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Sunday, 15 October 2017

THE UGLY SIDE OF INSTAGRAM



This has been a pretty controversial topic recently, especially on my insta feed anyway. I've come to see far too many individuals becoming obsessed with their analytics, tracking every single follower and getting completely disheartened when a post doesn't blow up. But why are we suddenly becoming so obsessed with numbers?

Ever since instagram released the business account, every non-business account has suddenly turned this feature on. If you're unaware business accounts allow you to add contact details to your account and allow the 'insight' feature. This tracks your number of followers, tells you when activity is highest and even gives you an insight on views and likes for every single post. Of course this is brilliant if you are promoting a product or your own service - having the tools to analyse your posts directly on the app is ideal. But it seems we're losing sight of what instagram is really about.

Instagram doesn't monitor the business account feature and really you don't need an actual business to set this up (a Facebook page is enough). But I remember my instagram came about from my blogging. I created it to run alongside my blog, to promote my posts and to gain traffic through my website this way. Which I am sure were instagram's real intentions when they set up this feature - to help businesses promote their services. But now it seems people aren't really caring about the content their sharing - but just following the numbers.

What really gets to me is that there are so many fantastic businesses and bloggers out there. But their content isn't being seen and their messages and information they share is being overlooked because the algorithms aren't allowing their content to be seen. It's been driven by the number of supposed likes (whether they're from bots or genuine accounts who knows). But when fantastic writers and educated individuals who are specialists in their field are being disregarded because they aren't influencers or 'instafamous' something is definitely wrong.

Don't get me wrong, the business tools are so helpful. But when you become obsessed with tracking numbers, which aren't being driven by success from your business or product then what are you really in it for? Are we forgetting what instagram is really about? If you're becoming obsessed with your numbers it really is time to evaluate your goals. Engage with real people, reply to your messages and when people need help actually be there to support and help them. Don't get caught up in the numbers and be true to yourself - remember exactly why you set up your account. Instagram is a powerful platform and can be used to influence so many in positive ways. Just remember to be true to yourself, don't become obsessed with numbers, remember each number is a real person just like you. Be true to yourself and don't get caught up within the numbers - your worth is not determined by your followers. Your business, your quality of writing is not determined by your numbers. It's just instagram.

Love Laura 
x
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Tuesday, 10 October 2017

FITNESS AND MENTAL HEALTH



The 10th of October is recognised worldwide as World Mental Health Day, the 25th day dedicated to raising awareness of mental health and fighting the associated stigma. It's clear to see that yes there still is a stigma surrounding mental health but this is something which I am seeing people talk about and feel comfortable with sharing more and more now than ever. The pictures above show myself at different stages in my life, some happy and secure within my self, others not so much. But by looking you wouldn't know what battles I was fighting and with the stigma associated with mental health many people are still covering up their battles with a smile. Physical changes caused by exercise are what you see, but the bigger mental changes are always overlooked.

I think the real stigmas around mental health are held within the workplace, a place which actually many mental health issues catalyse due to stress. A few years ago now, this is exactly where my mental health issues began. But at this time I didn't know it was mental health, I didn't even know what I was going through at the time. All I knew was that my workplace wasn't supportive of me and my only option was to leave my job that I once loved. What I was going through was work related stress, which was made worse by losing someone very close to me. By not dealing head on with my own issues, this then led to very low self worth and self-esteem. Blaming myself for everything that happened became normal, accepting and expecting failure became the only route I knew. We shouldn't look back and dwell on the past but I always wonder what would've happened if I had actually spoken about my feelings or somebody understood what I was going through. But instead I found my own coping mechanisms.

Exercise and taking care of my own health was the turning point for me, something I had control over in my life. I couldn't control my emotions, nor could I change others opinions of myself. But what I could do was have that constant in my life that was controlled by myself. Of course starting out wasn't easy. Joining a gym is daunting, exercising in front of people is even more so. But once I got past those initial fears, I had found a place where I felt free just to work on myself. Somewhere I could be completely selfish and take an hour out of my day to just work on me. Giving yourself that time, whether it's weight-lifting, yoga or running is so valuable not just for your physical fitness but mental health too. In a world where we give so much time to work, you have to have that time to enjoy your own interests and hobbies. An hour out of your day to exercise is just 4% of your day, so even if you do lead a busy lifestyle there really are no excuses. Your mental well being deserves no excuses and should always be top of that list of priorities.

