these are rules I follow myself because they are low maintenance and they do not restrict me from eating what I want. Of course the most important thing is to be mindful about what you eat and be honest with yourself about what you eat.

The HIIT exercises for this week is below.

Monday:

5 Rounds for time:

10 jumping jacks
10 lunges
5 Burpees
10 Ab crunches
10 back extensions
5 Burpees

Wednesday:

As many rounds as possible in 15 minutes:

5 Burpees
12 High kicks
16 lunges
5 Burpees
10 Push ups
15 Russian Twists

Friday:

5 rounds for time:

10 Jumping Jacks
10 Squat Jumps
5 Burpees
15 Russian Twist
15 Back extension
5 Burpees

See you again next week 🙂

mental health · Workouts

Motivation.

Where does motivation come from? There is a scientific explanation for how motivation is created in the brain. The simplest explanation: dopamine’s chemical signal is transmitted from one neuron to the next, depending on the pathway of this transmitting you end up with motivation.

Of course that is not really what we want to read when we are looking for motivation, I think most of all we just want an easy to follow guide that takes us from unmotivated to motivated in a blink. I certainly wish I had more motivation, and that I knew how to keep myself motivated.

When dealing with mental health, especially depressive disorders, motivation is a big thing, or rather a big thing that is lacking. This time of year is always hard for me, for various reasons, and I struggle to find the motivation to do mostly anything. Get out bed is a chore, eat is a chore, being awake is chore.

To try to  battle it I find something to keep me busy, but mostly that ends up feeling like a chore too. It feels like a chore even if it is something I normally like (for example writing these blog posts).

The hardest thing of all is to have motivation to work out. January, for me. I believe that it is best to combat the lack of motivation by trying to press through it. It usually work if I have the will power. If the will power is lacking I usually try to involve other people, to create more pressure to see it through.

When when pressuring yourself it is also important to keep things simple, which is why I have dubbed January Cardio month (for me anyway). The important thing for me in January is that I go to the gym just for a while, even if I only hit the treadmill for 20 minutes. Anything is better than nothing, and if I do not keep it simple I know that I will just stay at home because I can find so many reasons and excuses to skip going to the gym.

Do things you enjoy, maybe do a little extra of the things you like. The selfish stuff. The “shouldn’t do” stuff. And don’t beat yourself up about it. If you feel like taking a 30 minute shower, do it. If you want to eat a box of chocolate, do it, but take ownership of that choice and don’t beat yourself up for it (because you do not want to do things that makes you feel worse).

Make lists. Write down the simplest things like “get out of bed,” “Shower,” “eat dinner” and “go to bed.” Set yourself up for success, so even things like “Tidy up one object,” you can tidy up one thing. The small goals and the check-lists help me through my lowest lows, and I write them by hand (it makes me connect more than typing it digitally). I throw away the list when the day is over, regardless if it is completed or not, because tomorrow is a new day.

Meditate. It might be cliché, but calming your mind does have a positive effect. Even if it is just for a few minutes it can help you feel more in control, more balances and make you more self-aware and open-minded. Spare just 5 minutes at the end of the day, download a free meditation app or get a meditation clip from YouTube and calm your mind for a couple of minutes.

The important thing is to find something that works for you. When you feel like doing nothing, and you keep feeling like that for days, treat yourself, make sure that you also cross something off your to-do-list and make room for quiet reflection.

That is what I do this week: I make lists and I go to the gym and work out even if I don’t feel like it, because I know it will help in the long run.

And I learned for last week, where I forgot to post Friday’s work out so I will add the three HIIT workouts I’ve written below.

Monday: 

5 Rounds for time:

10 Jumping Jacks
10 squats
5 Squat Jumps
10 Press Ups
10 Bear crawl fire-feet
5 Squat jumps

Wednesday

As many rounds as possible in 10 minutes

10 Jumping Jacks
10 squats
5 Squat Jumps
10 Press Ups
20 Bear crawl fire-feet
5 Squat jumps

Friday:

5 Rounds for time:

200 m run (if you have nowhere to run run in place for 250 steps)
10 Squats
10 Pressups
10 Abdominal crunch

Break down of each exercise and variation: 

Jumping Jacks. 

Stand with arms down your side and legs together, jump legs out while bringing hands to over head (or shoulder height depending on your shoulder-flexibility). Jump back to start position.

Squats: 

Stand with your legs hip with apart, face forwards and start the movement through a hinge in your hip before you bend both your hips and knees at the same time down into a squat position where your thighs are parallel to the floor lower. Ensure that keep your knees over your feet (don’t let them sink towards the middle or extend outside the foot). Keep your knees behind your toes.
If you have issues getting down to parallel only squat down as far as you can comfortably get back up. This is important, especially when starting out, depth will come with time and when you build up your flexibility.

Squat Jump: 

Same as above but when you press up from the squat you jump up to full body extension (you can reach overhead if your like or let arms remain where they are). If you have a bench available you can swap this exercise for box jumps where you jump up and down from the bench (remember to stand up straight on top of the bench), this will make the exercise harder.

