Guest Post- “Dance for your body. Dance for your mind” – Yvonne Hegarty

As mentioned on the blog not so long ago, I’m taking sometime away from it to reassess things and to make time for other priorities, including my mental health. During my hiatus I hope to have a few guest posts for you to sink your teeth into and the first is truly inspiring. 

Yvonne Hegarty is a passionate dancer and part of a recently established Dance Company, Saoirse, alongside fellow dancer Fiona Burke. In this piece, Yvonne details her own experiences with Dance and how she feels it should be for everyone.  Visit the companies Facebook page HERE to learn more about Saoirse. Enjoy reading and don’t forget to leave your thoughts in the commentsClaire x 

I truly believe now more than ever that dance, as a hobby, as a sport or as a vocation is in fact for everyone. I have danced my whole life in every sense of the word. I am a classically trained Ballet dancer since the age of three, I have studied dance full time in college and now I’m doing what I love, dancing whenever and wherever I can. My perceptions of what it is to be a dancer seem to have changed and altered over the course of my training. Since I was a little one I wanted to be the Prima Ballerina, in other words, I wanted to have legs up to my ears, weigh less than a hundred pounds and be on a stage where everyone’s’ eyes were firmly fixed on me. This ideal is no longer in anyway desirable to me, having discovered that dance for me isn’t about learning steps and doing exams,  it’s about having passion, having soul, having creativity and love for movement. It’s about your bare feet in the sand connecting with the Earth and the wind in your hair. The people who understand this, they are the dancers I aspire to be now.

Dance Blog

Don’t get me wrong, technique is important to me and those who can understand the beauty of a properly pointed toe or flat turn out will be with me on this. Dance technique is hours of pain and dedication beyond belief and I have complete respect for that. I am grateful for my training, right back from my days in Dublin Ballet School where my love of dance began, it was impressed onto me to have technique and hats off to Linda Higgins, the woman who really made it possible for me. It was worth it, the 6am starts, the unpaid work experience, the endless point shoes and generally jugging the life of a normal young person and the life of a dancer. Have you ever been hungover in a Tutu? I have, it’s not pretty.   It was Hell at times but now I have my technique, the foundation of my life and my future.

I had some time off dance for a while. I got disheartened after a few failed auditions I began to realise my legs weren’t up to my ears, perhaps I didn’t want to weigh less than a hundred pounds, maybe I wanted people to give me some praise rather than constantly being told, “you don’t have great turnout” or “you’re not good enough for that” or “dance isn’t for everyone”. I tried to blame others for failing and to be honest It really sucked and I gave up.  Bad move, but it gave me the time out to realise that the world is full of haters. There are not many people who can shine through that, there are not many who can persevere through the hate and I told myself to love instead. I told myself I was good enough, more than enough and then came the birth of my own dance company Saoirse with another dancer who I completely respect and admire, Fiona Burke. She has gone through similar struggles in the dance industry and we have found ourselves the proud owners of a company we believe will make a difference. Saoirse for us is a place of creativity and love of dance that extends further than just technique. We use our training to create something meaningful and something that will hopefully inspire Dublin to keep dancing and keep loving art and theatre.  Here’s a link to “Violet Hour” a short film we made this summer.

It wasn’t until I had that time out of the dance community (which in Ireland is tiny) that I realised the joy of dance should not be an exclusive pleasure; it should be and is for everyone. I was involved in a performance called “The Choreography Project” with about twenty other dancers; some, including myself had years of dance experience and some had none at all. The choreography consisted of a collaboration of all our work which we created by moving our bodies the way certain memories made us want to move. It was a beautiful process, free of prejudice and the competitiveness you might associate with the stereotypical dance studio vibe. The choreography was beautiful because it came from an authentic place for us all, not just learned steps and sequences but movement shaped by memory and real experience.

Dancers blog

On a superficial level I started losing weight without even trying. I was fitter and healthier but more importantly I was happier. Leaving dance for me was a decision I always knew was wrong. When sitting on the train going to work in a job I didn’t like, with the rest of the 8am commuters, my mind was always dancing. I imagined choreography all day long, I secretly danced in the tiny kitchen of my apartment that I was working day and night to pay for. Dance was never far from my heart. This jump back to fitness gave me the passion and drive to be adventurous to do it on my own, to be one of the brave ones and start sharing this love.

