First Baby? My Advice after 1 year

I asked for advice before we had our first baby, and you just get the usual doom and gloom answers such as

“Don’t expect any sleep”
“When you’re sick, that’s the start of your night”

Cheers, nothing useful at all.

When you get a girlfriend, everyone mythers you to get married,

Then when you’re married, everyone mythers you about having kids,

And then when you do have one on the way, everyone harps on about how terrible child birth is and how you’ll never have a lie in again or a full night’s sleep and how awful and hard life will be from now on.

Elinor

It’s not all bad; in fact, it’s life changing and amazing – you just have to be pretty selfless to enjoy it. And sleep, you do need to make sure you get some sleep whenever possible.

A Few Parenting Tips

  • Get tops with buttons around the neck. Babies go mental when you try and pull their tops over their heads
  • If you’ve no idea what to do – Peek a Boo (or Pi Po in Wales) is always a winner with children 5-12 months old
  • You’ll fall out with at least 1 family member over parenting style or childcare
  • Phenibut is immense for sleep deprivation, once a week only though
  • Picking up your child side on makes it harder for them to back-heel you in the balls
  • White noise tends to help babies and parents to sleep (especially if you live in a nosey semi-detached)
  • Every woman, and man and his dog will give you advice. Just smile and nod
  • The happiest people tend to be the most flexible with plans etc. This seems especially true with parents – your plans to go to the gym may been constantly scuppered for example.
  • Not that I’d know, but breastfeeding appears to get significantly easier after the first month, then it seems relatively painless after 2 months, until the baby starts to get teeth…then it hurts again
  • Grandparents don’t agree with Attachment Parenting
  • Keep your hands free when walking around the house. You’ll defo fall over a toy at some point and it helps to have hands to break your fall
  • Baby gates are pretty lethal, as are the stands on those vibrating chairs

 

2 other things of note, the NHS staff in the maternity ward were amazing, I was pleasantly surprised at their enthusiasm;

And the 2 healthcare visitors I know personally were extremely helpful – it was one of my friends that suggested our baby might have a tongue tie (this was missed by our designated healthcare visitor – easily done).

 

nora

 

Fitness For Busy Parents

I’ll go into this at a later date, but you don’t need a gym or loads of time to have an effective workout.

Tabata intervals and bodyweight exercises are all you need and you can do them at home.

For example

1 Tabata Interval of squats
Followed by 1 set of maximum press ups

is enough to maintain fitness and muscle mass, and even improve markers of fitness and health depending on baseline levels.

fitness

Tabata Intervals involve 8 intervals of exercise, for 20 seconds.
Each 20 second interval is separated by 10 seconds rest.

Doing just 8 minutes a week of this type of exercise is proven to be beneficial in terms of blood lipid and glucose levels.

 

Fitness may not be a priority in the next year or two, but make sure you try and maintain a level of physical activity, or your health and wellbeing can deteriorate fast

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Online Personal Training – is it worth it?

This is something I’ve been looking at getting into for a while…

The attraction with online personal training is initially, that there’s very little barrier to action/entry.

You can still be sat on the sofa with a pizza, and sign up for online personal training sessions. You’ve not spent or committed to a great deal, so it’s very easy to get started. Unlike going into and signing up to a gym, which can be very scary.

Inspirational quote
Don’t be afraid to have a go!

Once you’re signed up, you in theory should have access to;

  • 1-2-1 expert support and advice
  • Personalised exercise programmes according to fitness, time & budget
  • Personalised dietary assessments
  • Personalised diet plans
  • Healthy recipes (that you will like)
  • Technical feedback e.g. if you video lifting weights
  • Psychological assessment, motivation, goal setting & support

Although having a personal training, that’s actually there with you real time has many added benefits – for example he/she can correct poor technique in real time; having an online personal trainer is certainly much more beneficial than having no help at all and entering into a fitness programme with no direction or structure.

A lot of the benefit is that they do all the admin-work for you.

You probably know you need to make a programme, set goals and assess your diet, but realistically, not many people know where to start exactly or don’t have the time to do it all.