Another benefit of exercise is the feel-good endorphins released. These endorphins react with the receptors in your brain reducing that feeling of pain and triggering that positive feeling in your body (it is viewed as being similar to that of morphine without the dependence). Along with those endorphins you will actually feel better about yourself seeing those improvements in your body. Personally, this helped so much with my own self-esteem. Seeing that 'yes I can do what I set my mind to', I can love my body and love the strong person that I have become. On those days when I do feel down and of course it happens a lot, I just have to remind myself of how hard I have worked and what I have achieved for myself -mentally not just physically. Always remember that the pictures you see on social media are just that - pictures. They are not a representation of someone as a whole, you don't know their mental situation and they could be battling something bigger than you'll ever know. Always be kind, always remember to put your mental health first and please just speak to someone, anyone you don't have to suffer in silence.

Love Laura
x
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Sunday, 24 September 2017

KNOWING YOUR WORTH


This phrase gets thrown around so much these days. If it isn't a meme, it's somebody's Motivational Monday quote but what exactly does it mean? So worth is related to value right and when we talk about valuing yourself this links back to your own self-esteem. If you have high self-esteem then you have high self worth right? That's where it all gets so confusing.

Let's use me as an example. I have good self confidence, I am happy in my body and I am confident i myself. But when it comes to self-worth, I don't always view myself as being all good and worthy of anybody in relationships and this is where it all goes wrong. Understanding your own self-worth means not attaching your own worth to what a guy would think of you. Why do we struggle so much with this? We see ourselves as being in the wrong, that if someone isn't interested in us then it must be personal. We hold onto the destructive thoughts that it's completely personal - not that you just weren't compatible. Why do we take a misinterpretation or ambiguity of feelings so personal?

I am guilty of this. Previous relationships have put me in a position where I don't feel worthy. Even though I'm happy in my own body and with my appearance I struggle to see past the mistakes of previous relationships. It's hard to accept the past, that your worth was so little to someone that they had to go out and seek someone else, multiple people. But this is not the case! Their actions do not define your worth, you are worth everything. Not everybody is romantically compatible and it's not your fault. It was never your appearance or your annoying habits that made them stray. It's their immaturity to have a relationship, that they aren't ready for someone like you or simply that you're just not  compatible.

You are worth everything. You can not devalue yourself because of other people's decisions towards you - it doesn't make you bad, it just means you don't match. It doesn't mean your worth anything less, it was never your problem and it never will be. In order to move on from the past we have to first accept it and take it for what it was. Yes crappy things do happen to good people - but these things do not define you. If anything use it as a learning curve, take the knowledge and learn from mistakes made. Learn that you can get over it, it was never your fault and that you are 100% worthy of anything you desire.

Moving on from the past I'm learning and the thing I've learnt most is the importance of detaching your worth from their actions. Their actions do not define you - they define themselves. They are not your decisions, not your actions and you need to realise that yeah so many guys stray due to their own low self-esteem - they feel the needed to be adored and wanted by many. Some guys just want to feed their huge ego. But always, always remember you cannot view your worth on somebody else's actions. When you know that worth, you'll be able to detach them feelings and walk away when something falls short. You'll have the confidence in yourself to know when to stop, to know when actually you're worth more than what you're getting. That in fact, you shouldn't have to tell them not to do something or what they need to do more of because actually, they should already know that you deserve much better. You're worth far more and once you've realised your worth, keep it as high as the stars.

Love Laura
x



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Wednesday, 6 September 2017

HOW TO GROW YOUR GLUTES


One of the most popular questions I get asked is 'How do I get a booty like yours?' Now sadly I'm probably going to share some truths you may not like. The first one is that there is no miracle exercise. Squatting all day and all night will not build your glutes. You will also not build your glutes by eating clean, going on a detox, juicing or doing donkey kickbacks. So what do you need to do? 

Let's talk a little bit of Science. Your glutes are a muscle, a very large one at that. In order for muscles to grow you need to be in a calorie surplus, eating more calories than you are burning in a day. I suggest you work this out using a macro calculator, then make sure you're adaquetly fuelling your body. This doesn't mean eating 2500 calories worth of pizza and doughnuts, although you can have a little bit. You still need to be hitting those macros, especially your protein. When you weight train, your body repairs the damaged muscles by repairing the fibres which increase in thickness creating muscle growth (hypertrophy). If you're not eating enough calories and protein to repair and build these muscles, then your body is just going to eat in to your muscles to fuel the rest of the body. But let's just get this clear, trying to build muscle and losing weight at the same time will not work. Only when you are happy with the muscle growth, should you then cut to lose fat.

My next point is glute activation. For me, this has taken the focus off of my quads and allowed my glutes to fire up ready for the big compound lifts. You spend most of your day sat on them, so naturally they would rather let your legs do the work. But if you can warm them up effectively before you start lifting, this will be so beneficial to your session. Go look at my recent instagram video for my favourite glute activating exercises. 