Dance to lose weight

My time in “The Choreography Project” and some wonderful performances in “Creative Steps” (An amazing platform for young dancers ages 16-25) have inspired me to keep this experience as a way to encourage every single person to dance. I am trained and dance has been my world forever but I know there are people who have never taken a class but they are dancers too. If you dance, you are a dancer. So do it, just get up and move, feel the power that you create by just swinging our arms around. Okay, I sound like a hippy but it’s true, choose to be a lover not a hater and choose to dance.   There are platforms for the over 60s, for young adults and countless schools for children. If joining a project or taking a class all seems too intimidating also, I strongly encourage people to just dance around their kitchens, or throw shapes in the local night club. Dance is the source of all my energy (that and coffee) and it is my joy to see it come to life in Dublin again. Dance for your body. Dance for your mind.

You are all dancers and I am making it my personal journey to get people to start believing in that.

Yvonne Hegarty 

If you’re a blogger or just have something you are passionate about and would love to write about it please contact me here.  

Fitness & Health: What next? Setting new goals

Where to go when you reach your fitness goals

Now, I’m not a fitness or nutritional professional (pending, you see), however I would describe myself as knowledgeable about the former and educated on the latter.

Without delving too much into my fitness past (you can read about it all HERE), I will tell revisiting and new readers that I begin what turned out to be a life altering fitness journey if February of this year. I recently finished up 14 weeks training with the most wonderful trainer you will ever find, and I am happy with the results.

I have lost 7.5% body fat, bringing me down to 23.5%, 12 inches and gained a lot of strength and confidence. I was thrilled with my before and after pictures; noting that my legs and bum look a lot more toned than they ever have been, that my waist is noticable smaller and that my back looks strong.

Before and after fitness pictures

*source

 I wouldn’t say I smashed my goals but I certainly achieved them through various nutrition and fitness regimens and I was left thinking “what next?”

Here are some things I have thought of in relation to creating your post-achievement fitness goals, that you might find useful.

Be realistic

Losing body fat gets tougher and requires more meticulous nutrition and more intense workouts the further you go on.

When I started off I had 31% body, to drop down as far as 23.5% is a significant personal achievement and one that took a lot of work and time. I realise that to get to my desired 20% body fat I am going to have to be particularly strict with food and drink and up my weights game, even though this time I am only looking to lose 3.5%.

Don’t put unrealistic pressure on yourself by saying you are going to lose the same amount of pounds, or the same amount of inches of your waist as you did in your recently completed programme; it’s not likely to happen and you want to avoid being unfair to your body.

Set yourself a challenge. 

Set yourself a fitness challenge, whether it is completing a fun run, running a marathon or squatting 80kg.

Focus yourself on achieving these goals and your body will respond accordingly. Not only will it be good for your physical strength but also your mental strength, and as well as that, the sense of achievement when you do it will be incomparable.

Look beyond your physical stats.

As much as you might want to lose inches and body fat, when you are reassessing your goals it might be time to look beyond those figures.

Look at the things you want to achieve in fitness instead; maybe you struggle to run for longer than 20 minutes, or you can’t lift heavier than an 8kg dumbbell or you might even struggle to hold a plank for more than 30 seconds; discover ways of getting better at these things, ask a trainer or look for advice online. Once you go beyond how your body looks and focus on what you want it to do, the inches and percentages will take care of themselves.

Consider what you could have done better

While we may have achieved our goals, there is usually something that we could have done better. Maybe you could have reached your goal quicker, maybe you could have improved in certain areas a little more. Whatever it is that you feel could have done differently, make the effort to incorporate the improvement into your new programme. Make doing one or two things better part of your next line of goals.

For example, I probably could have improved on the food aspect and hence would have seen even more inches disappearing. Yes, I eat nutritious foods and I am quite strict on myself but sometimes the lure of cream crackers or a cocktail gets too much for me! One of the goals on my list is not to give in to cravings, not matter how infrequent, and to give up alcohol three months; it will be interesting to see the physical results.

These four tips are just my opinion but you might find that they are helpful when considering the goals you set for your next fitness campaign.

Have you got anything to add? Head to the comments, I love chatting to you all! 

Fitness & Health: The best protein powder for sensitive tummies.

I’ve found this to be the best protein powder for sensitive stomachs/IBS

When increasing your activity Protein Powder is a great way to meet your requirements. A bigger demand on nutrition due to a jump in the exercise you’re doing requires extra protein in your daily food consumption in order to meet energy demands and help repair muscles.

