Making Massage a Lifestyle Choice

On Tuesday I went for my monthly massage at The Massage Company in Camberley. I’ve been going there each month since it opened last year – you can read the review of my first visit here. Whilst I was having my massage I took some time to reflect, not just on the massages but on how, at the start of a brand new year, I am so glad I made massage a regular part of my lifestyle.

I always feel so much better after a massage – relaxed, less stressed, more awake and revitalised. It also makes me feel taller and lighter which must be something to do with my muscles being generally happier.

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Review: Pure Gym, Camberley

Three months ago I had never been to a gym – aside from a couple of legs, bums and tums sessions just before I got married. I had never used machines in a gym – never even used a changing room in a gym – but earlier in the summer something clicked. I wanted to not just lose weight, or tone up, but I wanted to make a lifestyle change.

So I joined Pure Gym and aimed to start going to the gym regularly. I would always try to go three times a week but due to childcare this was sometimes twice a week and there were a couple of occasions where I didn’t go for a week or two – when we went on holiday and again at the start of the new school term when our new routine took some getting used to.

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But, Pure Gym has been consistent for me. The one that I go to, in Camberley, is one of many Pure Gyms around the country. It’s easy to find in the town centre and has parking close by – as well as lots of local public transport options and even bike racks right outside. It’s a convenient option for anyone in Camberley and the surrounding areas.

When I first went to Pure Gym I expected there to be a reception, to have to speak to people and be let in and out but the great thing about Pure Gym is that you can visit at any time of the day – or night – and never speak to anyone if you don’t want to. You access the gym and changing rooms with an 8 digit code that you are given when you sign up online. I’m always in my own little bubble when I go to the gym and this is perfect for me – going in, working out and then leaving again.

You can join an induction class when you first go to the gym that will show you what part of the gym to use for different aims – building muscle, losing weight etc. I had an induction and felt confident afterwards that I could use the machines properly and have the work out that I needed with my own goals in mind.

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Pure Gym also has a lot of classes throughout the week – with morning, day time and evening sessions to fit in with anyone’s routine. I love going to Spin classes after work and have seen that Spin is also available early in the morning and at lunchtime – so they really do cater for everyone. All of the Pure Gym classes are run by fully qualified personal trainers who can also be hired to work with you on personal training sessions.

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At Pure Gym I’ve been using a wide range of machines and love the cardio options available. There have always been free rowing machines, running machines and cross trainers whatever time I have visited the gym.

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I’ve also used a lot of the weight machines which are something I wouldn’t have tried without the induction but I am so glad that I can now use them regularly. All of the machines have diagrams on them, making it simple to try new things. Most important of all, the machines are all well maintained, letting you work out in the best conditions and completely safely too.

As well as machines, Pure Gym has many areas to exercise. There are places to warm up and stretch, doing exercise routines and to try something new.

Pure Gym’s changing rooms are clean and bright, nice to use and with enough space even at peak times. There are also plenty of lockers in the gym – both in and out of the changing rooms although it would be nice if there were more lockers in the changing rooms.

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For someone with a busy life, trying to fit a gym membership around work and childcare, Pure Gym ticks every box. It’s there when I need it – whether that’s after work or in the early hours of the morning – and it’s a nice environment to visit and exercise too. As a woman visiting the gym by myself I have never felt intimidated or nervous, just comfortable to exercise for as long as I want to each time.

Pure Gym lets me carry on my membership as long as I want to, I can cancel at any time and it costs just £17.99 a month. They do charge a joining fee but often have no joining fee promotions – like they do at the moment. Plus, if you live in one place and work in another area you can have a multi-gym membership to allow you to access more than one gym to suit your lifestyle.

Before joining Pure Gym I didn’t know what to expect and had nothing to compare it to. But now, having looked at the cost of other local gyms and what they offer I realise that Pure Gym is a really affordable gym with everything I need. There really isn’t anything else I could ask for. Plus, now that I am in such a good routine with the gym, Hubby has signed up to Pure Gym too. It really has changed our lives.

