Mental Health Awareness Week Post

I haven’t written a blog post in two weeks.  To be honest up until yesterday I’d also not done a podcast for two weeks.  I’ve worked (many many hours overtime) and I’ve done what I needed to do and I’ve trained a bit but apart from that I’ve really not done much.

I’ve found lockdown hard, I live alone and I’m used to be being very active, very busy and seeing lots and lots of people every day.   I’m lucky I’ve continued with most of my work (obviously not teaching classes) so I’ve been able to keep busy.  Busy only helps for so long though and whilst to start with being even busier at work probably helped the days go quickly it’s built up to the point of feeling really quite overwhelming in the last couple of weeks.  That’s fine, it happens, I knew that as Social Distancing started to ease I’d end up being under pressure for a while.  Equally knowing stress is coming and so not feeling overwhelmed by it don’t necessarily go hand in hand.   I think there’s a lot of guilt in the current world as well, not intentionally, but a feeling that you should always know there are people worse off than you.  My nan passed away during Lockdown (suspected but not confirmed Covid case) and you find yourself saying well she was old and had underlying health conditions and it’s happened to lots of families, it’s almost like you feel you need to underplay a loss that at any other time you’d acknowledge it for what it is, the loss of a family member.  I think in general I’ve felt ok but overwhelmed with ‘stuff’ in the last couple of weeks.  I wouldn’t say I’ve been depressed or suffering with anxiety (I’ve suffered from both and I know the difference for me in those to what I’ve felt like in Lockdown) but I’m also not loving this and I’m tired and struggling to sleep and restless and in a kind of limbo.

I can imagine that is how lots of people feel right now to be honest.

So that’s why I’ve just not really blogged recently, because some things needed to be dropped to stay sane.  But this week is Mental Health Awareness Week and I felt like that deserved a blog, especially right now, especially in light of what I’ve just shared – right now a lot of people’s mental health are potentially fragile, and a lot of people who have perhaps never struggled before are starting to feel strain.

There is always a theme to Mental Health Awareness Weeks and this time it is Kindness.

I feel like this period has shown lots of incidences of kindness but equally a lot of judgement too.  I’ve seen more posts of Facebook than I’d have like to see judging other people for their actions, their opinions, their geographical location!  There’s been a lack of appreciation that what might seem bearable for those with families, gardens, nice local areas to walk in has probably been quite horrible for those alone, isolated, ill, in tiny flats with no outside space in inner cities.  There’s been at times I think, a lack of ability for people to express things without being jumped on or attacked or a lack of willingness to listen and consider another point of view.

Kindness takes lots of forms.  It of course means showing appreciation to those doing great things, it also means understanding other’s situations, appreciating that those who have views right now that you might think are terrible may have those views for reasons you know nothing about, it means accepting that what might be manageable for you might not be for others and it means being kind to yourself as well as others.  It means sometimes accepting you were wrong, or that you weren’t necessarily wrong but neither was the other person.  Being kind to yourself doesn’t just mean doing nice things like having a bubble bath or a face mask, it can mean cutting yourself some slack, it can mean doing practical things to help improve your mood (for instance for me I always feel better if I’ve trained, especially if I get a run outside, it’s a complete game changer).

It’s so complex because you need to look after yourself but you equally want to look out for others.  I’ve seen quotes about checking in with people during this pandemic and quotes about those around you owing you nothing and of course both are true.  It’s a balancing act, but then it always is and our mental health relies on us taking time for ourselves but actually as we are social creatures at heart it does also rely on us interacting with others- and checking in on others can have as positive impact on your own mental health as having someone check in on you.

I feel like when week’s like this happen it’s so easy to post a meme or a quote when actually these topics are so complex and have so many points of view to them, often contradictory but it’s good that they are covered and that it creates conversations because just raising awareness is a great step in promoting better mental health.

I know this blog has been jumbled and that’s probably a good reflection of how organised my thoughts are at present so I’m not even going to try and tidy it, I’m just going to post it as it is.

Successful People Do The Basics Consistently Well. That Is All.