Really though, people often neglect to tell you that they can wreak havoc if you have IBS or a sensitive stomach. As someone with IBS I can vouch for the debilitating pain that can come along with taking the wrong type of protein powder.

I’ve tried four products prior to finding my holy grail of sensitive tummy powders.

 My first foray into the world of protein powder was before I had any notion of what nutrition was actually about was the Sculptress Maxitone “Weight Loss System” shake.  The less said the better; do not use anything entitled “diet”. I’ve also tried Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard Whey which, in fairness to the brand and product, is a fantastic shake, one of the cleanest you can buy and with a very palatable taste, I would recommend it to anyone who wants a simple, clean whey protein.

After discovering that Whey inflamed my IBS, I opted for a vegan protein formula from Raw Fusion; this was the nicest protein I have ever tasted and I am very disappointed to say I can’t take it any more because the incredibly high fructose content effect my tummy terribly.

Protein Guide

Handy guide to different types of protein powder. Credit: http://www.sensualappealblog.com/protein-powders/
 

Enter Sunwarrior; a clean, vegan protein powder that is just as good, if not better, than Whey shakes. Favoured by the Paleo obsessors, you can bet that this is the cleanest protein out there.

Note: I am 100% positive that the Paleolithians did not have protein powders so I reckon you’re cheating if you are on the Paleo diet and taking any protein powder, no matter how clean they are. Also they didn’t avocados. Just saying.

Anyway… *clears throat*

First off I tried the vegan blend; a rice protein shake  with an okay flavour, is a very loose, messy powder that I was happy to take because, at last, I found a protein powder that didn’t make me bloated to the point were people were asking me when I was due (you know who you are and yes, I hate you now), caused me to double over in pain and made me feel generally awful.

Thankfully I discovered Sunwarrior’s much more palatable, completely nutritional packed-out Warrior Blend, which not only has it got 15g of protein per scoop, it’s also packed with Branched  Chain Amino Acids which regulate blood sugars, supposedly increase your metabolism and overall benefit your health and immune system. It’s easy to digest which is key when you suffer with IBS or any tummy issues.

Sunwarrior Protein Reviews

The Warrior blend is composed of Hemp, Cranberry, Pea and Coconut protein, as opposed to the rice protein that makes up the vegan blend. Its flavour is delicious by comparison to its Vegan Blend counterpart, making it a nicer addition to pancakes, porridge etc. It’s also nice for smoothies as it blends a little thicker, making the need for yogurt null and void.

I cannot recommend this beauty of a protein powder enough to anyone looking for a good one to supplement their nutrition and go easy on their tummy.

Where can I buy Sunwarrior Protein?

The cheapest place to buy Sunwarrior Warrior Blend in Ireland is Discount Supplements, honestly, I wouldn’t buy it anywhere else; at just €44.98, it’s a good €5 cheaper than most places AND they have been kind enough to give me a discount code exclusively for Musicandeverything.com readers.

Shop Sun Warrior Products here

Discount code 5%: mae5

 Nutritional Note: I wouldn’t recommend you take protein supplements unless you have a balanced, healthy diet and partake in physical activity/exercise on a regular basis; if you are not enjoying additional activity on top of your usual daily grind, you do not need to add more protein into your diet unless recommended by a doctor.

I also cannot stress the word Supplement enough. Protein shakes are not a meal replacement; you need solid, digestible food in your diet for weight loss and replacing proper meals with protein shakes defeats their purpose; they are supposed to add further nutritional value to your diet, not replace what you are already in-taking. 

It’s quite fitting that my only post this week is a nutritional one; perhaps it’s because I have a one track mind this week. I won’t be posting until next week because I’m taking my final Nutrition Exam at the end of the week. 

So tell me, will you be trying Sunwarrior Protein? Or do you have your own recommendations? To the comments

Fitness & Health: My progress and how I do it Part 2 – Training

Fitness for fat loss – How I’m doing it

Last week I started a mini series about how I dropped inches and boosted my mood since I adopted a new lifestyle in February. Part one tackled what I honestly believe is the most important part of losing body fat and gaining confidence; nutrition. Read about my new, healthy, totally sustainable nutrition habits HERE

This second and final part will give a little bit of insight into how I have been training to get stronger and leaner.

I’m going to do this post in a slightly different way by answering questions I get asked all the time since I started blogging about fitness.

