Category Archives: Health/Fitness/Sport

10 Essential Oils To Help You Sleep

Have you noticed that cats have the ability to sleep anywhere at any time? Sleep is critical to our physical health and the effective function of our immune system. COVID-19 has made a severe impact – a lot of people are finding it hard to sleep let alone getting the quality sleep that they need. According to a recent national sleep survey by The Sleep Council, 75% of people surveyed said that the current situation is affecting their sleep patterns; 77% said that the lack of sleep is interfering with their daytime functionality – they are experiencing daytime fatigue, poor concentration and low mood. The survey also found that women find it harder to fall asleep than men.

I must admit, I don’t have any trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep – even if I wake up in the night to use the toilet, I can fall back to sleep again relatively quickly. My husband is the complete opposite, though. So, what can you do to try and help get to sleep – a cool bedroom, a hot milky bedtime drink, reading a book, listening to an audiobook, listening to an app of calming sounds, listening to the radio, soft chilled music, darkened room, blackout curtains, hot bath before bed, sleeping tablets ….. there are various ideas you can try.

Essential oils, like any other medicine, can have a powerful effect and can chemically alter the body. There are many oils to help aid relaxation, help induce sleep naturally and safely without the side-effects of medication. Aromatherapy specialists, Base Formula, have compiled a list of their top 10 recommended essential oils that are known to help aid sleep and to ease stress:

  • VALERIAN ROOT ☑️ Top choice for a restful night’s sleep because it has calming, tranquilising properties. ✖️It has a distinct, pungent aroma which might put you off!
  • CLARY SAGE ☑️ Powerful relaxant. ☑️ Particularly good for stress related problems ✖️ Do not use if you have consumed alcohol ✖️ Do not use if you are pregnant.
Clary Sage & Lavender Essential Oil. © Studio Forty Seven
  • ROMAN CHAMOMILE. ☑️ Soothing and calming both physically and mentally. ☑️ Anti-depressant. ☑️ Particularly good if you are nervous or stressed.
  • SANDALWOOD ☑️ Meditative qualities that help to quieten and sedate the mind.
  • VETIVERT ☑️ Deeply relaxing. ☑️ Known as the oil of tranquility ☑️ Is an immuno-stimulant so it helps in combatting stress without becoming ill.
Lavender Lovelliness © Border In A Box. www.borderinabox.com
  • LAVENDER ☑️ Calming, anti- depressant – commonly used to aid sleep.
  • PATCHOULI ☑️ Soothing ☑️ Slightly hypnotic effect ☑️ Calms an over active mind.
  • FRANKINCENSE ☑️ Deeply calming & uplifting ☑️ Traditionally used as an incense
Gumleaf Essentials Frankincense Essential Oil © Buckley And Phillips
  • GERANIUM ☑️ Has anti-depressant, uplifting qualities ✖️Avoid use during pregnancy
  • YLANG YLANG ☑️ Soothing & uplifting ☑️ Particularly good for anger, shock, fear and anxiety. ☑️ Can help to slow over-rapid breathing and easing heart palpitations.

HOW TO USE THE ESSENTIAL OILS

  • In the bath
  • Massage
  • Aromatherapy Diffuser
  • Candles
  • Pillow spritz
  • Steam Inhalation
  • Cotton pad or tissue with a couple of drops of lavender & frankincense, placed inside your pillowcase.
For Pinning Later

FOR ESSENTIAL OILS & FURTHER INFORMATION

http://www.baseformula.com

http://www.buckleyandphillips.com

http://www.studiofortyseven.co.uk

Linda x

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AN Interview With Marlene Watson-Tara

Continuing on my healthy living theme this month, this week I’m chatting to Marlene Watson-Tara – author of “Go Vegan”, co-founder of the “Human Ecology Project”, Health councillor, teacher and expert in the field of plant-based nutrition. It was Marlene’s book “Go Vegan” that was the inspiration for my potato dish blogpost recently (view HERE). So, it is with great excitement that I welcome Marlene onto my blog….hi Marlene!

Hi! I’m Marlene, a long-time vegan, activist, lover of animals, nature and life and passionate about human ecology. As an eternal optimist, increasing the number of people worldwide to switch to a wholefood plant-based diet and vegan life is my mission. Together with my husband Bill Tara, we have created The Human Ecology Project. 

As a high profiled and dedicated health counsellor and teacher with over 40 years’ experience in the health industry, my dietary advice draws from the fields of Macrobiotic Nutrition, my studies in Traditional Chinese Medicine and my certification in Plant- Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.

My clients range from the movies and arts to members of royal families. In the last 10 years I have been teaching chefs the art and skill of wholefood plant-based cooking and nutrition. As a regular columnist for many health magazines and websites I share my knowledge on living healthily. My vast experience informs a body of knowledge that I eagerly share with the world.

As the international author of Macrobiotics for all Seasons and my latest book Go Vegan  I share information that is simple, direct and effective, along with delicious recipes and medicinal teas. I teach alongside my husband Bill Tara. We have graduates from our “Macrobiotic Vegan Health Coach Programme” in 27 countries. I’m a driving force for health and fitness to all who cross her path. Our “Ultimate Health Experience” workshops have been offered in Europe, America, and Australia

My favourite saying – “If you don’t look after your body, then where are you going to live?”

Being a long time vegan, what inspired you to embrace the vegan lifestyle?