I certainly think that video analysis of technique is currently under utilised too. This could be extremely beneficial, especially with the trend to squat and deadlift heavy, good technique is imperative.

Poor Alignment of the spine - looking to far forward tilts head upwards
Poor Alignment of the spine – looking to far forward tilts head upwards

Some quick pointers to remember about exercise if you are contemplating getting fit:

  • You don’t have to train for long periods – 3 x 20 minute sessions a week can make a huge difference to health, fitness & appearance
  • Diets don’t have to be complicated. Start making one change . e.g. cutting out sugar
  • Psychology is very important. Set SMART goals that are Specific, Measurable, Agreed upon, Realistic and Time-bound
  • It takes one month to form a habit. Start by making small positive changes and maintain these for a month

 

 

 

2 Great Family Holiday Destinations in the UK

I’m not a huge fan of travelling abroad. I’m not scared of flying, but I don’t like all the sitting down and the cramped conditions, with the air-conditioning being the real icing on the cake.

I went on a yoga retreat as part of my honeymoon in 2014. I got there feeling pretty lethargic and had my usual issues with back, neck and shoulder aches and stiffness. After a week of yoga and good food, I felt pretty energised and, well, flexible by the time that we left. A 2 hour taxi drive and a 4 hour flight later, I felt fairly rotten and lethargic again by the time we got back.

Now that we have a little-one, budget is also a big consideration when booking holidays, as well as the length and comfort of the commute. With this in mind, here is a shortlist of places for us to visit in the next few years…

Cheddar

Cheddar in Somerset is famous for its gorge, the Cheddar Man and of course, Cheddar Cheese.

cheddar gorgeImage Source

cheddarwaterfallImage Source

What to do in Cheddar?

Things to do in Cheddar include visiting the Cheddar Caves & Gorge, the Original Cheddar Cheese Company and walking or cycling the Strawberry Line and visiting the Cheddar Man at the Museum of Prehistory.

cheddar man
Cheddar Man – His remains date back to 7,000 BC

Image Source

As you’d expect really, there are also a variety of walks that you can do around the gorge:


If you stay in Cheddar Woods Resort & Spa, there’s also a wide range of activities that you can do…

Where to Stay in Cheddar?

Cheddar Woods is almost definitely the best place to stay in Cheddar for families, and many of the lodges are also pet-friendly, so you can take your dog (or cat, rabbit, not sure about chickens or lizards).

With outdoor, private hot tubs in some of the premier lodges, a luxury spa, gym, pool and restaurant; there’s quite a lot to keep the family entertained whilst on site.

cheddar lodge
A Cabin at Cheddar Woods

The lodges provide a lot more space than you would normally get in a hotel or a B & B:

cheddar cabin
Look at the size of that living room!

If you are looking for a hotel, then as you’d expect, TripAdvisor is probably the best place to do some research.

If you’re on a tight budget, The Oakhouse Hotel has good reviews and is very competitively priced.

The Lake District

The Lake District was declared a National Park in 1951 and according to Lonely Planet – it is by far the UK’s most popular national park. If you like the great outdoors, then the Lake District is a great destination for you, and your family (assuming their outdoorsy types too).

the lake districtImage Source

The Lake District has inspired many great writers & poets, including William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter. A great testimony to the inspiring landscape that possesses many therapeutic benefits. If you’re feeling stressed out, like a lot of us are, spending time in nature has been proven to treat everything from mild depression to ADHD.

What to do in the Lake District?

With more parks, forests and lakes that you can shake a proverbial stick at, the Lakes has lots on offer. A walk around Derwentwater is always a winner – with some amazingly beautiful and relaxing scenery. Keswick’s local lake is 10 minutes walk from the town-centre.

keswick-reach-lodge-retreat-1600x700

Other Lake District walks include:

Day trips on offer in the Lake District include:

Where to Stay in the Lake District?

It’s difficult to say exactly, with so many difference options available. The Lake District is fairly well known for wild camping, although that’s not exactly ideal for families and larger groups of people. The best place to get some ideas is on the Lake District website.

