Gym Game-Changer

I am writing this on an endorphin high. I am writing this in case it's a fleeting or brief epiphany which later I can return and read myself in the hope it will make me wriggle into a sports bra (girls, we all know how challenging that is!) and get my butt back to the gym.

I've dabbled with gym memberships over the years beginning when I was 14 and my parents offered to pay an extortionate fee to keep me entertained for an extra hour or two after school. The truth is I mostly sat on the machines chatting and the only muscles getting any major workout were those from my constant chinwagging with friends. Throughout University, I had an on/off relationship with the gym and in true student style, was never seen there before midday and was solely motivated by a) a small dress I was daring to wear that night at Oceana or b) the hot men working out in close proximity. (Tangent: My favourite memory from this time was when my roommate and I went to the gym and were - standard behaviour - walking on the treadmill, only when my friend thought a guy she was seeing had walked in, she then tripped and made a rather dramatic flail to regain her composure. Turns out, it wasn't him.)

When I moved to London after graduation, in some vain attempt to tick those I'm-a-real-grown-up boxes, I signed up to another extortionately priced gym in West London. The slight victory was I actually went there! At best, my average was four hours a week which, deceptively, would only require two actual visits to the gym with a Les Mils Body Pump class followed by Body Balance. Brutal.

The 'W' word was the real milestone in changing my thinking about a regular exercise regime. First stop: Professional help, obviously. Hello PT! I was recommended Kaytee as the best of the best when it comes to understanding a woman's physique and how women want to feel in their bodies (and she has a body to die for so you know you're in good hands). She eye-rolls at men doing all that huffing and puffing and gives diet advice on the side (she's a chef and caterer by day). This is the woman I have to thank for getting me into the best shape of my twenties. Just as well considering the low-cut back and clinging wedding dress I had fallen in love with.

Fast forward two years, travelling out of a backpack for 6 months with an on-the-go diet and then the shock of American food (read: pizza) on my ever expanding waistband. I remember hearing a colleague of mine say both her and her husband had put on a stone in their first year of marriage. Ironically, the little voice in my head said, That won't be me! ... It was me. My first go at ClassPass had led me to fall in love with Physique57 barre classes where I attempted to repair some of the damage. The mental benefits alone were totally worth the $300 monthly membership fee and it encouraged me to try ClassPass back in London. I can finally see the pattern: the way to get me to move my butt is to book me into the escape-free-zone of an exercise class where you'll slap a penalty charge if I don't turn up! Trap me in the room, make me fear losing face for walking out or giving up and I'll give you 60 good minutes of movement!

But, to finally bring you to present day, living outside Zone 2 makes ClassPass slightly less convenient. Add it to the change of job afoot in February, I have a distinct feeling my days at the barre are numbered. Whilst on a mission to get into shape ahead of the big 3-0, I've joined a gym where the membership fee is under £30 a month (I had begun to think that was an urban gym myth) and I just went for my first session there. Truth be told, the intention tonight was for a gym induction. Only, for less than £30 a month they forget to book you into the system and you're stood there in head to toe gym kit fighting the urge to turn back and head home to the sofa. So, I did what any self-respecting 29-year-old would do... I plugged in my headphones, sat on a cycling machine and watched Instagram stories for 20 minutes. The fact I managed to get a sweat on whilst scrolling the 'gram felt like the most efficient I've been so far this year! Perhaps I should consider this a regular habit?

The real game-changer (hence the title of this post...if you've persevered this far, well done!) was when I took to a new app on my iPhone. ClassPass GO is a database full of different 10/20/30 minute regimes based on whatever time you have and whatever type of exercise you fancy; choose from arms/butt/core or Yoga/Pilates/HIIT and state your ability from beginner > medium > advanced. It was the gateway to a host of mini gym workouts for those of us that stand in a gym feeling self-conscious and wondering how long we need to stand there pretending to know what we're doing. For me, this was a game-changer though. Despite hours of PT sessions where I felt my confidence rising, understanding and using different equipment around the gym, take that PT away and my mind goes blank. I need that structure and I need that voice telling me what to do, for how long and when to rest/drink/breathe/repeat. Best of all, it's a completely complimentary service for the ClassPass subscriber so in between your Reformer Pilates, Hot Yoga, Spin or Pure Barre, you can pop to the gym or even make space in your living room to achieve your fitness goals. This evening, I was headphones in with one of LA's finest PTs instructing me through a beginner's Upper Body Burn (10 min) and Booty Burn + Balance (10 min). The app has hundreds of programmes to choose from plus some handy pics to follow for posture etc. and even the background music to make you think you're in that studio being energised to the beat! Try it.