Successful people do the basics well and consistently
Sometimes it’s easy to look at these things and think- they’re too simple there must be more to it than that. The reason I’m not getting the results I want isn’t that I’m eating too little or too much it must be how my body responds to certain foods… and so on.
Now the truth is there are lots of variables to our health and fitness. But, you can take account of all these things and yet if you don’t nail the basics it won’t be effective.
Think of your fitness and nutrition like levels in a game- to get to level two you must master level one. Each level acts as a foundation for the next level. You’ll often hear of things like the nutrition pyramid – that’s the same concept, you need to establish a solid base (in nutrition that’s getting your energy balance right as we discussed yesterday) before looking at macro and micro nutrients, meal timings or supplements will be useful- you basically don’t want to build on a shoddy base!
It’s human nature for us to want to look into the specifics, the idea that little tweaks will be the things that makes everything fall into place for us is tempting. But it’s the little tweaks at the basic level that will first make the difference. Once you’ve cracked those then feel free to move onto looking at the specifics of what and when you eat if you still want to- although you might find that you feel less of a need to.
This week in my fitness group we are looking at some basic principles of fitness and nutrition as a recap / refocus  If you would like to join you can add yourself here.

Anyone can have a platform

Blog 8 of my mini series…

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At the end of February (feels like a life time ago now) I traveled to Belfast to attend the Only Just media Summit.  This was just as Corona Virus was starting to become a ‘thing’, before Social Distancing had become a ‘thing’ and the week that Northern Ireland had just had their first case.

The event was a full day of speakers, all experts in their fields, talking to a room full of bloggers, Vloggers, content creators and brands.  My plan immediately after the event was to write some blogs on the speakers and my key takeouts.  Life then got in the way, CoronaVirus exploded and took up all my time at work and this idea got left in the notes section of my phone.  Until now.

Today is the blog eight of ten where I want to outline my key take outs for the day.

Why?  To be honest it’s probably multipurpose (like that kind of cleaning product you but to clean the kitchen and bathroom if like me you are not a ‘Mrs. Hincher’.  Partly I think it will help me solidify the key points I took away from the day, because although I’ve not written about them here until now I have started to take action.  But also because I think you as the reader could also benefit from these takeouts.  You might not be interested in branding or social media or content creation but some of the ideas I took away could just be useful for your approach to your job or you life in general.

So introductions over today’s blog will focus on the talk given Melanie Murphy, a YouTube creator and best selling author from Ireland.

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Melanie talked about brand and how to make yourself a successful brand.

The thing I took from this talk that I want to share here is that anyone can have a platform.  Whatever you do or are interested in or would like to talk about, you can create a platform that suits our personality and find an audience.

When we think of brand we think of business, logos and slogans.  Of course big brands have all of those things but as I have mentioned repeatedly over this mini series in the current age of social media (and even more so during this lockdown period where life takes place online) we are all our own brand.  Our beliefs, principles, ethos creates ‘us’ whether we are a business, self employed or not.

So if your interest is cats or books or Olympic weight lifting or Harry Potter or anything else, there will be people who are interested in what you have to say, so if you start a blog or podcast or youtube channel there will be people who will watch.

This brings me to the second point on this.  If you start a platform to put content out on, every view counts.  Whether you have an audience of 5 or 500 if you are talking about the things you are really passionate about you will find satisfaction from this.  Ironically this is also the best way to grow over time.

Inevitably it can take time to build an audience and the key is not to be disheartened at the beginning when it feels like you are talking to yourself.  When you care about your subject it’s a lot easier to keep pushing.

Right now if you’ve got a bit more time on your hands and a passion why not try and start a blog or podcast or something where you can develop your passion, it could be a brilliant Covid-19 legacy!

Vegan Chat

Something I’ve long thought would be useful to write about but have just not had the knowledge to is training whilst eating a vegan diet.  What are good meal ideas, energy boosters, what do you even eat at all to get enough calories when your training hard?  So I’ve teamed up with Les Mills instructor (and vegan) Ellie Radford to get some practical tips for and one who trains often and is either already vegan or considering the switch.

