All posts filed under: Fitness

5 ways to get lean strong arms

It’s nearly summer and the shops are full of t-shirts and skimpy tops.  However it’s been estimated that three out of four women in the UK will be worrying about wearing them. Research has found that flabby upper arms and, above all, the dreaded ‘bingo wings’ concern us more than bulging bellies or thunder thighs. 80 percent of us are so self-conscious that we cover up with cardigans or shawls. ‘They’re a problem area for a lot of women, particularly as they get older,’ says personal trainer Henlu van der Westhuizen (henlupt.com). ‘There’s no quick fix but 4-8 weeks of dedication and patience should allow time to show really good results.’ First of all you need to clean up your diet, says Henlu. Cut out all sugar, processed carbohydrate and processed foods (which will pile on the pounds), while upping your intake of protein (grass-fed beef, chicken, cottage cheese, eggs, fish), vegetables, oats, whole grains, fresh berries and healthy fats (coconut oil for cooking and cold-pressed olive oil or argan for salads). These foods promote …

Agony answers: What is a beach-ready bikini body, really?

Q: I dread summer. I’m overweight and every time I look in the mirror I feel sick. The idea of wearing shorts or – shudder – a bikini fills me with total dread. What can I do to feel better about myself? A: I think, if we’re honest, few of us dance around with delight at the prospect of baring flabby pasty flesh after a long winter of thick sweaters and furry boots. But I hate that you’re beating yourself up about your body. Are you really overweight? We’re fed this ridiculous size zero image of the ‘perfect woman’ which, frankly, is insane. Bodies come in different shapes and sizes and, truly, there is no such thing as ‘perfect’. Even supermodels have parts of their bodies they loathe.  And please remember that pretty much every image you will see in a magazine has been tweaked and photoshopped. I’d love you to focus on having a strong, healthy body – rather than a thin one. If you really are overweight (taking into account your height and …

Simple ways to gain confidence

Confidence is the greatest gift under the sun.  When your confidence is high you can conquer the world.  You can take control of your life in every way: work goes swimmingly; relationships become more straightforward.  The world simply feels like a friendlier place.  Yet few of us have unlimited stores of self-confidence.   We are far more likely to suffer self-doubt and self-criticism than revel in self-adoration.  Why?  Generally it goes back to childhood when we picked up all those negative messages from a host of concerned grown-ups both at home and at school.  They told us it was a dangerous world out there; to be careful; to be prepared for the worst so we wouldn’t be too disappointed when it happened.  No wonder we grew up doubting ourselves.  But it’s never too late to learn new tricks to foster self-confidence.  The following methods can help anyone feel happier and more at ease in life.  Try them – you just might change your whole life. THE POWER OF POSITIVE THOUGHT:  “It’s a peculiar quirk of human nature …

The Body Retreat: smart and supportive de-stress and weight-loss

The Body Retreat’s Stress Re-Set retreat is a four-night retreat that aims to balance body, mind and emotions through an immaculately thought-out programme of diet, exercise, mindfulness and behaviour modification.  Plus oodles of fun and tons of big warm-hearted bonding. It’s such a smart concept.  You’re kept pleasantly busy all through the day (so you don’t have the chance to start worrying about anything) and, come night, you’re so blissfully tired, you can’t help but fall into a good sleep pattern.  Days start early: there’s a gentle knock on your bedroom door at 7am, accompanied by a cheery ‘Good Morning’ (no need for stressy alarm clocks) and you toddle out in your bath-robe to pick up a glass of hot lemon.  Our bedrooms are grouped around a central sitting area so it has the feel of a grown-up boarding school (of the nicest kind) as we all emerge, tousle-headed, mutter greetings and then retreat back to our rooms  to sip our juice and do some skin brushing.  Then it’s downstairs for a quick burst of …

Ten ways to love the cold

Yes, it’s freezing out there but, while it’s tempting to turn up the heat and huddle by the fire, maybe we’re missing a trick. There’s been a sudden plunge in temperature in the world of health and beauty as therapists, doctors and surgeons are increasingly discovering the therapeutic power of cold. Actually it’s nothing new. People have believed in the health-giving properties  of cold temperatures since classical times. Plato, Hippocrates and Avicena all recommended cold water treatments as a vital part of medicine.  In Russia and northern Europe, the therapeutic use of snow, cold and ice are legendary. There is even a specific word in Russian – which translates as tempering – which means to toughen and strengthen the body through the use of cold and ice. ‘Cold makes skin and blood vessels contract,’ explains Alla Svirinskaya, a medically trained healer and a firm advocate of cold and ice therapy.  ‘Cold is energizing, reducing fatigue, both mental and physical.  It also gives an emotional boost because our blood receives increased levels of endorphins.  Cold can …