Press up/ Push up: 

Lay down on the floor with face down. In order to find the ideal position for your  hands stretch your arms out over your head and then slide them down, starting with the elbow, until your hands are in line with your shoulders.
Depending on your strength you’d probably like to either press up, keeping your body straight keeping shoulders, hips, knees and ankles in line.

Or you can press up from the knees, keeping shoulder’s, hips and knees in line. If that is too heavy you can also do a box press up by pulling your knees closer to your hands.
You can also do press up against the wall, or a steady table, this will make the movement easier to do.

Bear crawl fire-feet

Get down on all fours so that you form a box with your body, keep your feet apart so that your knees are directly under your hips, leaving your knees at a 90 degree angle. Stand up on your toes so that the knees aren’t in contact with t he floor. Hands should be directly under your shoulders, chest should be upright and shoulders detracted. Keep your hands in contact with the ground, but quickly lift one and one foot from the ground as if running in place, try to keep the rest of your body as still as possible.
If my description is too complicated, there is a video of the exercise over at bodybuilding.com.

Ab crunch:

Lay down on your back, press your lower back down enough so you can fit one finger between you and the floor. Put your arms on your thighs. Then lift your shoulders up from the floor, sliding your arms up until your fingertips touches your knee. Ensure you are keeping your neck neutral by pretending to ball between your chin and the top of your chest.
To make the exercise harder you can move you arms to cross on your chest, place your hands or placing your hands by your ears (then make sure you are not pulling on your head with your hands as you lift your shoulders form the floor).

If you want you can post your time and rounds in the comments.

Below I have attached one of my favourite guided meditations:

fitness · Workouts

New Year. New you?

I’m going to be honest and say that I am of that group of people who think of new years resolutions as a big load of bollocks. The concept of new year resolutions is great, but most of the time you just end up making some grand gesture that is supposed to last the whole year and you are burned out by February or March. Most new years resolutions fail because they a too broad or too unrealistic, which makes the resolutions of: “I am going to eat only healthy food this year,” or “I’m going to exercise everyday this year.”

Given my view my next few blog posts are going to seem a little hypocritical, but I am a believer in change and I believe that we all can benefit from changing for the better. And I know that when struggling with extra challenges such as a mental health disorder, change is extra hard. So based on the fact that anything is better than nothing, I will be posting a low-bar, no equipment needed, work outs three times a week for the next 4 weeks. Each week I will device a blog post with an update, I will aim to have it up by Sunday, but it might sometimes end up not being up until Monday. The work outs will be posted on the Instagram page on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. the weekly blog post will be updated to contain each work out on the respective day.

All the work outs will be as intense or as easy as you want to make them as I am basing them on the HIIT-principle (High Intensity Interval training). If you need the work out to be harder, go faster, if you need to ease up go slower. None of the work outs should take more than a maximum of 20 minutes, most of them will probably be done in 10. They are short enough that if you already are following a training program you can just slap it onto the end of your program before you cool down to get some variation, and they are short enough so that time won’t be an easy excuse. Absolutely no equipment will be necessary, not even a chair, in order to ensure that everyone do them from the comfort of their living room. Though I would recommend the use of a stopwatch function on your phone or computer, so that you can monitor your progress.

My challenge to you this second week of January is to do these simple work outs three times a week and then that is all you need to do. Working out in itself is a great anti depressant, and even a short period of exercise will help elevate a heavy mood and increase your wellbeing. Even if these work outs only takes 10 minutes or 15 minutes,  any number of minutes is better than 0 minutes.

So with no further ado I will be posting Monday’s work out below:

Complete 5 rounds of:
10 Squats
10 Press ups
10 Ab crunches

Break down of each exercise and variation: 

Squats: 

Stand with your legs hip with apart, face forwards and start the movement through a hinge in your hip before you bend both your hips and knees at the same time down into a squat position where your thighs are parallel to the floor lower. Ensure that keep your knees over your feet (don’t let them sink towards the middle or extend outside the foot). Keep your knees behind your toes.
If you have issues getting down to parallel only squat down as far as you can comfortably get back up. This is important, especially when starting out, depth will come with time and when you build up your flexibility.

Press up/ Push up: 

Lay down on the floor with face down. In order to find the ideal position for your  hands stretch your arms out over your head and then slide them down, starting with the elbow, until your hands are in line with your shoulders.
Depending on your strength you’d probably like to either press up, keeping your body straight keeping shoulders, hips, knees and ankles in line.

Or you can press up from the knees, keeping shoulder’s, hips and knees in line. If that is too heavy you can also do a box press up by pulling your knees closer to your hands.
You can also do press up against the wall, or a steady table, this will make the movement easier to do.

Ab crunch:

Lay down on your back, press your lower back down enough so you can fit one finger between you and the floor. Put your arms on your thighs. Then lift your shoulders up from the floor, sliding your arms up until your fingertips touches your knee. Ensure you are keeping your neck neutral by pretending to ball between your chin and the top of your chest.
To make the exercise harder you can move you arms to cross on your chest, place your hands or placing your hands by your ears (then make sure you are not pulling on your head with your hands as you lift your shoulders form the floor).

If you want you can post your time in the comments.