My third point you need to trust me in is: lifting heavy will change your body! Trust me, look what happened to mine. Before, I was a slave to cardio, aerobic DVD's and bikini body guides. But when I found weight lifting this is when change happened. Heavy weights will build your muscles, therefore building your glutes consequently giving them a larger appearance. But you need to be progressively overloading them, not lifting the same weight each week. Let's say you're hip thrusting, each time try add more reps, another set or extra weight. I cannot stress enough how lifting heavy weights has changed my body and it will do the same to yours too. If you struggle to feel any lifts in your glutes I would strongly recommend a resistance band. It will help with that mind-muscle connection and remind you to squeeze and engage the glutes with each movement. 

Now what exercises are most beneficial for the glutes? Squats and kickbacks? Probably not no. In fact, as the incredible 'Glute Guy' (Brett Contreras) dispels, a bodyweight squat will only activate 70% of the quads and 20% of the glutes. This clearly shows that squats are not the way forward for optimal glute growth. This is why I love the hip thrust. This movement allows you to build the glutes without over activating the quads and with less strain on your back. Start off with bodyweight, then the barbell then get adding weight. It's amazing how quickly you'll learn to fire up your glutes with this move. For some other glute based weight work I'd suggest you have a watch of these and begin including them in your workouts.

Hopefully this has answered many of your questions related to building that booty. Once you understand the science and trust the process of being in a calorie surplus and lifting heavy, you will see results coming. If it helps I will be eating in a calorie surplus to build more muscle too, so as always I'm here to motivate! 
Love Laura
x









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Saturday, 2 September 2017

CALA D'OR | MAJORCA

































If you follow me on instagram, you'll have seen that a few weeks ago I lived in a bikini for a week in the resort of Cala D'or, Majorca. We booked the trip through Thomson, a package holiday at the hotel Rocamarina, which was half board. I find this a really good option when you're not too familiar on the area, so you can eat in the hotel morning and evening but have a wander out at lunch time to find some lovely Spanish restaurants. Or, stock up in the supermarket on cheetos and fruit.

Our hotel itself wasn't in the centre of Cala d'Or but it was the other side of the Marina, overlooking Calo des Pou beach. The location was ideal, quiet yet 10 minutes from the Marina, Cala d'Or centre (20mins) and with two lovely beaches nearby. Just up the road from the hotel were lots of British bars and restaurants and convenient supermarkets too, also a cute little market on Thursday nights. In the other direction, past the amazing Villas, was the Fort which had a beautiful view over Cala D'or and the Marina. The closest beach to us was Calo d'es Pou beach, which was lovely first thing on a morning but got busy around midday. It sadly, wasn't the cleanest beach too  which was a real shame, but great for rock diving! We did find a beautiful beach Calla de Egos, which i'll show you more of in a separate post!

The hotel was lovely, family run and quiet. The staff were incredible, couldn't do enough for you. Being adults only it was quiet but the Thomson Gold staff were still there with their daytime activities and surprisingly good evening entertainment. We even saw a comedian from Britain's Got Talent. The only downside was the reservation of sunbeds and the rush in the morning when the pool area opened. But we avoided this, spending our mornings at the beach. The food was also excellent, very much catered for the English guests though. Which was a bit of a shame for me who loves eating local cuisine, but great if you love a Sunday dinner with apple pie and custard! I still found some paella and made the most of the fresh fish all cooked in front of you.

Each room had a huge balcony, English TV channels and a mini fridge (perfect for fruit and sangria). I was extremely impressed by the hotel and would recommend it to anyone looking for a quiet holiday with exceedingly good food. The drinks were also great (especially the mojito) and reasonably priced.

In terms of what to do around here beside laying on the beautiful beaches or exploring in the Marina, there's plenty. There are a number of boat tours, in particular the Starfish which charters throughout the day from different locations taking you to beautiful beaches and fishing villages nearby. Or you could take a trip up to Palma, the countries capital, which is just over an hour away. My favourite things about this area were definitely the lovely Marina (the view from the Yacht club is beautiful), the Calla de Egos and the local supermarket with every variety of cheetos you'll ever need!

Love Laura 
x


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Monday, 28 August 2017

GETTING BACK INTO THE GYM


Having just come back off holiday, not being in the gym for over 10 days the thought of going back is daunting. Losing progress, not having a clue what to do and feeling out of touch are all factors holding me back. But a break from the gym has done me wonders. On holiday I worked out twice, mostly because it's become part of my lifestyle and I love the endorphins released after a good workout. But while I was away I enjoyed myself, no macro tracking, eating all the foods, drinking cocktails and endless supplies of fanta lemon! Because why shouldn't you allow yourself free reign on holiday? Now being back, I truly appreciate all the effort I put in before. It's only encouraged me to get better, stronger and continue on my journey. 

