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14 Aug 2015

Fitness Blender Five Day Challenge Day-to-Day Diary

In summer, the good habits of exercise seem to lax and be replaced by lazing around in the garden which is all good and well, but with a holiday coming up I wanted to get back into a good routine and desperately implement any sort of exercise into my day. I heard about the Five Day Challenge mentioned on another blog, and as a target can seriously help with much-lacking motivation I thought it would be a good idea. 

I've been using Fitness Blender workouts on Youtube for a while now, as I find them so easy to access, SO many different videos to follow and best of all, they are free so no hefty sign-up fees that you might find at a gym. I often use the longer workouts (40-50mins) when I am at home, whilst when at university and armed with a gym membership, I used the shorter workouts, such as the 10 Minute Abs, through some headphones from my phone. Most of the workouts for this challenge are averagely 45 minutes long. I have kept a day-by-day diary whilst doing this challenge, partly as a way of sticking to it, which outlines the basics of each workout and what is involved.

Day One - HIIT Lower Body (262 - 563 calories)

The first workout is around 50 minutes long and it is focused on high intensity interval training for fat burning, as well as lower body strength training. You can either follow the easier versions of the moves or the advanced versions so it is suitable to any fitness level. They warn you at the beginning of the video that it is going to be tough, but I underestimated how grueling it actually would be. I have done a lot of the Fitness Blender videos and this definitely pushed me to my limits. The workout is split into three; warm up cardio, strength sets, then the cool down. There were a lot of squats, lunges and burpees, but the moves were varied to make it more interesting. I alternated between the beginner and advanced versions just to make sure my body kept up, and by the end I really felt like I'd worked myself to the point of collapse. Considering you can burn up to 500 calories, I'd say it was 50 minutes well spent but I don't think I could do it everyday.. 

Day Two - Arms (225 - 438 calories)

After waking up slightly more achy on my lower half than I was the morning before, it was a relief to discover that Day Two was slightly shorter and although a few squat-related exercises cropped up, it was mostly focused on arm exercises. Ideally you need some dumbbells for this workout, and if you don't have them then tins of beans etc. are a good substitute. The workout interchanged between weight exercises such as bicep curls and tricep extensions (most of these I'd never heard of) and cardio exercises - mostly varied star-jumps. Although I didn't find it as physically grueling as yesterday, it definitely still worked up a sweat and pushed my (relatively weak) arms to their limit. It's easy to forget to vary the type of exercise you do, like spending hours on the treadmill was probably not as effective as I thought it was, so this challenge has already shown the importance of mixing it up as if I'd stuck to a more cardiovascular workout again I doubt I'd have been able to push through it being still tired from yesterday.

Day Three - Cardio and Core (258 - 572 calories)

Another day, another ache.. my arms were feeling particularly tender today which just goes to show how effective these workouts are. The third installment of this challenge focused on HIIT cardio and abs, and ran about 50 minutes long. You didn't need any equipment this time, and a lot of it was floor work focusing on your core. The main part of the workout was alternating between a cardio move such as burpees, with a core exercise e.g. varied planking. Before the cool down, there is a burnout round to really tire you out as much as possible, if you still have any energy left.. It was slightly less intense than Day One and I found that I didn't have to take as many breaks, but it was still pretty hard work. However, the format of the workout makes it a lot more bearable, saving the hardest bit till the end.

Day Four - Kickboxing and Yoga (272 - 561 calories) 

I really liked the look of this one as the kickboxing I'd done previously in home workouts was relatively easy to do and fun, and I've taken yoga classes at the gym before - both a breath of fresh air from HIIT cardio. The workout started with an ABAB pattern of kickboxing sequences and upper-arm moves, mostly press-up orientated. This reallly works up a sweat and it was a relief when the yoga section began. However, the yoga was not as gentle as I anticipated, some of the moves were really tough to the point my upper arms were burning.. But it was good to learn some new yoga moves that pushed my body. This was definitely the most enjoyable workout so far as it is really different from your standard home fitness video.

