5 reasons I’m adding more cardio into my workouts

Leeds half marathon medal

Forget City or United, cardio or weights truly divides people.

I will be the first to admit that I turned my back on cardio for a while in favour of weight training, but recently I’m incorporating more cardio into my workouts and I want to explain why…

Lifting weights has become a lot more fashionable, as fitness influencers like Grace Fit and Busy Bee Fitness promote the positive benefits of lifting. Women of all ages are feeling stronger, more empowered in the gym and are proud to show off their muscular figures with pride.

Don’t get me wrong, I am really pleased so many women are discovering the joys of lifting and I think everyone should incorporate some strength training into their workout routines if they can, but cardio is given such a hard time nowadays.

Cardio is good for you, it’s fun and it’s cheap! Here are some of the reasons I’m adding more cardio into my fitness schedule:

Endorphins

After a 5k run I am feeling on top of the world! It’s difficult to rival the happy hormones quite like the ones I get from doing cardio. I find that completing an hour-long run gives me a much better endorphin payoff compared to a 30-minute strength session.

Stress relief

Although weight lifting is amazing for getting my frustrations out, who doesn’t love slamming a heavy weight down on the floor and grunting through your problems, cardio gives me time to think clearly and resolve my problems. Perhaps it’s because I’m participating in activity which lasts for longer than doing weights does, but I always feel calmer after cardio. The time acts as a safety net until I have switched off and calmed down.

Quicker achievements

Every time I go for a run I can improve on my last run, I either get faster, can run for longer, or stop less. Yet with weights it takes me a few weeks to improve and track progress. If you’re impatient like I am, cardio gives you that confidence boost of achieving your personal best a little bit quicker.

Good for your cardiovascular system

The cardiovascular system includes your heart and blood vessels and is responsible for transporting oxygen and nutrients throughout your body. Unsurprisingly, cardio activity strengthens your cardiovascular system. To improve your cardiovascular fitness, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends increasing your exercise duration, increasing your exercise intensity and incorporating interval training into your workout routine.

You can do it anywhere

I love the freedom of running outdoors, or deciding to do a quick HIIT workout at home when I don’t want to go to the gym. Unless you’ve got a home gym or your own set of weights, cardio is more accessible as you can do it with no equipment from anywhere you want.

Yes, you get so sweaty that people might presume it’s raining outside, you have to wear a heavy-duty sports bra and your session takes longer, but get past these things and you’ll fall in love with cardio again. I think the trick is to mix up the different types of exercise that you do so you don’t become stagnant with your routine. The main thing is to find something you love doing and you keep doing it!

7 body positive reasons to love fitness

Girl sat on mountain

So after a lengthy twitter feud debate, it appears that some people don’t understand how you can be body positive, inclusive and accepting, AND be a fitness blogger.

Contrary to popular belief, being body positive and being passionate about fitness are not mutually exclusive. You can love exercising and at the same time not give a tiny rat’s ass about losing weight or fitting into a certain size. Yes, exercise often does lead to weight loss but that is not the sole purpose or reason that you should aim to get your body moving.

This post is going to be about all the amazing outcomes of fitness and physical activity that have nothing to do with your appearance!

1.Confidence

Joining a gym and pushing myself to run faster, lift heavier and embrace what my body is capable of is one of the most empowering things I have even done. Four years on, even on my most self-deprecating days, a good gym session or a long run can give me the boost of confidence that I need.

2. Endorphins

I may be quoting Elle Woods here, but when you exercise your body produces happy hormones and people that are happy just don’t kill their husbands! The hormones, also called endorphins, help to relieve stress and give you an uplifting sensation. I know some people experience these differently, or even feel down after exercise, but personally I feel euphoric after I finish exercising. I feel light, hopeful and…dare I say excited for life, which for a cantankerous sod like me, is a miracle!

3. Strength

Feeling strong is seriously underrated! The feeling or strutting into the weights room and picking up a heavier weight than I was using last week is awesome. So is being able to carry multiple bags of food shopping home from Aldi AND carrying an entire door through my sister’s house during a day of DIY (just some recent examples, I recommend starting with lighter objects than a door if you’re a newbie to strength).