Before I start, I don’t want you to utter or even think “oh, I haven’t got the time for that”. I work full time, I write freelance, I run this blog and I maintain some kind social life; I still fit in training because I know that if I don’t, I won’t see the results. If my full schedule isn’t enough to convince you, how about the plenty of people that train in the same place I do who work unsociable shifts and have families and still get the time to train? If you want it, you make the time, just like you make the time to watch all the soaps every evening, or spend hours browsing through Facebook.

Progress pictures

“How many times a week do you train?”

I train a minimum of 4 times a week but I try and aim for 6 training sessions and one well earned rest day.

“What kind of classes do you do?”

I do TRX and Kettlebell classes and Spin and Kettlebell classes with the odd circuit/bootcamp style class thrown in.

I adore cardio, so despite my trainer telling me to ease up on it, I still pop along to at least one spin class a week. I love the rush of the cardio and I like feeling exhausted after a workout and the spin and kettlebell classes certainly take care of that.

TRX and Kettlebells is pure resistance training with a slight element of cardio. TRX is something I would really love to master; I am as awkward as a giraffe and my core really needs strengthening but I still give the more difficult exercises a go, often dangling helplessly from the straps. I love this type of training because it helps to build strength and it really gives the muscles an intense workout.

My strength has come along leaps and bounds since I started on the Kettlebells going from hardly being able to lift a 5kg bell (yep, I was that weak) to giving the 16kg a good go and I credit these wonderful inventions with a lot of my progress.

“What other training do you do?”

When I’m on a Personal Training programme, which I am at the minute, hence my constant blogging about fitness, I train once a week with my trainer, focusing on strength and strength alone. These are my most intense training sessions, lifting heavier than I do when I’m on my own and really pushing myself until I feel I can’t push any further.

I try to fit in 3 classes a week and supplement them with training at home or doing sprint intervals.

I lift weights at home, typically fitting in a 40 minute session or, depending on my mood, I might do some body weight training, such as bench dips, planks, mountain climbers, press ups and so on. At home I also like to get some Tabata style exercises done, setting out a 30 minute routine of sprints, squat jumps, plyometric lunges and so on. Again, love me some cardio.

Treadmill

I absolutely adore weight training; lifting heavy weights after years of refusing to is what has helped me progress through the months. I know if I was to ease of it I would never reach my overall goals in terms of inch loss, weight loss and fitness levels.

“Are you concerned about getting muscles?”

Ehm, I WANT muscles! No, I don’t want to look like Triple H, but yes, I would like some muscle definition on my arms and abs.

If the question was “Are you not concerned about looking like Triple H?”, the answer would be no, I’m not concerned. Weight training is a fat blaster! I had been doing very little aside from cardio for three years and saw no increase in fitness, no strength increase, very little inch loss and my mood didn’t improve. Since I fell in love with strength and weight training I have seen the inches on my arms, waist and legs shrink, I’ve seen visible changes in my body shape that I am really happy with, I’m stronger, fitter and feel so much more confident that I ever have in my life.

When my arms and abs really start defining, I will be proud and confident. I’m losing mass, not gaining it and to look like Triple H I would have to gain about 15 Claires, so no, I’m not worried in the slightest, and you shouldn’t be either! Women who lift don’t = women who look like male wrestlers.

“Do you not get tired?” 

Of course training is tiring but if you have the right nutritional balance and are essentially eating to train, energy shouldn’t be a huge issue.  Remember, food fuels your body.

At the beginning of my first 6 week train bout I found myself exhausted by the end of it but I’ve learned since to listen to my body; If I’m really drained I’ll look at what I’m eating and make adjustments if necessary, or I’ll stick to cardio instead of lifting heavy that day. I rarely get seriously fatigued these days, in fact I was more consistently tired when my activity low.

Take a look at my survival guide to eating healthy to ensure you don’t slump HERE. 

So, that’s my training in a nutshell. I am passionate about fitness, As my strength grows, so does my passion for healthy living and training. It is hard to get into but once you find something that works for you, you too will fall in love. If you fall in love with the process you will see results you love.

 I said at the beginning of this post, if you really want something you will make the time for it, and I really want to continue to feel as good about myself and life in general as I do when I am fit and healthy.

Are there any more questions about my regimen you’d like me to answer? How do you train? Head to the comments and get a discussion going!  