Day Five - Butt and Thigh (221 - 405 calories) 

The final workout! I was relieved to see that today's workout was only 37 minutes long.. after a week of back-to-back full on exercise with no rest days, my body was feeling pretty tired and achy, demanding a much needed break. Unfortunately, a shortened length does not mean easier as I quickly realised. The structure involved a warm up, HIIT exercises, lower body strength exercises with dumbbells and finally the cool down. The HIIT was hard going, involving lots of jumping squats and lunges. Although these exercises are seriously tough and require a lot of will-power, they burn a lot more calories than you think. Before you know it, the tough bit is over and the lower-body section begins. You need a pair of dumbbells for this part, as it involved deadlifts, more lunges and more squats, just with weights this time.. I have a feeling my legs will be pretty sore tomorrow. Despite all that, it is such a good feeling to complete the challenge, and knowing that I have worked all my body throughout the week as hard as I could.

Fitness Blender is an amazing platform if you want to get into exercise but don't fancy a gym. Most of the videos have a calorie bar at the side that shows you the min/max calories that you have burned so far which is motivational in itself. I have learnt so many new, effective exercises that I wouldn't have found out on my own, and I will definitely be using these videos in the future (maybe not as intensely as this week, though..!).

12 Aug 2015

Ren Travel-Size Duo with ASOS Discount

With this months Elle magazine (£4.00) comes an exclusive 20% Off ASOS Voucher (as well as a Tresemee Wave Creating Sea Foam freebie). These discount vouchers come as a blessing and a curse to me as although the extra discount is gold dust, it inevitably leads to spending hours trawling through the ASOS website (no easy task as they stock SO many things) which risks my sanity and my bank balance. 

Regardless of that, I love the beauty brands that ASOS sell and as I am going away in a few weeks I thought I'd stock up on some travel-size skincare to take with me. I have a few other REN products (the Flash Rinse 1 Minute Facial and Moroccan Rose Otto Body Cream) but I typically tend to scroll past the brand online when I am looking for simple make-up removal and toners as it is quite pricey in comparison to high street brands that pretty much do the same thing. However, I saw that the REN Limited Edition duo was only £7 on the ASOS website, and with the voucher it came to just over a fiver. It comes with the 3 in 1 Cleansing Water and Express Make-up Remover, which are both from the Rosa Centifolia range. The reviews on both products are amazing, and the general consensus is that they are not drying on your skin which is a qualm of some of the make-up removers I have used in the past. 

Limited Edition Travel Size Cleanser Kit | £7 ASOS 

Full size Express Make Up Remover | £14 SpaceNK for 150ml

Full size 3 in 1 Cleansing Water | £13 SpaceNK for 200ml 

Before I ordered this, there were so many items in my basket that it took a lot of self-restraint not to order them all. If you are a fan of Elle magazine, it is worth picking it up this month if you, like myself, are partial to an ASOS order...! Unfortunately you can't use the discount on sale items and it can only be used once, so choose wisely.


10 Aug 2015

Dr Organic Rose Otto Facial Serum

As my skin type is leaning towards the dry side at the moment, I am a big fan of products that are oil-orientated. I have tried using oil-based make-up removers such as the L'Oreal Skin Perfection Miracle Cleansing Oil as an attempt to re-hydrate my skin with some moisture which have worked really well. However, I struggled with avoiding getting it in my eyes when I tried to wash it off, so before long I was back to using face wipes or micellar water. Since then, I have been looking for a facial oil that I could use both when I wake up or before I go to sleep. 

Dr Organic Rose  Otto Facial Serum | Holland & Barrett £12.99 (all Dr Organics currently on a Buy One Get One Half Price offer) 

I have long been a fan of the beauty brands that Holland and Barrett stock, and Dr Organics is no exception. When I was perusing the shelves, this facial serum caught my eye. It comes in a 30ml glass bottle and the oil is dispensed using a glass pipette that you pump from the lid - this makes it so easy to apply a small measured drop to each part of your face evenly (prevents overuse big time). 

The oil itself is packed with different types of oils, namely Rose Otto, Rosehip Oil, Argan Oil, Passionflower Seed Oil, Clove Flower Oil...the list goes on. It also contains polypeptides, phospholipids, ceramides, antioxidants and omega 3, 6 and 9. It is free from artificial colours, preservatives, parabens etc. and it is suitable for both vegetarians and vegans. 

It is really easy to rub in and it leaves my skin feeling amazingly silky and smooth. I have noticed that my make-up goes on really well after using this in the morning, so perhaps it has a primer-esque quality. My skin feels a lot more hydrated and it is not greasy. You can definitely get away with skipping moisturiser after using this, too. The scent is not my favourite, I don't think it is as rose-y as I would like but my friends say it smells great so maybe that is just me. But apart from that, I can see myself re-purchasing this product. 