4. Focus

Work stressful? Relationship fallen apart? Get your trainers on and focus on something else. During that period, there is nothing else to concentrate on apart from your body and what it can do. Working towards a goal such as a 10k distance, or a new strength PB is a wonderful way to challenging yourself and work towards something positive.

5. Functional Movement

Functional movement refers to the types of activities you do as part of daily life such as bending down, twisting, walking upstairs, carrying bags etc. By developing strength and cardiovascular fitness you can perform everyday tasks more efficiently, which makes your life that tiny bit easier

6. Sociable

I’ve made loads of new friends through exercise and I continue to nurture current friendships through it as well. Last weekend I did Parkrun with friends, I met my flatmate at a fitness bootcamp and a lot of people I talk to on social media I found through their passion for fitness.

7. Mental resilience

You that feeling when you’re running and you want to give up? But you keep putting one foot in front of the other until you’ve reached your destination. You hit the wall where you want to give up but you keep on going. These skills that you learn through fitness can be transferred into everyday life. Life is hard, it’s not fair and sometimes it just sucks, but you’ve got to keep going and putting one foot in front of the other. Fitness has given me the tools to get to grips with life’s challenges and come back stronger.

8. Fun

Find an exercise, or activity, that you love doing and you’ll have so much fun. Whether that’s running, rock climbing, hiking, swimming or dancing, do what you enjoy.

Did any of those amazing things include losing weight, fitting into a size 6 skirt or feeling confident on a beach? NO, because exercise is a celebration of what your body can do NOT a punishment for its differences! Also you can visit the beach any damn time and be happy. Got it? Ok thanks.

Finally, I want to write something about concern trolling. This is people jump in on debates under the pretence that they have genuine concerns for people’s health so that gives them a legitimate reason to shame fat people. You may think that you are being helpful by telling people that they need to lose weight, or by informing them that their lifestyle is unhealthy and dangerous, but you’re not helping at all. Fatphobic concern trolling is causing a lot more damage to society than fat people are. Mental health issues and eating disorders are real and being fatphobic contributes to these more than anything else. Plus, it makes you a shit person so just don’t do it people.

What being body positive means to me

neon lighting

The body positive movement aims to end the negative relationship we have with our appearance and accept ourselves for who we are naturally. It is inclusive of everyone, no matter how you look you deserve to be loved and to love yourself.

Body positivity isn’t just about weight, it’s about feeling good in the body you are in. It’s about focusing on yourself as a whole and challenging society’s perceptions of beauty. You are worth more than how you look.

It’s not apologising for having a double chin in a photo. It’s not worrying about how your cellulite looks in natural light. It’s enjoying what your body can do for you, instead of chastising it for not looking a certain way.

Body positivity and me

Body positivity is a relatively new concept for me, having only learned about it over the last 18 months. After years and years of self-hatred and insecurities, the idea of loving my body unconditionally seems like both a breath of fresh air and a rope to hang myself with.

Many of us have been conditioned from an early age to believe that we need to be smaller, symmetrical, perfect versions of ourselves. If we only squeezed into a smaller size our lives would be better. This is not true, and the only reason we are subjected to this kind of thinking is because companies want to make us spend money on products we don’t need and they need to keep feeding our insecure to get us to splash out. As an intelligent woman, I know this is true, but after 25 years of body shaming myself, it’s difficult to kick the habit.

Being body positive can be more challenging than you might think. As with most things, there is a steep learning curve. I have many days where I stare at my reflection in the mirror and tell myself I am fat, ugly or disgusting. Irrational thoughts consume my mind, ‘What if I gain loads of weight and no one likes me anymore?’, ‘I can’t wear that because my legs are too fat’ ‘My nose is so big and ugly’ etc. The fact that I have these thoughts is evidence enough that I need to embrace body positivity and self-love.

Fitness and body positivity?

Some people reading this might be thinking I’m being hypocritical because this is a fitness blog after all.

I hold my hands up and say in the past I was not being body positive, through a lack of education and knowledge. Once you open your eyes to how much body shaming is around it’s quite shocking. Even this year when I decided to embrace the body positive movement I still had a lot of setbacks. In my Grace Fit Guide posts I get carried away with how my body is responding to the guide looks wise and began to feel very critical of myself once again.