Places of note to stay in the Lake District include:

  • Keswick Reach Lodge Retreat
  • Brimstone at Langdale
  • Cedar Manor Hotel & Restaurant
  • Holbeck Ghyll

 

That’s just 2 places to visit in the UK. North Wales is also listed in the Lonely Planet’s best regions to visit.

North Wales is brilliant, if you like walking, hiking, cycling, camping and general ‘in nature’ stuff – which I do. I’ll cover that area in a future post!

 

WordPress Site Security

Security threats are not just about tangible properties like your house or car, as there are also security threats online. In fact, there are several of them and they can attack your WordPress blogsite if you do not have the proper protection.

Your blogsite is considered as your home in the digital world. It contains everything that allows you to run a successful blog, which is needed to ensure that you keep your followers interested and entice more to read your posts. A security breach on your site could ruin its content and this could lead the entire blogsite to its downfall.

This is something that you do not want to happen, especially if you are using it for your business. You must secure your WordPress blog from these potential threats, just as you would keep your most valuable properties secured. You can do this by gaining awareness on the security risks that could put your blogsite in jeopardy. If you know the risks that you might be facing, you can plan ahead so they can be prevented and you wouldn’t have to deal with them.

We prepared an infographic that lists some of the most usual security attacks on WordPress sites that bloggers like you might face.

Get the list from our illustration below:

10 Most Common Security Attacks That Will Kill Your WordPress Blog

Surprised with the threats that might put your WordPress at risk? Learn more about how to secure your blogsite and other blogging tips at http://www.startbloggingonline.com/.

5 Tips for Getting Fit & In Shape

There is a downloadable form to fill in at the end, so don’t worry if this article gets a bit confusing!

1 Set Goals

This is a good starting point – what do you want to achieve?

Be specific, for example, you might write down
“I want to lose 2 inches from my waist, by December 20th, 2016”

Make all goals “SMARTER”

Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time bound, Evaluate, and Re-Do

Evaluate your goals once a month, tweak them if necessary but always make a note of why you’ve had to change them.

Have 1 or 2 “Target Goals” – these relate to the end result, e.g. having a 32 inch waist by December 20th.
The Target Goals are the “What”.

Have 3 “Process Goals” – these are the “How”

So you want a 32 inch waist – how will you achieve this?

3 Process goals might include:
1. Eliminate sugar from my diet completely
2. Go for a walk every day
3. Go to boxercise class every Wednesday

Personal Training chester

Finally, to keep motivated, write down why you want to achieve your goals.
For example, you may want to improve your health for the benefit of your family.

2. Prepare for & Eliminate Obvious Pitfalls

List all the potential hurdles, barriers & pitfalls; then list the solutions.

For example, your hurdles might include:
People offering you unhealthy food –
Solution – Say “no thanks” in a highly assertive manner

People not being supportive / making fun of your diet
Solution – Laugh and just see it as a bit of banter. If necessary explain that you are doing it for the benefit of yourself and your family and that their support would be appreciated.

Hurdles are things that will almost certainly happen, and you will have to jump or fail.

Barriers, you can sidestep these completely.
For example a barrier might be having unhealthy food in the house.
Solution – give it to charity.

Pitfalls are obvious things you shouldn’t do.
For example – Buying unhealthy food.
Solution – Make a healthy shopping list

Rex Kwon Do
Image Source

3. Have a Specific Plan

Unfortunately, deciding that you’re going to get fit, and leaving it at that, often fails.

You need a plan, with specific rules set out.

As outlined above, write down your goals and process goals.
These should form the foundation for your plan.

Write down what you need to succeed.
Everything essential – e.g. a chosen form of exercise, a set of diet guidelines, gym kit etc.

 

Get as organised as possible

Use a spreadsheet if you have to – write down a healthy main meal for each evening & plan what exercise you will do each week.
Leave an area to write comments and feedback for yourself.

How will you eat healthy? Get this organised.
Will you prepare batches and freeze food for each day of the week?
Will you cook fresh each day?
Will you prepare your own lunch?