Whilst I fall into an exhausted slumber, I seriously recommend the ClassPass GO app for anyone reading who doesn't think they're a gym person. (Even you, Rose)

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Life Changing Purchases

Is it a sign of becoming an adult when you get excited about spending your disposable income on a sofa, a steamer or a kitchen utensil? If so, then I have officially embraced adulthood. This past year has been all about investing in our domestic life, truly setting up home within our owned bricks and mortar (a first for me). Bring on nails in the walls, new paint colour schemes and those ‘life essentials’ to make home life that bit more comfortable. Here I share with you the absolute game-changer purchases that have made such a positive impact on my life.

NEW BED [OF DREAMS].

I’ll start with the most expensive purchase and you can scroll down for less bank-stretching items if you are sleeping on a mattress under 5 years old. I was always brought up on the philosophy of ‘pence per wear’ and if I were to already calculate the minutes I’ve spent in this bed catching some much needed zzzz’s it’s already cheap as chips! Our former mattress was seriously old having withstood various house-moves (you’ve gathered we do that a lot, right?) and even spending 10 weeks on sea-freight making its way to New York. By the end of our stint there, we didn’t think it was worth the moving costs considering how heavy and large a king size mattress is to a removal company!

I’m not going to lie, I had no idea where to start with ‘mattress shopping’ having never entertained the idea before. Luckily I have a husband who’s a dab-hand at Google and, in turn, found Which? website – an independent consumer body who impartially recommended the best brands on the market. As a result, we checked out Casper as one of the best in the biz. One conveniently placed pop-up shop visit later to the Oculus in downtown New York and I was sold (mainly because I wanted the decision made rather than making more awkward attempts to lie on a bed in public without putting my snow-boots directly on the bed…my mother taught me well!) The truth is we almost placed the order without visiting a showroom but it was pure coincidence one happened to be on our doorstep. The reviews spoke for themselves and we felt reassured it was the right mattress for us.

So, we threw down £650 on The Casper mattress and chucked in a couple of the fancy pillows to go with it. My parents were dumb-founded when I said our mattress would soon be delivered to their house in a (relatively) small box and if he could inconspicuously store it out of sight until our return, please, that would be ace. Turns out mattress tech has moved on since my parents last bought theirs! Rolled up neatly in a tiny little box, this mattress is almost vacuum-packed in a roll (imagine a Swiss Roll cake) and you simply unroll it, unwrap it and leave it to expand for a couple of hours. Done.

The other awesome thing about Casper is that they have a 100-night trial; if you still don’t like it after that time, you can send it back free of charge. It took me all of two nights to get used to it as it was slightly more firm than I was used to, plus I was an additional 3 feet off the floor thanks to our new bed frame. Conclusion?  I. LOVE. IT. I've even got my eye on the matching mattress protector now...

Tip: Look out on the London Underground for their adverts which offer 15% off purchases with a code. Plus, Casper is a global brand so available for delivery to many locations!

HOOVER. VACUUM. WHATCHAMACALLIT.

I hate hoovering. With a passion. Until now…

Having lived in a townhouse previously, the stairs were a killer and I never much fancied how often it damn well needed doing or how hot and sweaty I got in the process. Never mind the tripping over the lead, moving from plug point to plug point and the faff of emptying the vacuum bag. If you can relate (and I know you can), quit your moaning and buy one of these! I kid you not, I now love hoovering* (*defined as a love greater than any other household chore, especially ironing!). I watch on sympathetically to anyone who wheels out a Henry hoover or anything with leads sprouting from it. The Dyson V8 animal is a cord-free hand-held whizz of a vacuum that comes with 5 different connections making it perfect for stairs, under tables or cobwebs in the corner of your room that, let’s face it, we can never reach or be arsed to tackle. Now, boom, it’s so easy I'm willing those cobwebs to appear. Charge it up like a mobile phone for an hour or so and I can hoover my entire flat 2-3 times before it needs to be recharged. Plus, you can hang it from the wall in your utility or cupboard so it’s not taking up precious floor space. SERIOUSLY – A GAME CHANGER! I’d actually do your hovering for you if you got this*.
*In exchange for a large glass of wine.

YOU'VE GOT TO LISTEN TO THIS!

I’ve professed my love of Audible many times here and on my Instagram page. It’s honestly revolutionised my ability to ‘read’ all the books everyone talking about! It’s just £7.99 a month for one new credit every month (1 credit = 1 book) and I have never felt so satisfied with a subscription service. My wishlist grows weekly! You can’t watch Netflix whilst cleaning the bathroom at the same time, can you? You can’t Amazon Prime when you’re on a run, can you? You can’t read your Kindle whilst cooking the dinner, can you? Seriously, there’s nothing you can’t do whilst listening to Audible. Multi-tasking in the making! I recently spent the entire weekend in the company of Michelle Obama whilst I completely reconfigured my bathroom shelves, packed away the Christmas decks and did 3 loads of washing. She was great company! I have been banging this drum for ages now, trying to share the benefits with anyone who will listen and happily debate with anyone who scoffs are the notion that “it’s not really reading, is it?”