I would love to be in a place where I feel 100% happy with my appearance, not because I have achieved unrealistic beauty standards, but because I love and accept myself the way that I am. My goal is to stand naked in front of a mirror and honestly say that I don’t care how my body looks and that I am just so grateful to have it. You can be body positive and into fitness and health, it’s a celebration of what your body can do after all.

Our society is becoming more image obsessed by the day and humans are already hard wired to respond to images. Self-hatred is accelerating; depression and eating disorders are increasing and it’s only going to get worse unless we teach each other to think differently. Nowadays, people are celebrated purely for their looks, while intelligent, funny, kind, courageous and artistic people are valued less.

Thanks for reading this. If you’re interested in more body positive posts my friend Vicky wrote a really interesting guest post for me which you can find here or you can visit her blog which is body positive.

Guess who loves running again?

Girl running in country side

My passion for running has ignited once again. It must be a combination of the lighter evenings, the slightly warmer temperatures and my resentment of crowded gyms, as people pile in to try and obtain a ‘summer body’ (FYI, your body is always ready for summer!) Despite spending the first four months of the year focusing strength training, recently all I want to do is hit the pavement and run!

There’s a problem, I haven’t been regularly running for at least four months. Unlike strength training, where I can maintain my ability level, I have to go back to square one when it comes to running. Although I know if I work hard enough I will get back to where I was, it will be a challenge.

As excepted, my first run back was really hard! I opted for the treadmill so I could monitor my speed and incline. I warmed up by going on the cross-trainer for 10 minutes, as I find it warms my muscles which makes it easier to run, before hopping onto the treadmill. Instead of flat out running (which I found difficult to do) I tried to run for the length of the song I was listening to and then stopping and walking for 30 seconds – a minute until I felt ready to run again.  This was a pretty good technique and I managed to do 20 minutes on the treadmill.

After the success of the treadmill I decided to test my ability outdoors, mainly because I didn’t have time to go to the gym before work and I wanted to run, so I completed a circuit outside. I find outdoor running a lot harder compared to the treadmill as you need to be in control of pacing yourself and you are subject to a variety of inclines and terrains. I did a short run outside that was around 3 miles and lasted 40 minutes. I did stop a few times and I wasn’t aiming to go fast, hence why my time was a bit slow.

I wanted to push myself on my next run. It was a beautiful day so I headed out and ran five miles. Surprisingly, it was very enjoyable and wasn’t as difficult as I found the previous run. Unfortunately, I got a chest infection later in the week so I decided to have break from running until I was better. Yesterday, I went running with my friend and we did five miles (outdoors) and although it was a challenging run as my chest wasn’t 100% better I enjoyed pushing myself and getting outdoors after work.

This post has been a bit rambly, I just wanted to write about fitness again and this is what I’m focusing on. Over the next eight weeks I will be sticking to the running programme I created for myself which incorporates strength training, plyometric exercises and cross training, as well dynamic as distances to run. I will keep you updated with how I get on!

Here are a few of my older running posts if you want to have a read:

Leeds Half Marathon
Half Marathon checklist
How to prepare for a half 
Salford 10k
Winter run 10k 
Safely tips for running
Sweatshop Running Club

GraceFit Guide week 5 update: phase 2

GF8WG WEEK 5
GF8WG WEEK 5

Left is week 4, right is week 5

Wooohooo I’ve completed the first phase of GraceFit Guide workouts!

In my last post, I mentioned that I had lost my mojo and had given up with the guide for the week. I would love to say that I’m a completely changed woman and all I needed was a break from it for a week but that’s not strictly true. However, from doing week 5 I have noticed significant progress and that has motivated me to keep going.

Before I jump into the differences in the new guide I want to highlight some things I’ve noticed from doing phase one.

I am stronger – this may not seem like a lot to some people, but I used to only manage to do arm weights using 3kg dumb bells; I can now use 7kg or even 8kg dumbbells! When I started the Gracefit guide, I was leg pressing 50kg both legs and now I am pressing 90kg both legs and single legs has gone from 20kg to 50kg! I am really proud of myself for getting stronger.

My balance and co-ordination has improved – I didn’t realise this would change, but by incorporating moves like single leg lunges and step ups I have improved my balance and co-ordination. I used to wobble all over the place and now I can keep myself balanced. I have also strengthened my core which helps with stability.