 

4. Empower Yourself

Write down, and then answer these questions:

Do you think you have everything you need to succeed?
If not, what else do you require?

Do you think this plan will work?
If so, what is it that you like about the diet and exercise programme you have been given?
If not, what are you concerned about?

Are you convinced that this plan is worth your while? –  Is getting in shape worth the effort and commitment?

Accept Responsibility
This is your programme. Not your trainer’s programme. You must take ownership of the programme and be happy with it.
Is there anything you would like to know more about, or anything you would change before taking ownership? If so, write these down, research the answers or ask a professional

Finally, write down a positive affirmation or mantra that you will use whenever doubt starts to creep into your mind.
This could be something as simple as
“You can do this and it is worth it”

 

5. Access Expert Fitness Advice & Support

No, I’m not trying to sell you online personal training (not yet, but maybe down the road I will); you can get great support and information (although take it all with a pinch of pink salt), from Facebook groups and online forums.

Some websites and forums to have a look at:
https://www.reddit.com/r/Fitness/
http://www.muscletalk.co.uk/Bodybuilding-Routines-Training-Techniques-f17.aspx
https://www.facebook.com/groups/526231430864965/

Just beware of the groups and meatheads that share lion memes and selfies all the time. They won’t really help too much.

 

programme

Download a pre-exercise questionnaire here

Contact me if you do need any additional help (I changed my mind, ask me about online fitness training!).

You could also have a read of my free book and have a look at this infographic for some nutrition basics:

 

Fitness Infographic

3 Fitness Misconceptions

1. You have to train for at least an hour, two or three times per week to ‘Get in Shape’

Not really.

Short, intense workouts can be just as effective.

In fact, many fitness professionals advocate workouts 30 minutes or less.

You can take this a step further –

Doing 4 minutes of exercise, twice a week, can improve markers of health & fitness significantly.

 

You can make drastic improvements in terms of health, fitness and body composition, with just 10 minutes of exercise per day.

The difficult part, is staying disciplined with your diet.

 

2. You Need Expensive Equipment to Build Muscle

Not true, in fact the trend at the moment, is functional, bodyweight exercise.

I personally like to use a door frame chin up bar, and some resistance bands – costing in total about £50.
These are not essential however, you can certainly make a start without them.

3. You Need Supplements to Look like the guys in the Magazines

Well, yea, kinda – you need lots of steroids, IGF-1 and HGH to look like the guys in the magazines and adverts.

That’s not me being cynical – ask any weightlifting veteran.

I’m not anti-supplements, but you need to ignore 90% of the claims and marketing jargon.  e.g. “peptide bonded” and “micellar” even “anabolic” are often used to imply something that people assume is beyond their understanding.

In case you are wondering:

Peptide Bonds – “…proteins are chains of amino acids held together by peptide bonds, as is the backbone of PNA.”
https://www.sciencedaily.com/terms/peptide_bond.htm

Micellar (a term often used to sell “Micellar Casein” protein powder”)
All casein protein is ‘micellar’, it means it basically clumps together in a ball, releasing amino acids/nitrogen, bit by bit until the ball dissolves
https://www.uoguelph.ca/foodscience/book-page/structure-casein-micelle

I wouldn’t recommend any supplements to begin with.

If you are looking to build muscle, there is plenty of research around creatine, and whey protein too. I’d recommend, researching and perhaps including these in your diet, after 2 months of weight training.

Whole foods are generally largely superior.  In fact, I would recommend a hemp smoothie instead of protein powder, but I’ve found that people just want to take supplements.  So, if you do, research whey protein and creatine.  But make sure 90% of your food, is actually food!

How much protein you need is an aggressively debated topic, which I’m not going to touch with yours (or with a bargepole).

 

 

Mindfulness Requires Organisation

It’s fantastic living in the moment; but I only seem to manage to do it when playing or competing in sport – when in ‘flow state‘.

In practical terms, it is very tricky to be 100% mindful at home, and especially in work…but I think it can be done.