Favourite reads on Audible so far are: Never Greener by Ruth Jones, My Thoughts Exactly written and read by Lily Allen, The Multi-Hyphen Method by Emma Gannon and Winging It by Alex Jones.

STICK A LABEL ON IT. 

*Geek warning* I’m a stationary fiend and I have to admit this is the second label maker I now own. Introducing Dymo Label Maker. For any like-minded organisational junkies out there, this is for you. I have since taken to photo albums, notebooks, organising my hoards of skincare by category and spice rack to 'label' a few. I have so far refrained from sticking a label on loved ones but it’s only really a matter of time....

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That's my top 4 favourite purchases of late. Having just unwrapped a Dyson Air-Wrap for Christmas I'm sure that may be on my list for 2019. What are your game-changing purchases?  


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Talking Life Goals & New Year BS

I could preach this year I'm hoping to shed a few pounds, drink less caffeine and cut out sugar. I could vow to do more 'selfcare', meditate every day and walk my 10,000 steps. I could say all these things but a) I'm guessing you're already bored and b) we both know I'd have failed by 4th January. I blame the media and brands for this 'New Year, New You' culture which sets an expectation that makes us all feel pretty shitty after a 10-day binge and Netflix marathon. Even when brands aren't singing to that theme tune, they attempt to "be different" and embrace 'New Year, Old You' in some thinly veiled attempt to say 'We think you're brilliant just as you are...but you still need to buy this product.' 

This year, I'm saying: Sod it all.
All I'm looking for this year is positive vibes. I have my own worst critic running a constant monologue in my head, I don't need resolutions to make me feel crap too. January should be wiped off the calendar as far as I'm concerned, pass me all the tea, biscuits and comfort food throughout this dreary month. And don't dare utter the words 'dry' and 'January' in the same sentence (she types as she puts down an empty wine glass on a Monday night. Her second.) 

I wrote last year about how I set myself goals each year (Note: very different to 'resolutions'). Motivated by the end-of-year celebration over Champagne where my friend and I toast our achievements and set our next wishlist for the year to come (sometimes drunkenly), it's become somewhat of an annual tradition.

READ MORE > 2018: LIFE GOALS

This isn't personal development in the serious sense. For example, 'picnic on Primrose Hill' is one of my goals for 2019; something I've never done but would love to and whilst I will always think it's a good idea, I may never get around to it unless it's on a list in my iPhone. I refer to this list decorated with emojis every now and then to remind myself, whilst working life can leave time for little else, that this is the 'living' I want to do outside of the 9-5. I now have honed a template with the following categories:

P E R S O N A L. Yes health and fitness goals can live here if you're so inclined. I had 10k on my list last year and it remained unticked, go figure! Yet, Make my first Christmas cake was proudly crossed off sometime in August, alongside with Read 12 books and Host a dinner party.

P R O F E S S I O N A L. Forget S.M.A.R.T. objectives, this is just the big things you want to do (and figure out the roadmap later). Work trip abroad, perhaps? Socialise with work friends more? Get that promotion?

T R A V E L. A new category for 2019 but one I'm very excited about! The last few years I've been making my way through a very comprehensive New York Bucket List but now I'm back in London, you know us Brits like to plan ahead! Enter here: Places to go. In my case, 2 city breaks, 1 long-haul holiday, 1 girls holiday and a visit to Cornwall!

L O N D O N. Making the most of my favourite city and surroundings, I've listed events, exhibitions, eateries on my hit list. (And picnics on Primrose Hill).

What would be on your 2019 list?

Back to those positive vibes... these are the Instagram accounts that I'm heading to daily to get my fix of energy, perspective and love!

@CarlyRowena Total girl boss. Total babe. Carly refuses to get sucked into that negative space on Instagram resembling The Upside Down from Stranger Things. Sharing her endorphins with us all (even when we're sat on the sofa under a blanket), this lady has just popped out a baby and rocking all that she has going on with a dazzling smile. Plus, Carly begins every day with a motivating quote in her IG stories to get your day off to a good start!

@ThePilatesPT I first met Hollie in 2012 when she lived with my best friend from Uni. Hollie has since gone on to achieve massive success running her own exercise studios (one of which is in the Mandarin Oriental in Hyde Park), write a book The Model Method and daily gives us a realistic dose of what is right and wrong in an industry saturated with ab-chiselled models who genetically 99% of us could never resemble if we lived off celery juice for a year (don't try that at home!) Instead, follow Hollie for her no-nonsense captions that call BS on the fads, the traps and the pitfalls whilst motivating us in the right way!

@TheSecret365 This is a free alternative to The Secret Daily Teachings app which I have downloaded - £5 from the App Store - which gives you daily snippets from the world-renowned book and film by Rhonda Byrne. I totally buy into the power of putting positive energy out to the Universe and find this essential to remembering to practise it daily! These little quotes help sync your mind onto a positive frequency.

My final thought is to say,
Have a fabulous year... and breathe!

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© Mrs A to B

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