Essential Fitness Buys: Affordable Fitness Gear in Penneys/Primark

Save, don’t splurge, on Fitness Gear in Penneys/Primark

Once upon a time on my long list of excuses for not going to the gym was “I have no nice gear, and I can’t afford it”. Lame, eh? With Penneys (trading as Primark in the rest of the world) offering decent fitness attire for the past few years, it really wasn’t an excuse at all.

If you find yourself unable to justify spending heaps on gym memberships, fitness classes and the attire to accompany it, never fear, Penneys has some amazing new products in their new season that will help you to achieve your fitness goals.

Here are my favourites from their current active wear line.

Fitness wear picks

I don’t like to workout in overly lose clothing because I find it is too warm and I feel too frumpy, so I love that Penneys are now stocking tighter fitting tops without giving up on style. The top below is just €8, if you buy two that’s just €16, and two workouts sorted- less than one top from renowned fitness wear brands.

Print Panel Vest In stores End-July

Print Panel Vest In stores Now

In Winter I prefer to wear tshirts when I’m out running or walking. Yes, whether you like it or not winter is approaching! Tees keep you warmer than vests and the soft material of this tshirts is actually very gentle on the skin; no runner’s chafe. It’s also perfect if you are going to the gym or classes and feel a little self concious about showing some skin.

It covers enough so you can feel confident but the material is still engineered for providing breathable wear for exercising; just what you need. At just €5 you really can’t go wrong with this purchase.

Marled T-Shirt,  In stores End-July

Marled T-Shirt, In stores Now

Fitness equipment picks

If you haven’t got the time to go the gym or your usual class, it’s very handy to have some equipment in the house. Better still if you prefer to workout alone or can’t see yourself forking out for a membership then to have some basics at home is a great way to motivate you to exercise.

For years Dunnes Stores have been stocking small fitness equipment for a decent enough price, but in recent times Penneys have been upping their game and the prices are much more favourable.

The first thing you should buy if you want to build a little collection of workout gear is an exercise mat. Trust me, press ups and crunches are uncomfortable enough as it is without a mat.

I have a nice pink mat from Penneys that only set me back €6, this chic black one is in stores soon.

Exercise Mat,In Stores End-August

Exercise Mat,In Stores End-August

Now, this is wear the real bargains lie.

Penneys fitness equipment

Each of these items are great tools to have in your at home fitness kit. I’ve had my eye on a pair of Press up bars for months but I am a thrilled I held off after seeing that Penneys will have these in store this month for just €6. They look sturdy enough and with your Penneys mat it won’t mark the floor. I will be running straight out to buy them when they hit stores soon.

The Ankle weights are particularly handy for at home training. When you haven’t got access to leg machines they are a great way to get some strength training beyond body weight done on your legs. I bought mine for €18 a few years back and  I am sick that Penneys now do them at such a bargain price.

I use them doing reverse crunches, mountain climbers and so on. I recommend you pick these up and incorporate them into your regimen.

As for the Ab Wheel; I always thought this was one of those silly exercise gimmick products like the Spin Disc , Since educating myself more on fitness, though, I have learned that the Ab Wheel is in fact a handy little number to have around the house. A lot of athletes use the wheel to build their core muscles, muscles which are hard to strengthen, notoriously.  If you really want a good all over workout you will not be sore you picked up this Ab wheel from Penneys for such a low cost.

It is fantastic to see Penneys getting on board the fitness wagon, stocking small essentials that you can fit into your daily routine. The mainstream fitness becomes the better for the general population!

So that’s one excuse knocked on the head! Maybe skip a night out or ditch the takeaways for a month and spend the money on these essential fitness buys instead.

Will you be picking up any of these little gems from Penneys? To the comments! 

Fitness and Health: My progress and how I do it Part 1 – Nutrition

Nutrition tips for losing body fat

People who follow the blog or follow me on the various social media sites I jam up with my mindless drivel and pictures of my food/cat/latest make up purchase will know that I have been embarking on a fitness journey since the beginning of the year.

Unlike my other fitness campaigns, which lasted no more than a couple of months before I gave up, I have stayed with it, missing only one week of training out of 26 and having a few dips in my nutrition every now and then.

Since sharing the picture below on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook a few people have been in touch with me to ask the rather unanswerable question: “What’s your secret?” I say it’s unanswerable, but really, I don’t have a secret. I’ve had amazing guidance from a professional trainer and the most knowledgeable nutritionist out there.  and I’ve been working hard.

Progress pictures

In Part 1 of  2 in this “how I’m doing it”  series, I’m going to talk about what I feel is the most important aspect of my lifestyle change; nutrition.