You just need to be very organised; if you know everything you need to get done is ‘in a system’ that you adhere to everyday, then you can relax, or at least focus 100% on the task in hand.

If you don’t have a ‘system’, then you’re constantly worrying about whether or not you’ve missed something…

I’ve made an attempt to do this recently, here are some tips on both Mindfulness & organisation:

  • Have a “Family to-do book” at home.  Rather than telling your partner, and vice versa, stuff that needs to be done over-dinner, or when you’ve just stepped in from work – put it in a book that’s next to your seat in the lounge or somewhere easily accessible.  Have a quick review of it each night.  This stops you from getting it in the throat for ‘not listening’ and not having done A and B at the weekend.
  • Make a list of 3 things that need to be done each day and label them A, B and C in terms of priorities.
  • Have a list of everything that you need to get done in 1 place.  I’ve been guilty in the past of writing tasks down in loads of different places.  It’s much easier if everything organised in 1 place
  • Turn the radio off in the car on the way home.  This helps you from not feeling ‘over-stimulated’ when you walk in at home.
  • Try and focus 100% on whatever you are doing. If you are doing the dishes, stop rushing it, focus on the task at hand, feel the water and plates etc.  “Nothing is more important or enjoyable as the now”

Meditate – focus on your breathing, and keep bringing the focus back, as the mind wanders (which it will).
If you can’t meditate for any reason, just be mindful whenever possible. For example; when typing, focus on the feeling of the keys when you touch them.

meditation-1384758_960_720

Image source

Active Breaks in North Wales

The wild and wonderful countryside of North Wales has always been a popular destination for avid walkers, with Snowdonia National Park standing out as a haven for anyone seeking to spend some time in the great outdoors.

There’s far more than just walking to be done in North Wales, however.
There’s a wide range of activities to experience, providing fun for the entire family.
What’s more, there’s no need to leave the dog at home when you visit – thanks to
the abundance of dog-friendly holiday cottages in Wales, they too can experience
the stunning Snowdonia countryside.
If you fancy combining long country hikes with something a little more challenging,
then here are just a few of the best places to visit for a more active break in North Wales…

Bear Grylls Adventure Day

Head over to the Dragon Raiders Activity Park on the Lleyn Peninsula to test yourself against the wild and rugged terrain on one of Bear Grylls’ Survival Academy’s Half Day courses. Once there, you will combine essential survival skills with adventure tasks, all under the guidance of a team of highly experienced instructors. You’ll learn how to build a fire, to find edible food and even build yourself a usable shelter. It’s a fun, exciting, educational adventure that is perfect for families, school trips, and even team building exercises.

Segway Adventures

Also situated at Dragon Raiders Activity Park is the chance to experience one of their thrilling Segway adventures. Set in over 30 acres of woodland, the latest Segway X2 will allow you to zip about in style on one of their tough and durable machines. It’s your choice between a relaxing forest trek or a far more vigorous off-road rally.

The National White Water Centre

If you fancy a real adrenalin rush then why not tackle some genuine white water rapids on the River Tryweryn at the National White Water Centre. Here, you can experience a range of water sports, including rafting and kayaking, down the wild mountain river that presents an imposing challenge all year round. There are multiple routes to tackle, so don’t panic too much as all abilities are amply catered for.

Zip World

Zip World has three locations in North Wales, each offering a special high-velocity adrenalin rush. At the Blaenau Ffestiniog site, you can experience the first 4 person zip line in Europe and a unique subterranean adventure in their fantastic unground site. At their Bethesda site lies their “Velocity” zip line, the longest in Europe and the fastest in the world, which is a huge rush and certainly not one for the fainthearted. Finally at their Betws-Y-Coed site, you can go on a spectacular zip safari through the forest treetops and enjoy the enormous five-seater swing, known as the Skyride.

Go Below

Go Below’s Underground adventures take you deep into the former mines of Snowdonia. It’s a fascinating chance to explore a spectacular underground world as you undertake a series of challenges while abseiling and zip lining through gaping caverns and lakes. Your nerves will be tested as you are challenged to climb a vertical shaft and abseil down a waterfall. It’s all hosted by some of the country’s premier mine exploration experts and the adventure can be tailored to your group – be it a school trip, a family outing or a stag or hen do.