Ti Sana – detoxing with a dose of science in Italy

Ti Sana has the ambiance of a monastery: an ancient but very smart monastery. Set in the heart of a small Italian village, midway between Milan and Lake Como, the spa has been created from an eighteenth century noble’s house and is intimate, a cluster of buildings looking inwards on itself – all soft stone and thick rustic beams.  It’s on a firm mission – to bring you to awareness about your health; to encourage you to make conscious choices about your diet, exercise and general lifestyle – and they’re taking no prisoners.  The owner, Erica d’Angelo, and her team are young and highly committed – they walk their talk every step of the way.  But there’s nothing flakey about this place – everything they do is based on the firmest science they can find. First stop for any of their detox retreats is a series of tests at the medical spa, followed by a consultation with the spa doctor.  There’s no hiding, no fudging the issue – if you fib on your questionnaire about …

Kaliyoga: sociable accessible yoga in Spain (and France)

A warm breeze is caressing my skin and I’m almost drunk on the sweet heady fragrance of orange blossom and jasmine. Lying in a hammock at Kaliyoga in the foothills of the Alpujarras in Southern Spain is so supremely relaxing that I keep reading the same page of my book over and over again. The soft hum of bees is replaced by a burst of laughter from the pool and I lift my head.  More giggles ensue and curiosity wins the day.  I slowly stir myself to wander over and, perching on the end of a sun lounger, join the fun. If I had only one word to describe Kaliyoga I’d say ‘sociable’.  Swiftly followed by ‘laughter’ and ‘warmth’.  I don’t think I have ever talked or laughed so much as during my week with a bunch of people who started off as complete strangers. Maybe we were just incredibly lucky, maybe our group just happened to gel, but I also reckon it has something to do with the spirit and soul of Kaliyoga itself. Our …

Ayurvedic healing at Austria’s Schloss Pichlarn

I love ayurveda, the 5,000 year old system of Indian mind-body spirit medicine.  In fact, I love it so much I wrote an entire book about it.  Yet I hadn’t had a dose of ayurvedic cleansing for many years and was yearning for some of its deep pampering treatments.  Would I have to trek over to India or Sri Lanka to get my abhyanga and shirodhara fix?  It seemed not.  I could fly to Saltzburg and be at Schloss Pichlarn less than two hours later.  No jet lag,  no sirree.   Saltzburg?  The Austrian mountains seem an unlikely venue for exotic ayurveda but, in fact, it’s not as strange as it sounds.  Ayurveda became very popular in Germany and Austria in the 90s and there is a wide choice of ayurvedic spas in these most firmly western countries.  Schloss Pichlarn has been developed around an old castle (complete with turrets) with a vast slab of mountain behind.  It’s big and grand (but not remotely stuffy) with all you’d expect from a large luxury hotel (there’s a …

Superfoods – safer than supplements?

A new book is warning that vitamins might not be as healthy as we think: they could even be causing us harm.  Dr Paul Offit, author of Killing Us Softly (Fourth Estate) claims that vitamin supplements can actually increase our risk of heart disease and cancer. While that may come as a shock to most of us, many naturopaths and, in particular, raw food advocates, are not so surprised.  They have been saying for years that the best way to supercharge our diet is not with manufactured supplements but with foods dense in natural nutrients – the so-called ‘superfoods’. In fact, many nutritional experts are now eschewing supplements altogether, claiming that foods like acai, maca and chia are better, healthier and much safer than synthetic vitamins and nutritional supplements. ‘Superfoods are holistic health supplements that contain more nutrients per calorie than most other foods,’ says naturopath Veronika  Poola from Kaliyoga Retreats in Spain.   ‘They are especially high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and enzymes. Unlike synthetic supplements, they are foods and therefore come in a form …

The rise and rise of the serious medical spa

Spas have become so commonplace now that it’s unusual to find a smart hotel that doesn’t have one.  The word spa has become synonymous with pampering, with elaborate ‘rituals’ and esoteric beauty treatments.  But it wasn’t always so. The original spas were built with serious healing in mind.  They were usually sited in places with natural springs where people would ‘take the waters’ – drinking or bathing in water rich in minerals, or being daubed with its mud.   Far from being ‘feelgood’ places, they were often quite draconian in their treatments. I clearly remember enduring all kinds of torture (including freezing showers and being wrapped in wet bandages) at Tyringham Hall, an erstwhile naturopathic spa.  There was no concept of picking and choosing your treatments – you were given what the doctor thought you needed, no more, no less. Now we’re seeing a move back to this more focused therapeutic function with some spas building up impressive reputations for treating specific problems.  People flock to them, not for sybaritic pampering but to get to the …