Ellie is a Human Biosciences student from Crosby, Liverpool studying in Manchester Metropolitan Uni. She’s also a part time fitness instructor and teach Les Mills Body Pump and Body Combat.

Here’s what she had to say:

How long have you been vegan?

I’ve been vegan for just under 4 years! I went vegan in May 2016

Were you vegetarian before or did you go straight to vegan?

I was veggie before yeah. I was vegetarian for 10 months before I went full vegan, and I think that slow transition made it so much easier.

What made you make the decision?

Lots of things contributed! I always wanted to be veggie when I was younger but my mum always said no because all I ate was bacon and chicken nuggets haha! I wanted to be veggie because I didn’t like the idea of eating animals, so generally for ethics, but as I’ve grown up I’ve started to become conscious of the environmental impact too. Lots of my friends are also veggie or vegan, and one day I went to a vegetarian cafe with them. I literally didn’t like any food on the menu (fussy eater to THE MAX) but I ordered something and it tasted sooooo good. That was my first ever fully vegetarian tea and after that meal I realised I could actually do the whole veggie thing. Crazy, right? So yeah it was a whole bunch of reasons – ethics, environment, I started to think about eating more healthy (being veggie has definitely helped me with this), and ease due to friends being veggie or vegan.

Do you ever miss any foods?

Yes! When I first went vegetarian, whenever I got drunk I always ordered McDonald’s chicken nuggets haha. That’s why it’s a good idea to slowly cut meat out if you ever transition. I missed bacon a lot at first too. Now if my family is cooking it I still really appreciate the smell, but it’s been so long that I don’t miss the taste anymore.

What do you love about the vegan diet?

I love how good it makes me feel. I definitely noticed a big energy shift when I cut out animal products, but by cutting out products it meant I ate more veg so this isn’t necessarily due to meat being bad! Just a solid fact that we could all eat more fruit and veg, no matter what your lifestyle. I also love how accessible veganism is nowadays. I can eat in most places and that’s great! There’s been a huge growth since when I went vegan 4 years ago.

Are there any downsides / struggles?

Although veganism is becoming a lot more accessible, there could be more done. Food on the go is a big factor, but this is massively improving. Another big struggle is feeling like I have to justify to people why I follow a vegan lifestyle, and the fact that vegans get a bad rep in the media.

How do you find hitting your TDEE each day- is it hard? In other words- is it hard to eat enough?

It can be, especially being so into fitness I expend a lot of calories! Vegan food is very dense but low in calories, so you can get full pretty quickly. My tip for this is to eat little and often – spread little meals throughout the day instead of tackling 3 big ones.

What about protein?

This is always a big concern when a lot of people are considering veganism. Protein goals can be hard to meet if you’re eating lots of whole foods. Getting all your protein from beans and lentils is a bad idea – all that fibre is going to cause mega bloats and a very full tum! Still use these kinds of foods, but not for your whole protein intake. I get lots of my protein from meat substitutes such as soy products (tofu) mycoprotein (quorn style things) and seitan. Seitan is the holy Grail for vegans, but not a lot of people know about it! It’s made from an ingredient called vital wheat gluten and has a rubbery, meat-like texture. And the best part about it is it’s super protein dense – about 75g protein per 100g!

How are your energy levels for training?

As far as I know my levels are great. But I’ve never been into fitness as a non-vegan, as I only started working out 2 and a half years ago. Vegan fitness is all I know! I consume caffeine everyday and I eat a lot of food so that’s always good for energy haha.

Do you have any tips for people looking to start with a Vegan diet?

Take it slow! Lots of people rush into veganism, but that’s going to make it a whole lot harder to keep away from all the animal products. Start with one vegan day or meal per week, and then build it up.

Cut things out one step at a time, and don’t beat yourself up if you make mistakes. It’s hard at first, so making mistakes and tripping up is totally normal and human. It’s the fact that you’re trying at all which speaks volumes.

Be aware of the vitamins you’re going to be lacking. I take a daily multivitamin to take care of everything in one go, but B12 is the big one you need to watch for, as most of this vitamin is found in animal products. You can buy B12 vitamins from most supermarkets, and they’re included in most multivitamins, too.