So what do I eat and what do I not eat? 

Sugar, dodododo, aaaaah honey, honey

It’s all about sugar, baby! Your body’s insulin levels react to the amount of sugar you have in your diet, and sugar, as is commonly mistaken, doesn’t just mean jellies, chocolate, donuts and so on, it means any carbohydrate; fruit, veg, rice and so on.

Carbs are our friend, but we also have to realise that some carbohydrates are not good for us and simply store as fat in the body if not used up as energy.

Your body burns energy in this way:

Carbs

Protein

Fats

Glycogen

When you want to lose weight, you want to get to the glycogen quicker, so if you are eating heaps of porridge in the thought that it will give you energy for your workout, you are hindering your body’s ability to get into the “fat burning zone”. This is why the mentality that you can eat as badly as you wish because you exercise doesn’t work; your body is burning off all starchy carbs before it gets to your excess body fat.

For this reason I get most of my carbohydrates from fruit and vegetables, I don’t eat bread, I don’t eat potatoes (sometimes I’ll have sweet potatoes) but I do eat brown rice after a workout with a high protein meal. I was never a potato fan so cutting that out was easy, and as for pasta, I cut that out long ago due to IBS, so I guess I’m lucky that I’m used to not eating it already.

Post workout dinner

Post workout dinner

I also only eat bananas after a workout because of their high sugar content. It’s often pegged as the best food to eat before exercise but the truth is actually the opposite; Bananas are a great post-workout snack because they are filled with the electrolytes you need to restock on after a sweaty session.

Protein is king

Because of the assumption that protein foods are high in calories, I always avoided them when I was restricting myself in order to lose a few pounds. I would have a meatless salad, plain porridge in the mornings, tomatoes on rice cakes and I would struggle to keep the weight off; largely because I wasn’t eating enough to kickstart my metabolism and also because eating in that way is absolutely not sustainable.

Now I try to get protein into every meal I eat. Why? Not only does protein help repair muscles after an intense workout, it helps create lean, toned muscles therefore defining them (I check my abs daily, still no luck yet), it’s essential for energy and physiological function and your body just needs it; it’s in our DNA and keeps your blood healthy and your hair, skin and nails in good condition. It’s the original “superfood”.

Calories and portion control be damned

Calories should be accounted for not counted.  Counting calories has never worked in a sustainable way for me because my body was never fuelled enough for a decent workout, my metabolism was most likely slowing drastically and let’s be honest with ourselves, calories don’t determine the nutritional value of the food.

We have become so obsessed with the numbers on food packaging, we have forgotten about what’s in them. Next time you go to pick up an 89 calorie cereal bar, look at the amount of chemicals and sugar present and reach for an apple instead. Not eating your dinner so you can have a massive slice of chocolate cake will not help your body in anyway. It doesn’t work like that.

Portion Control

Hows that for portion control?

The same goes for portion size; eating the same as you always have but smaller might make a temporary difference but again, that’s not sustainable. Eating a teeny, tiny salad every day is also not sustainable. As long as you are eating foods free of chemicals and high in nutritional value you can slap as much of it on the plate as possible (within reason, of course). So I eat big, but I eat clean; honestly I have never eaten so often or so much in my life and not worrying about calories is freeing.

Chemical counting

I have three general rules when it comes to what I eat:

  If it has more than 6 ingredients, put it back.

If sugar is a main ingredient, put it back.

If it has any scientific sounding ingredients I can’t pronounce, put it back.

The extra salts, sugars and god knows what they are additives you see in a lot of convenience foods and “diet” or “low fat” products are probably what are holding you back in your progress. Kick the chemicals and you will see a huge difference.

So those are the basic rule I follow and I credit my new-found knowledge and passion for nutrition with pushing the progress along. I will never forget after a bad food St. Patrick’s Weekend (my birthday weekend) I put on four pounds. Four pounds over four days. I was still training but the food cancelled out the hard work. Says a lot!

Exception to the 6 ingredient rule are Quest Bars – they keep me from binging on junk food and they have 20g of protein and only 1 gram of sugar. It’s a win.

I cheat!

A lot of people have a lot of different opinions about “the cheat meal”. I say, if it’s good enough for The Rock, it’s good enough for me.