 

Cycle Paths and ParaCycling

If cycling is more your thing, then North Wales has plenty of options.  In fact, it’s arguably the best place in the UK for cycling fans.

Off Road Routes include:
Coed Y Brenin – http://www.beicsbrenin.co.uk/trails/
Llandegla – https://oneplanetadventure.com/
The two lake tour – http://www.ridenorthwales.co.uk/english/routes-detail.asp?rtype=18

There are also a number of great, circular on-road cycle routes that can be found here.

North Wales also has a number of para-cycling and para-triathlon events. If you are interested in All Ability Cycling, I’d recommend checking out Quest 88’s site here.

 

 

Where’s your favourite place in North Wales for an active break? Let us know in the comments!

Britain’s Botanical Gardens

Over thirty million people a year visit the UK as tourists, making the UK one of the most popular global tourist destinations. Every year, more and more tourists holiday in the UK – not surprising, given the abundance of natural destinations, heritage sites and cultural attractions. One of those quintessentially British attractions: our wonderful botanical gardens, dotted across the country. We’ve put together a list of absolute must-sees, including a few hidden gems that you should try and visit in 2016.

Fenton House & Garden
Fenton House & Garden is an Edwardian garden in London’s charming Hampstead area. Expect roses galore, curated hedges, and an apple orchard in a garden that has remained almost unchanged for 300 years.

 Fenton House Hampstead front February 2006.jpg
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fenton_House

 

Ness Gardens

On the Wirral, just down the road from the old Roman city of Chester, Ness Gardens is a must-see in the North West. The gardens themselves have a focus on preservation, creating a ‘living library’ of conservation in this treasured local feature.

 

 

Benmore Botanic Garden
Once part of the estate of a Scottish trade baron, the Benmore Botanic Garden serves to host a rich collection of living plants, focused on conifers and rhododendrons. The Edinburgh Botanic Gardens are also worth a visit, if you’re willing to travel between the Scottish coasts.

 

 Benmore's majestic avenue of giant redwoods

 

Snowshill Manor & Garden

Not far from Gloucester, the Snowshill Manor & Garden offers you not only a lovingly cultivated garden, but also the chance to explore the museum/house designed by architect and poet Charles Wade. Wade has assembled a manor full of curiosities, including weaponry and scale models of boats.

 A view of Snowshill Manor in Gloucestershire from the gardenhttp://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/snowshill-manor-and-garden


Throckmorton Family Gardens
The gardens, south of Birmingham, are a part of the wider Coughton Court. Designed to be experienced as a series of rooms, Throckmorton Family Gardens offer you a walled, labyrinthine garden.

6
http://www.coughtoncourt.co.uk/

Mottistone Gardens
The Isle of Wight is already a beautiful destination for a trip, but the Mottistone Gardens are a distinctly peaceful and gorgeous valley filled with exotic and local plants. With ocean views from much of the garden, part of the garden’s mission is to bring plant life to the UK and see how they fare in our changing climate.

 Summer flowers and plants in the gardens at Mottistone, Isle of Wighthttp://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/mottistone-gardens

The National Botanic Garden of Wales
Just a short drive north of Swansea, Wales’ national botanical gardens are fantastic. Playing host to the world’s largest single-span glass greenhouse, there’s a huge host of Mediterranean plants under one roof. Outside of the greenhouse is a geological time-walk through Wale’s natural heritage, as well as a series of themed gardens.

Melbourne Hall Gardens
South of Derby, in the village of Melbourne, the Melbourne Hall Gardens is very much a Georgian manor. The house itself is open to the public, and features seven rooms that you can visit in a house that is still occupied by Lord and Lady Ralph Kerr. The gardens themselves are vivid and tranquil, and host some rare shrubs in the planted borders and intersecting paths.

Have we missed one? Let us know in the comments if you just can’t believe we missed your favourite garden. We’d love to hear from you!