So where do we begin? Starting again you need a clear plan of what you want to achieve. For me, it's getting back into the weights section, building on those compound lifts and also seeing if my strength is still there. Muscle memory will help along the way, now completely healed after a break from lifting my muscles will be able to work at full capacity activating those muscle fibres effectively. Going back to the gym you need to be clear on your workout. This will help you get in there, without worrying what to do, which machines to use and debating going home. For me, I write my workouts in my notes, keep track of what I've lifted and the reps and sets, so I can aim to improve on this the next time. It's also a good idea to keep your workout short, don't spend over an hour in there exhausting yourself. Keep it short maybe 45minutes - 1hour and don't be blasting yourself with high intensity cardio, 5 minutes of HIIT at the end of your workout is sufficient.

Having a gym buddy can also help you get back, they'll motivate you to go and make sure you don't flake out. For me, social media is also a huge motivator. I've heard it before, those people complaining about others 'checking in at the gym', but surround yourself with positive people who will celebrate your successes. Having a fitness instagram is amazing because everyone is so positive and we all encourage each other to be our best. So even if it is posting a gym selfie or the aftermath of your workout, hopefully someone out there will encourage you (if not just add me, i'm always on it). 

The worst bit is thinking about it. Thinking it over and considering every negative point about the gym or what possibly (but never will) happen. The weights aren't gonna crush you, you won't fall off the stepper or get your hair caught in the treadmill. Just go there, get it done and you'll feel so much better. 
Love Laura
x
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Sunday, 13 August 2017

MY FITNESS JOURNEY


I titled this 'My Fitness Journey' because fitness isn't a destination or something you eventually achieve. To me, fitness has been a journey, a discovery and something I've been absolutely taken in by. Now I haven't lost a great deal of weight, I haven't been through a diagnosed eating disorder. I have however had unhealthy relationships with food and used exercise as punishment, which in itself is a disorder. So here's as much of my fitness journey that I can condense into one blog post.



Teenage years are awful. Fighting a battle with your inner demons and school friends/foes to look the best and fighting off those nasty teenage comments. I wasn't unhappy with my body growing up, but when I reached 17 I began to develop unhealthy habits. Binging on junk food (particularly crisps and Chinese food) and then punishing myself by not eating for a day and doing a Davina DVD. I found that it was really easy for me to lose weight, but then to gain it again very easily. This unhealthy relationship continued quite the way through uni too, where alcohol was the obvious choice over food and I lost a lot of weight from this. My university halls even had a gym, but I didn't know what to do in there and the only time I had used the gym was for the treadmill and cross trainer.


When I finished Uni I went into a full time job. Teaching was very stressful and I began to find that the stress was overcoming my health along with my sleep. Something had to change. Being desperately unhappy in a job which takes over your whole life isn't the way. So I joined a gym as a way to relieve myself from the stresses off my day to day life. I began going to classes like body pump, spin and HIIT, loving the feeling of those endorphins flowing and forgetting about my job for all the while I was there. Then I signed up for something bigger, the Great North Run. I did this in memory of my Great Grandma, who lost a battle with Alzheimer's. Training was hard, running with my Dad (who had ran a marathon before) was tough and I'd never even ran past two lampposts! But it's incredible what your body can do and I did it, even more inspired.


After I left my job, I began to put my health first. I invested in Kayla's BBG and began learning about  nutrition. Turning from cardio to resistance based exercises allowed me to see changes in my body but there's no way you can sustain those guides forever. Then I made the move to work at sea, on cruise ships. There was little time to exercise and the food choices were terrible, not protein sources and just carbs carbs carbs. But it was January this year where I decided something had to change. I left sea and came back home. Joined a gym and began following Grace Fit's guide. It was amazing, I had finally discovered lifting and I mean lifting heavy weights, barbells and working damn hard. 


I had finally found something I loved doing, getting stronger and fitter. Along with this I began closely tracking my macros, learning more about the make up of food and how to fuel my body properly in order to get the best out of my lifting sessions. Cardio was long gone, up until last month when I started adding in LISS like 20 minutes on the stepper and short HIIT sprints, just for my holiday cut. Now I've been going it alone making up my own workouts, using an upper/lower split and training around 5 times a week. I'm learning to pull up my own body weight, squat more than my body weight and hip thrust double. I no longer track macros, but eat intuitively, now that I have a good knowledge of food. I balance a flexible approach to eating with training progressively in the gym and I couldn't be happier with the way my body has changed. After my holidays I'll be beginning a bulk, which is a first for me. Fitness hasn't only helped me look stronger, but it's helped me to feel stronger on the inside and fight my own mental health issues. It's now that I am stronger I feel I can talk about what i've gone through and how training and the dedication helped me to overcome this. I've felt my strength carry me and it's continuing to do so. Fitness isn't just about losing weight, it's a journey, a commitment to bettering yourself, for you! I'm so excited to continue this journey and share it with you all, even if I can just help one person feel better about themselves.

Love Laura
x


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