The idea behind the cheat meal is that you are treating yourself to something you have been dying for all week; it makes “eating clean” that little bit easier knowing you don’t have to completely restrict yourself forever. It also reboots your metabolism, is great for your insulin levels and makes you feel warm and happy inside.

I have a strong disbelief in denying yourself of things you love for good, even if they are bad. If you have a favourite “bad” meal, save it for your cheat meal and you will enjoy it more than ever, without going back on the hard work you have put it. If you are “good” with your food 98% of the week, one carby, sugary, cheesy meal  should not make you feel bad; it should make you feel good.

My two favourite cheat meals are A big ol’ messy cheese burger and garlic cheese fries from the chipper OR cinema nachos and popcorn with a massive diet coke (I enjoy the taste of aspartame. Go on- judge me).

An example of my daily nutrition

Breakfast: 2 Poached Eggs with Flaxseed and a mixed berry protein smoothie

Snack: Almonds and a Nectarine

Lunch: Homemade Chilli Con Carne

Pre-workout snack: Greek Yoghurt (not Greek style!) with blackberries and protein (note, no starchy carbs)

Post-workout: Protein Shake

Dinner: Fish in an Almond flour batter (egg and sparkling water) with brown rice and mixed veg

The one thing I really want to make clear is that this isn’t a diet. This is how I eat all the time. Not for 6 weeks before I go on holidays, not for 2 weeks to “cleanse”- it’s my lifestyle and it’s much more sustainable than any fad diet you’ll see out there.

Easy enough to follow? I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

Essential Fitness Buys: A decent pair of workout leggings

For the love of god, get a decent pair of workout leggings! 

If you are getting into fitness remember one thing; you can never, ever have enough fitness gear.

The deeper you get into it the more you will need a mountain of tops, several pairs of bottoms, at least a couple of pairs of supportive trainers and an endless supply of sports bras. Even if you are training just 4 times a week having just three/four combinations of fitness attire isn’t really enough unless you do your washing every single day!

Top of the list of essential fitness garb is a decent pair of leggings. “Why won’t regular leggings do, Claire?” I hear you ask, well, because no one, and I mean no one, in the gym wants to see your Spongebob pants or teeny tiny gstring that you ironically wore because you didn’t want any Visble Panty Line. VPL is better than 100% fully visible red knickers, let’s just get that out there. This is my biggest pet peeve.

Your typical fashion leggings, which should NEVER be worn as a substitute for trousers in or out of the gym simply aren’t thick enough for all the bending and squating involved in your typical workout session. The fabric stretches and becomes slightly sheer, revealing to fellow fitness enthusiasts something they, and surely you, would rather they didn’t have to see.

Here is proof that leggings are not substitutes for trousers.

Leggings are not a substitute for trousers

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When I’m shopping for workout leggings I make a fist, put it inside the legging and pull the fabric over the fist as tight as I can. If I see any flesh colour I leave them on the rail and look for a thicker pair that will maintain my modesty while I battle TRX straps. It really is that simple!

If you favour online shopping be sure to stick to the well known brands and products made especially for athletic wear as opposed to high street style fashion sports wear. Both mandmdirect.ie and sportsdirect.com stock well known, highly reliable brands like Adidas, Nike and Puma. The price range is fairly broad; you might pay €40 for a pair or you might pay €15! Sports Direct are particularly good with a swift delivery service and fantastic range of brands; a little more reliable than newbie on the market mandm Direct in terms of the brands and stock available.

If you are willing to shell out a little more on some athletic quality gear there is a fantastic Irish company that I cannot recommend enough. Queen B Athletics makes top quality gear for female athletes with functionality and style in mind.

Queen B Athletic Lizzie Leggings

Lizzie Leggings, €54

These leggings are slick, stylish, well fitting and well, quite pricey at €54 for the beautiful Lizzie Leggings, but, if they’re good enough for Derval O’ Rourke, they’re good enough for you and you won’t regret splashing out on them when you have them for ages and they remain in good nick. Your gym buddies will thank you too, because these leggings are totally opaque so no bums on show!

Another perk of buying these leggings is that you can knowingly support an ethical, Irish business as oppossed to the brands which we know have questionable manufacturing condititions.

If you’d like a discount code for Queen B Athletics fill in the form below and I will send an exclusive code for musicandeverything.com readers. I’ve only got 5 so be quick!

Where do you stand on the cotton leggings in the gym/in general situation?

Not sure if you’ve been not wearing trousers this entire time? This handy flow chart might help!

AM-I-WEARING-PANTS

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