I’ve gained weight– I have technically gained a few pounds, but I feel a lot leaner in myself and my clothes are loser so I must be losing fat and gaining muscle.

I’ve fallen in love with HIIT again – On an upper body day, I add in 10 minutes of treadmill sprints and then 10 minutes of incline walking. And on lower body days I do one or the other because my legs are just too tired afterwards. I feel like this has really helped me to get a bit leaner and has made me realise how fun HIIT can be in small doses.

I still need to replace my resistance band – As some lovely person stole my brand new RB, I’ve been doing the exercises without one which I’m sure defeats the point as some of them are specific RB exercises. I need to order another band but I keep forgetting!

What’s different in the new phase?

The workouts are more challenging and contain many new exercises which I haven’t tried before. The rep range is relatively the same and it doesn’t include suggested weights weight (what a mouthful) but you are meant to build upon this from the last phase. I had stopped getting as sore after doing the phase one leg workout, but after completing the phase two leg day I could barely walk down the stairs on the same day, let alone the next couple of days, so it must be a lot more challenging.

Learning new exercises is challenging and I do feel like I’ve gone back to square one in terms of my confidence, simply because I had gotten used to following a set routine. I’m still not sure if I’m performing all the exercises in the new phase and using the equipment correctly but I guess that will happen in time. As this is my first week I have been substituting some of the new exercises for older ones that I’m familiar with while I get my bearings.

Aflete app

I’ve only just learnt about the Aflete app, even though loads of the girls in the Facebook group have been using it from the beginning of the guide. It’s a smartphone app that’s free to download (and use if you have purchased the GraceFit Guide) and it automatically loads the Guide and tracks your progress. It allows you to log how much weight you’ve done and any notes on the exercises so it’s useful to review progress. If you’re just starting the guide I would recommend downloading Aflete, however, if like me, you’ll be missing a whole month it might not be as valuable to you. You can find it here. 

Hope you’re enjoying my updates, if you want to learn more feel free to follow me on twitter where I talk about it quite a lot @hannahgetshench and follow me on Bloglovin so you don’t miss a post 🙂

GF8WG week 4 update: Losing my mojo

Adidas hoody on girl

Adidas hoody on girl

It’s week four of the GraceFit Guide and I have lost my mojo. Not completely, but I haven’t felt as eager to work out and eat as healthily as I did previously.  It had to happen sometime didn’t it? I couldn’t transform my life and become this new person who is always motivated to go to the gym in four weeks.

I didn’t go to the gym as much as I wanted to this week, partly because I was away with work for two days, but also because on one of the days I just felt rubbish and I didn’t want to go. What I wanted to do was eat an entire bar of galaxy chocolate and watch my favourite program in bed. And that’s exactly what I did.

Continue Reading

GF8WG week 3 update & feminist rant

Hannah gets hench week 3 GF8WG
Hannah gets hench week 3 GF8WG

Sorry for the grainy iphone pics!

Hi lovely people, can you believe I’ve been doing the GraceFit guide for three-weeks now? So much has changed since I purchased the guide. I’d barely even recognise the shy noodle who once crept around the cardio floor three-weeks ago!

I wanted to take some actual good-quality progress pictures this weekend, but I didn’t get round to doing it (it’s really hard when you live in England and get about 3 hours of natural light a day!) so you have to put up with my rubbish Iphone pictures I’m afraid. Week-four will be the PROPER progress picture week I swear!

Continue Reading

GF8WG Week 2 update

Gracefit guide week 2 update
Gracefit guide week 2 update

Source: Ornella Binni via Unsplash

Howdy y’all! It’s time for my Grace Fit Guide or GF8WG update!

The second week really has flown by but I’ve managed to stick to the five workouts a week and follow the programme like the annoying teacher’s pet I am. I wanted to upload some actual pictures of my body, but I recently moved apartments and everything has been chaotic this week so I just haven’t got round to it. I promise I will get some decent photos for my three week update.

If you read my previous blog, you’ll know that the workouts are the same for the first 4 weeks, then they change to a new one. So, for the last week I have still been getting to grips with the first set of workout still. You can familiarise yourself with the plan here.

Continue Reading