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Disclosure: I have been working with Pure Gym for the last three months for the purpose of this review however, I have loved using the gym and it is now such a part of my lifestyle that I have chosen to continue my membership. As always, all opinions are my own.

Tips for Staying Healthy as a New Parent

*This is a collaborative guest post

Bringing a child into the world is the most exciting experience of your life. However, it’s also widely regarded as the most exhausting life event imaginable. With a lot of sleepless nights ahead, you’ll need to find ways to stay healthy for both yourself and your new baby. Here are some tips to help you bolster your immune system and improve your health.

Trade Night Shifts

It’s wonderful to be new parents, and when the baby cries in the middle of the night, both of you might be tempted to get out of bed to tend to your baby’s needs. In order to get the most sleep, trade off on taking the night shift with your partner so you can try to get rest whenever possible. Sleep deprivation has negative effects on your memory and mood, and can even lead to more serious health problems later down the line. While it’s nearly impossible to get a truly adequate amount of sleep when you have a new baby, any extra sleep will be beneficial, so discuss taking turns as caretaker during the night.

Meal Prep

Whenever you have a spare hour, use that time to meal prep if you’re feeling rested enough to forgo a nap. Good nutrition is one of the most important aspects of staying healthy, but it’s difficult to prepare healthy meals when you’re busy learning the ropes as a new parent. Instead of preparing something extravagant, try making something simple and delicious like sandwiches with whole grain bread, lean meat, some greens, and a layer of hampton creek mayo. For more simple recipes, visit the Hampton Creek website or Facebook page.

Find a Support System

If you’re lucky enough to live near supportive family or friends, don’t feel the least bit guilty about calling them in for help. Parenthood is tough, and it’s normal to feel overwhelmed in the beginning. If you’re not able to keep up with household chores as well as baby care, call someone that you’re close to and ask for help. That’s what a support system is there for, and a good friend or family member won’t mind coming to the rescue to help you cope with life as a new parent. If you’ve been staying home alone with the baby, taking some time to chat with another adult is also great for mental health.

Start Exercising Again

The first few weeks after the baby is born (or even longer if you’ve had a C-section) are dedicated to nothing more than adoring your new family member and getting started with learning how to be a parent. However, as soon as you’re feeling strong enough, it’s important to start up an exercise routine, no matter how small. This can simply be a walk around the block once a day, and you can build up as you feel ready. Some new parents love to follow short workout videos on YouTube, while others like to get right back to going to the gym. It’s all about what you feel comfortable and happy doing.

Get Out of the House

To stay well balanced and happy, try to find time to get out of the house, even if it’s just for 30 minutes. Go see a movie or simply take a drive to your favourite coffee shop, and try to do this about once a week. Being a new parent is the most rewarding experience imaginable, but you need to take care of your mental health to be an effective parent.

Find Relaxation

A huge life change like having a child is bound to come with stress and anxiety. However, this is also a joyful time that should be cherished. To find relaxation and balance, try meditation or yoga. You can find guides on beginner’s yoga, meditation, and deep breathing on YouTube to get started.

Get Enough Vitamin C

We’ve already discussed the importance of proper nutrition and meal planning, but Vitamin C is especially important in fending off illness. Luckily, it’s easy to boost your Vitamin C intake. Every morning, try to start your day with a glass of warm lemon water. Simply heat the water till warm and squeeze the juice of half a lemon into the glass. If you don’t like lemon’s tart flavour, drinking orange juice a few times a week and eating foods like strawberries will do the trick.

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A Month of Running #SpringForward

At the start of April I was challenged by Institute of Inertia, in partnership with Comparethemarket.com, to set myself a spring goal, resurrecting a resolution that failed at the start of the year and using the brighter, longer days to give myself a chance at success.

I decided to focus on doing something for me and set myself the goal of running three times a week throughout April. Running is something I have done on and off for quite a while now but wanted to really try and make it part of my routine and the challenge was a great opportunity to do this.