Do you have any tips for maintaining energy levels when training?

“Quick snacks! When I’m training I go for snacks such as bananas, gelatine free jelly sweets, and donuts. Yes I said donuts. Vegan donuts!! Lots of supermarket donuts are accidentally vegan, such as Sainsbury’s and Co-op’s jam and custard donuts. These are an absolute lifesaver.”

Any secret amazing vegan foods?

I think my top two I’ve already mentioned in previous questions – seitan and donuts. Seitan for all your high protein needs, and donuts because when you’re vegan and finally realise you can eat basic supermarket donuts, it’s the best feeling in the world!

Some other things that are surprisingly vegan include hob nobs, Bourbons, lotus biscuits, Oreos, and peanut butter.

What are you Top hack / Tips

  1. Make sure you eat enough! It’s hard to not eat enough food when you’re vegan, so just try to keep on top of it.
  2. Be aware of any additional supplements you need to take. B12 is a biggie.
  3. One step at a time. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes and just take it slow! Feel free to message me if you need help with anything!

So I think what I took away from my chat with Ellie is that actually the issues she has to think about in regard to energy levels with a Vegan diet are really not much different to the issues we all need to consider.

Whether you eat meat or not we all tend to have a quite polarised opinion on the subject but actually if you manage it well there’s no reason to struggle for energy or protein whilst eating a vegan diet, and it might not be for you, but if it is there’s plenty of support out there from people who are educated and working within the fitness industry and also have knowledge of how to eat well without eating animal products.

I think whatever our views on the subject understanding and talking about it and being open to one another’s viewpoints on the topic is helpful all round.

You can follow Ellie on Instagram at @ellieroseradford

All About Running

Gyms are closed and we can’t do many of the things we’d normally do.

You know what we can do?

Run.

Running is a love it or hate it type of thing.  But right now there has never been a better time to give it a try and you might find that beyond lockdown you actually want to keep running.

Here’s some of the reasons I love running:

1) It’s simple

You can run for ten minutes or several hours, you can pick different distances, paces, lengths of runs so that whatever your week ends up looking like you can fit it in.  It’s also free- you need a pair of trainers and the outdoors at it’s most basic!

2) It’s a workout you can scale

Can’t run a distance all the way yet?  Doesn’t matter you can walk and run it as needed and build up to running the whole thing.  You still get to achieve the distance and get a workout.

3) It gives you time to think

Running is a great source of me time.  You get into a groove and then you can let your mind wander (or not even).  It’s a great way to find a bit of calm.

4) It also gives you time to learn

Don’t want time to think, you can listen to podcasts or audio books and make the time doubly productive, training and learning in tandem.  This is so much easier to do running compared to many other sports as once you’re moving there’s less to think about,

5) Fresh Air

Running outside gets you outside.  Outside and fresh air is just good for you, your health sure but also your mental health.  For me a down day can always be improved with some time outside.  And running outside is so much nicer than walking outside, even in bad weather you’ll warm up quickly and notice the rain less.

6) There’s lots of goals you can set

Run a distance, run a distance in a set time, beat that time, sign up for a race, add in obstacles or mud.  There’s so many variable to the goals you can aim for.  And when you do races you get goody bags.  These are what I run for!

7) It can help you build strong bones as well as muscles

It’s a weight bearing exercise and so will help strengthen not just your muscles but also your joints and bones.  Whilst running gets a bad press for the knees sometimes it can actually improve knee health (as long as you don’t run on an injury!)

8) It will help you improve your cardiovascular fitness

You will get breathless running, even slowly at first and it’s a great way to improve your capacity for cardio, your stamina and generally make you feel better and fitter over time.

9) It can be a great way to aid weight loss

It will burn calories and so if you also track your calories in it can help you reach a calorie deficit

10) It can benefit your mental health

I mentioned above about getting more fresh air and some ‘you’ time.  Running produces feel good hormones – known as the runner high and some studies have suggested it can go further than that and running has been shown to have a positive impact on people suffering from depression.

11) It can improve sleep and concentration

I put these two together as I think they are linked anyway, but studies have shown that as little as 30 minutes o running each week had a positive impact on sleep patterns and concentration levels after only three weeks.