Another Dr Organic's product I'd recommend is the Virgin Coconut Oil Moisture Melt Body Oil which I bought straight after coming back from Spain this year as a means of maintaining my natural tan. You have to melt it into liquid form with warm water before use which is surprisingly satisfying and you can use it on your face, skin or hair. You get a big bottle for the price and it works wonders! 


7 Aug 2015

Summer Reading Recommendations

Although we have definitely reached the peak of summer this year, there is still time to get a few more books under your belt and call it 'summer reading'. These are a collection of books from a range of genres from my bookshelves at home that I have read in the past few years and recommend very highly.

Fingersmith | Sarah Waters £8.99 RRP from Waterstones 

I wrote on Fingersmith as part of my dissertation last year, and rather than being a chore that I had to slog through to finish it, I became hooked in the first couple of chapters and couldn't put it down. The plot is amazing and full of shocking twists and turns that are far from predictable. The narrative follows the life of Susan Trinder, an orphaned fingersmith (slang for thief), growing up in Victorian London, who is made an offer she cannot refuse (perhaps similar to a female version of Dicken's Oliver). I am raring myself up to reading this again as it is just so good.

The Luminaries | Eleanor Catton £9.99 RRP from Waterstones 

Set in the 19th century, Catton has created a pastiche of Victorian sensation fiction that encapsulates murder, madness and mayhem. Walter Moody arrives in New Zealand faced with a series of unexplained events that he inadvertently becomes entwined in. Despite it's hefty size (832 pages), I finished it in less than a week as I simply couldn't put it down. Catton has cleverly formed the novel around astrological patterns that play a big part in the plot, with subtle references to the moon and planetary movement at every turn. Whether you love Victorian fiction or just love a thrilling page-turner, this book will not disappoint. (Also, it won the Man Booker prize in 2013 which says it all!)

Emma | Jane Austen £7.99 RRP from Waterstones

I wouldn't be a literature graduate if I didn't throw a classic into the mix. Emma is one of the texts I studied in my final year at university, telling the story of the eponymous young Emma Woodhouse and her tendency to meddle in the romances of others while remaining detached from the marriage plot herself. It is a great alternative if you are into chick-lit but want to try a classic, as it isn't as daunting as the 800-paged colossus form that they usually come in. It is a charming and light-heated story so perfect to relax with by the pool. This edition in the Vintage Classic Series makes it very hard NOT to judge a book by its cover - I love the watercolour effect of their designs.  

No Time For Goodbye | Linwood Barclay £7.99 RRP from Waterstones  

I read this when I was in my early teens and absolutely fell for crime and thriller fiction. It recalls the life of Cynthia Archer who wakes up one morning to an empty house; her family gone with no explanation. The story picks up twenty-five years later to Cynthia revisiting the case that still haunts her, uncovering sinister plot-twists as each piece of the mystery is revealed. It isn't Shakespeare, or anything close, but the easy-read feel of these books along with the page-turning plots got me addicted to Barclay's books, and I have read every one ever since. 

Love in the Time of Cholera | Gabriel Garcia Marquez £8.99 RRP from Waterstones

Aside from the long and complicated names that continually meant I had to go back and double-check who was actually being talked about (if you've read Anna Karenina, you'll understand..!), it is a beautiful story that made me laugh and cry interchangeably. It follows the life of the female protagonist, Fermina Daza, beginning with her present marriage to a well-respected doctor. However, the novel transports you back to her childhood, retelling her encounters with all types of love. I adored this book and I am looking to buy Marquez' other novels before the end of summer. 

3 Aug 2015

Photo Diary of Rome

This is pretty overdue seeing as I went to Rome towards the end of June and it is now the beginning of August.. but better late than never. I went with my boyfriend at the end of our third year of University as we'd both never been and it's a place I have always wanted to visit (who doesn't..). June turned out to be a pretty perfect time to go as it wasn't officially summer season so prices weren't sky-high and everywhere wasn't quite as busy as it could be, but we had amazing weather being over 30 degrees and blue skies most of the time. This is a collection of photos from some of my favourite places in the city. 

First things first, pizza obviously..

Visiting the Colosseum was definitely a highlight, it cost us 7.50 euros with a student card for entrance and the queues weren't too grueling, only about 20/30 minutes. 

All photographs are my own.

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