The Institute of Inertia gave me the following advice at the start of the challenge and it was definitely a great help:

1. Set resolutions in Spring: Quite literally, spring time is the point of new beginnings. With the clocks going forward bringing lighter evenings, nature is blooming, and life awakens. In Spring, our good intentions to get things done and make positive change are given a welcome boost by, quite literally, a brighter outlook.

2. Don’t bury your head in the sand: Evidence suggests that people often act like the proverbial ostrich and bury their heads in the sand, rather than confront the reality that they are not making the progress toward their goals that they would like, or hoped for. One strategy for success is to keep track of your progress and be honest with yourself regarding what needs to change.
For example, if you want to start saving money, then you need to be realistic about how much is coming in and how much you are spending per day. If you don’t have the full picture, then you are less likely to be able to achieve your goal.

3. Plan ahead: Evidence suggests that planning when, where, and how you will achieve your goals is really important. When we plan how to tackle obstacles in advance we can ensure that we are better prepared giving ourselves a better chance of achieving our goals.
For example, if you are trying to eat healthily, then plan your meals out for the weekand get all the necessary ingredients in. You are then less likely to pop to the supermarket after work when you’re tired and hungry and buy a ready meal or snack.

4. Bite size chunks: It can be overwhelming thinking about the end goal. Often what we are trying to achieve feels out of reach leading us to lose the motivation needed to keep going. Breaking the goal down and focusing on small achievable actions can make it feel less daunting.
For example, rather than setting yourself the task of losing a huge amount of weight like a stone or more, try and break it down to one or two pounds a week. When you succeed in the first week you should not only be motivated to keep going but your end goal may feel more achievable.

Throughout April I have kept this advice in mind and it has definitely been a great time for me to try and achieve my running goal. The longer days have given me more hours of daylight to get outside. The weather has been generally warmer and nicer and really my whole outlook has just been brighter.

I also made sure I knew exactly when I was going to go out for a run, adding it to my calendar and organising other activities and plans around it. In the past it has been so easy to just not go for a run and do something else instead – like sit on the sofa for an extra hour… But having my runs laid out on the calendar made me accountable and made it fact – things on the calendar will happen.

Lastly, I didn’t think past the next run. If it was Monday evening and I was going running on Wednesday I wouldn’t think about that run until just before, and didn’t think about Friday or Saturday’s run either – just the next one. At the start of April it would have been overwhelming to think of 12 runs in front of me so instead I worked through them, one by one and then one week at a time.

Over this month I have run more consistently and more regularly than I have since I started running. Spring has given me the boost I needed to make running a habit and cement it into my routine. Through the rest of the year it has been easy to let bad weather and dark evenings stop me from getting out but spring holds less excuses.

I have loved taking part in this challenge and it has really made me rethink the goals I set myself and when I set them too. Dr Thomas Webb, social psychologist and Chair of the Institute of Inertia said:

“In January people have a tendency to jump on the ‘new year, new you’ bandwagon. Many of us follow the crowd and get swept up in the enthusiasm around making New Year’s resolutions. However, often the goals that we set are unrealistic, are not supported by a clear plan of action or an understanding of the task at hand – in short, it’s a recipe for failure.”

I cannot help but agree. In future I will be saving my resolutions for spring and in doing so I hope they will be less destined to fail. Also working through their own spring challenges were Jen from Mum in the Mad House, Colette from We’re Going on an Adventure and Cass from The Diary of a Frugal Family – make sure you check out their blogs to see how they got on with their own spring goals.

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Disclosure: This post is in collaboration with the Institute of Inertia, in partnership with Comparethemarket.com

Review: TomTom Spark Cardio + Music GPS Fitness Watch

Over the last eighteen months I have been running fairly regularly and have been trying to improve my overall fitness and activity levels too. Regular readers will have seen me review different activity monitors and I have used other ones I haven’t blogged about too but nothing ever seemed to tick every box.