So maybe you decide or have already decided to give running a go.  But I’d encourage you to look at it as a credible source of training beyond the lockdown period.  Maybe now is the time to pick a race for later in the year or next year to give yourself a goal to work towards.  that might give you more focus in training during lockdown and beyond.

So to help with that I’ve just made a running programme that I am really proud of.

In fact it’s not just a ‘here’s when to run’ plan.

It’s got:

  • Four different running plans (5km, 10km, half marathon and marathon) and you can do all of them or the ones that work for you meaning you could have a running plan from 6 weeks to 40 weeks long
  • A 6 week training programme (2 workouts a week) to do alongside the runs
  • Three stretching videos
  • A Nutrition Bible with extra running specific advice
  • Running tips
  • Three phone or facetime (or whatsapp if you hate talking) check ins to make sure you’re getting the most from it.

I actually started producing this before gyms closed but decided to get it ready to launch a bit quicker as I know there’s lots of people looking for help with training right now and running is a good option!

So if it sounds like something that might be good for you right now I’m selling it half price (well better than).  You can get it for £21 (including the check ins) during May – In June it will be £45.

That’s it, no hard sell.  I think this can help some people  if it does great.  If not that’s ok.

If you do want to check it out (or if there’s someone you know who might find this helpful) the link to my website is here (or in the shop section of the menu)

http://heather-sherwood.square.site/

By the way- this plan could work alongside other training or be done as a standalone programme, depending on what you already do and how much time you want to devote to training each week.

Heather

Putting Your Face Out There

Blog 7 of my mini series…

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At the end of February (feels like a life time ago now) I traveled to Belfast to attend the Only Just media Summit.  This was just as Corona Virus was starting to become a ‘thing’, before Social Distancing had become a ‘thing’ and the week that Northern Ireland had just had their first case.

The event was a full day of speakers, all experts in their fields, talking to a room full of bloggers, Vloggers, content creators and brands.  My plan immediately after the event was to write some blogs on the speakers and my key takeouts.  Life then got in the way, CoronaVirus exploded and took up all my time at work and this idea got left in the notes section of my phone.  Until now.

Today is the blog seven of ten where I want to outline my key take outs for the day.

Why?  To be honest it’s probably multipurpose (like that kind of cleaning product you but to clean the kitchen and bathroom if like me you are not a ‘Mrs. Hincher’.  Partly I think it will help me solidify the key points I took away from the day, because although I’ve not written about them here until now I have started to take action.  But also because I think you as the reader could also benefit from these takeouts.  You might not be interested in branding or social media or content creation but some of the ideas I took away could just be useful for your approach to your job or you life in general.

So introductions over today’s blog will focus on the talk given by Video Marketing Manager of Purple Dot Media, Niamh Macauley.

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Niamh focused on Linkedin, what we tend to see as the business world Facebook and I think for a lot of us a bit of a ‘little bit pointless’ platform.  But as I mentioned in the second blog in this series it’s a potentially valuable source for those of us that want to promote ourselves online.

This talk focused on using videos on LinkedIn, something which I’m terrible at on almost all platforms to be honest.  I have poor filming skills and am not overly keen on how I sound or look on camera.

But people prefer seeing faces, videos with your face in it will get more interaction so if we want to progress ourselves as a brand, whether that be for your business or your own personal brand for employment getting over the idea of putting ourselves online is something we need to do.

The second biggest tip I got from this talk was when you’re trying to provide value for people with your posts (which all posts should do, pointless posts are, well, pointless) don’t assume everyone knows what you know.

Videos or posts with 3-4 tips on a topic can be really useful to people.  You may think well these tips are obvious so where’s the value.  But if you are posting about your topic of expertise the tips might be obvious to you, that doesn’t mean they are to everyone else.

So as we all think more about our online branding as Lockdown progresses, seriously consider getting your face out there online more as a tool to allowing you to provide valuable content that gets people engaging with you and allows you to build authority within your field.  I truly believe that this doesn’t just apply to self employed people or business owners right now, those of us that are employed can apply it also and show case our professional abilities and our company’s brand on sites such as Linkedin and increase our value to that company as we all quickly become more digital due to circumstances.