I was looking for something that I could push a pushchair with that would still log my steps, something that would work for running as well as day to day walking, something that could also work as a watch so I didn’t have to wear both a watch and an activity tracker and also something that would work with two of my favourite apps – My Fitness Pal and RunKeeper. I did quite a lot of research and decided that a sports watch was the way forward, specifically a TomTom sports watch. It was at this point that I was actually sent a TomTom Spark watch to review and I couldn’t have been more excited to start using it – and to get out running with it too!

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The TomTom Spark comes in two sizes and a range of colours however the straps are adjustable, like a traditional watch, to give a good fit. I’ve found it really comfortable to wear and although it looks quite big on me I do have incredibly slim wrists, it’s not that much bigger than my previous watch.

When you first unbox the TomTom Spark you have to install software onto your computer, then plug the watch into the computer via the included USB cable so software can be updated and it can be paired with your computer. You set up an account with TomTom so that it can track your progress.

There’s then a TomTom MySports app that you can install on your phone that the watch syncs with to keep track of all your activity. As well as this I linked the TomTom software with my RunKeeper and MyFitnessPal accounts so that every time I wore my TomTom Spark the data would be sent directly to the apps – great for my overall health and fitness routine.

Once the watch is set up and synced everywhere you can start using it. I wear the watch as a normal watch and not only tells me the date and time but also counts my steps throughout the day. It’s really accurate compared to other activity monitors I have had – doesn’t track steps when I’m in the car or on the train, it tracks well when I’m pushing a pushchair and going up and down stairs. It keeps a log of your steps for the day and your steps for the week but you can get individual daily history on the TomTom MySports app.

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The watch lets you create goals for yourself for things like steps, calories or distance and also keeps track of your heart rate whilst you’re active. It also monitors your sleep although I can’t sleep with a watch on and so I haven’t used this function.

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As well as using the watch for everyday life I also use it for running but it can be used for a whole host of fitness activities – swimming, gym or cycling for example. Whilst you are active the watch keeps track of how long you have been active for, your distance and your speed. You can also do interval training, running to a set pace or running within a set heart rate range. You can even compete with yourself to see how you do against your previous runs which is great if you often run on the same route or track. The TomTom Spark really does have so many activity options.

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One of the best things about this watch is how it also incorporates music and so, with bluetooth headphones, you can listen to music on the go without having to take your phone, mp3 player or anything else with you. It holds up to 500 songs which can be arranged into playlists and easily cycled through during exercise.

Since starting to use the TomTom Spark I have found it to be really comfortable to wear and only slightly more effort than a typical watch as it needs charging. It does charge quickly, within an hour or so, and the battery lasts for about a week if I don’t go for a run. If I go for a run the battery life is reduced and I have to charge it every few days but it isn’t a problem at all – I just plug it in when I’m inactive, at my laptop, and so it still logs all my activity for the day.

The TomTom MySports app is a great way of keeping track of any goals that you have set yourself, your activity levels and statistics for any training you have done. All of my runs are logged with all the information I need along with a map of my route and it keeps this information indefinitely – I can scroll back a couple of months to when I started using the watch and all of my past history is there.

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The TomTom MySports Connect online software also stores all this data so whether you are at your PC or out and about all of the information for your day to day activity and training is really easily accessible.

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I have been using the TomTom Spark for a couple of months now. I do forget to put it on in the morning every so often but most of the time it is on my wrist, tracking my activity and encouraging me to move more. It ticks every box that I wanted from an activity tracker – but does so much more too. If you are looking for something you can wear all the time, that comes in a range of colours, fits effortlessly into your lifestyle and can be used for a whole multitude of activities then the TomTom Spark could be the watch for you. I know that I won’t be using any other fitness tracker in the future.

The TomTom Spark has an RRP of £189.99 although if you didn’t need cardio or music options cheaper versions are available.

Disclosure: I was sent the above product for the purpose of this review however all opinions are my own.