When Learning Is Pointless

Blog 6 of my mini series…

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At the end of February (feels like a life time ago now) I traveled to Belfast to attend the Only Just media Summit.  This was just as Corona Virus was starting to become a ‘thing’, before Social Distancing had become a ‘thing’ and the week that Northern Ireland had just had their first case.

The event was a full day of speakers, all experts in their fields, talking to a room full of bloggers, Vloggers, content creators and brands.  My plan immediately after the event was to write some blogs on the speakers and my key takeouts.  Life then got in the way, CoronaVirus exploded and took up all my time at work and this idea got left in the notes section of my phone.  Until now.

Today is the blog five of ten where I want to outline my key take outs for the day.

Why?  To be honest it’s probably multipurpose (like that kind of cleaning product you but to clean the kitchen and bathroom if like me you are not a ‘Mrs. Hincher’.  Partly I think it will help me solidify the key points I took away from the day, because although I’ve not written about them here until now I have started to take action.  But also because I think you as the reader could also benefit from these takeouts.  You might not be interested in branding or social media or content creation but some of the ideas I took away could just be useful for your approach to your job or you life in general.

So introductions over today’s blog will focus on the talk given by Creative Director for Ryan Serhant, Adrian Vasquez.

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Adrian talked about brand and his experiences around this, something which I’ve mentioned lots over the last few mini blogs in this series.

Your brand is your reputation. If you can do things differently but also consistently you can help your brand thrive.  Lot’s of ideas were cemented for me.  Yell out your wins, enthusiasm/ passion for your product converts to sales, try things and see how they work out, trust what you are doing even if others don’t understand.  These things allow you to build your reputation (your brand).  These are useful lessons.

My biggest take out from his talk however –

Learning only matters if you put it into action. 

I went to this summit and left planning to write these blogs.  It took me a month to get started.  I left with that take out ringing in my ear and ignored it.

Now to be fair – that’s mainly because as well as Covid-19 creating an immense amount of work for me soon after, I was starting to put into action actual products I wanted to create as a PT.

But the blog posts on this summit I wanted to produce were as part of my Virtual PA role.  they were content that would be useful to that part of my brand.  As much as the products I started to create were useful to my business (and I was acting) they were covering a different aspect of my brand (the fitness element) and I was leaving content for my VA branding hanging.

Coming back to the idea that learning is great but action is what matters has given me the kick up the bum needed to start taking that action.

This meant two things.

Firstly, planning my time better.  I have several roles – fitness roles and Virtual Assistant roles and then roles which merge the two together and overlap.  I know I can’t always focus on both equally – I’ll always need to be more focused on one to move something along but need better planning to know the others to continue ticking over whilst I do that.  This week quite simply I wrote a list of things I need to do for all roles.  Some things will take focus but nothing will be ignored.  I took some action.

Secondly, for me it meant just jumping in and doing things, not waiting for the ideal circumstances and times, being willing to change my overall plans to react to circumstances better and to take advantage of opportunities rather than sticking to plans already in place at the risk of missing opportunities.

In the last few weeks I’ve done a lot of this.  Everything I’m doing is still within my ethos, my brand, but what I thought I’d be working on at the start of Lockdown is not what I’m actually doing now.  I’ll come back to those projects – but there are things that make more sense to do now – both in terms of short term and long term value to me and my business.  From all the education and mentorship I’ve had in recent years I know this, even though I’m someone who doesn’t really like deviating from plans once set – If I don’t act on this knowledge, having attended all those seminars, days of learning etc will have been wasted.

The message that learning means little if you do nothing with the knowledge is universal to all of life.  Putting ideas in practice, being a doer.  Whether it’s your fitness, your job, your business, your relationships you want to apply it to – learning new skills is something we should all try to do but we must look to apply the learning to benefit from it.  That might mean I have to do things right now that feel like a deviation from what I’d planned, and I might be uncomfortable with that but I’m applying what I’ve learnt to my situation right now.