On school holidays my family would go to the countryside and it always seemed such a sad time when all the lambs were taken from the fields and loaded onto trucks.  As I grew into my teens, I had health issues with skin, digestion and menstrual pain. As I wouldn’t eat meat, I ate mostly dairy.  When I changed my diet to completely plant-based all these health issues disappeared.  When you connect the dots with diet and the development of disease, there is no turning back. When you look behind the curtain to the scale of what happens globally to our animal kingdom you cannot pretend to not know what is there. 


As you are an author of “Macrobiotic For All Seasons” and “Go Vegan”, surely you must have a favourite tried and tested recipe?  Do you prefer cooking “main meals”, desserts or are you a baker?

I find it exciting to create new recipes and train chefs and home cooks utilizing my seasonal menus and cooking skills, using the five tastes. My favourite creations are soups, I live and love them daily. From my delicious creamy decadence soups to the bean comforting cozy stews, soup is a daily staple in our home.

Food historians tell us the history of soup is probably as old as the history of cooking. The act of combining various ingredients in a pot to create a nutritious, filling, simple to make meal was inevitable. Healthy and healing soups are part of the cooking traditions in every country.

I always try and prepare my soup from fresh, organic, in season, and ideally local ingredients. Whether your ingredients are coming freshly grown from your own garden or you’ve bought them directly from the farmers’ market, making the connection between the food you eat, and your local environment is important. The food we eat is part of our cultural identity. Eating local foods helps produce a more resilient and sustainable future, both for yourself and for future generations.

Recently in my local supermarket there has been a promotional “push” towards plant-based meals. As you are an expert in the field of plant-based nutrition, what do you feel are the main benefits to follow a vegan/plant-based diet?

Thankfully, the popularity of plant-based diets has grown, which makes this an easier era than ever to start. Can I Get Enough Nutrients on a Plant-Based Diet? This is always the number one question that I am asked. Yes, and it’s easier than you’d think to consume these essential nutrients. You just need to know where to get them. For example, Omega-3 fatty acids often come from animal-based sources like fish. However, you can also get an ample supply from hemp seeds, flax, chia, and walnuts. It’s merely about understanding the alternative ways to get the nutrition you need.

Plant-based/vegan diets have been linked to a number of health benefits, including reducing your risk of heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, diabetes and cognitive decline. Plus, transitioning to a more plant-based diet is an excellent choice for the planet and will end the death and suffering of our animal kingdom. Two billion animals are slaughtered daily for food. There is no need, we receive all the nutrients we require from plants. At the end of the day, the largest and strongest animals in the world are vegan, giraffes, elephants etc., they get their nutrients from the same source we as vegans do… from the plants.

Having received a copy of “Go Vegan”, I was impressed by the range of recipes – the ingredients were not too daunting or difficult to obtain; the cooking instructions were easy to follow; and the glossary was a godsend especially when I came across an ingredient I had never heard of. Was it difficult to put together suitable recipes that lived up to your ethos?  

Eating from my ethos is simple and doable for everyone. 95% of what constitutes my approach is obtainable from most supermarkets. Grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. Foods like miso, tofu, and even some dried sea vegetables are now available in supermarkets. This makes my heart sing to see this growth year on year. One or two of the condiments I use are available from natural food stores or online. My teaching of plant-based/vegan nutrition is based on my teachings of Macrobiotics, a wonderful philosophy that teaches us that everything is connected, animal, plant, human, environment.  When I create and cook all of these considerations are always there. 


As you are currently based in the UK, is “Go Vegan” available to purchase worldwide? 

Yes, Go Vegan is available world-wide on amazon. U.K. and US 

You currently teach alongside your husband, Bill Tara, your MACROVegan Health Coach Programme.  Sounds intriguing. In a nutshell, what does that involve? 

We now have students who have travelled from 27 countries to study and graduate as a MACROVegan Health Coach. We see this as switching on lighthouses around the world. We now have students studying with us online which is fantastic. Our students leave as proficient and amazing cooks as well as wonderful health coaches. It makes our heart sing as more and more graduate and teach this work.

MACROVegan Health Coach Course

The dramatic rise in degenerative disease attributed to diet and lifestyle has created a demand for solutions to disease prevention and personal health maintenance. What is called for is a new generation of men and women who are capable of offering practical advice on how to live a healthy life in modern society. 

During the two weeks of study you will have the opportunity to learn the techniques of effective Health Coaching and experience the power of healthy living. You will leave prepared to be a more effective promoter of natural health care and set up practice as a Professional Macrobiotic Health Coach.    

The Macrobiotic Vegan Health Coach curriculum has been designed by Bill Tara, co-founder of the Kushi Institute, creator of the International Macrobiotic Institute (Kiental, Switzerland) curriculum and designer of the American and European Kushi Institute Teacher Certification Programmes along with his wife Marlene Watson-Tara who is certified in Plant Based Nutrition. 

This is a rare opportunity to study with teachers who are expert consultants and draw on decades of practical experience. Macrobiotic philosophy serves as the foundation of these studies and provides the link between the disciplines and life skills we will explore together.  This course also offers additional tools to enhance professional or Para-professional skills in both the orthodox or complimentary health and healing arts.

The Modules

Health, Healing and Human Ecology

Health and Emotion / East and West

Traditions of Nutrition

Wholefoods Plant Based Cooking & Home Remedies

Health Assessment

Principles and Practice of Health Coaching

When you are not working, what activities do you enjoy, to relax and unwind? 

I adore growing my own vegetables, and love being in nature. I am an avid and longtime yogi, (my daily practice keeps me in check) and miss teaching yoga, one day, I will have my own studio again. I adore cycling with Bill and of course, reading and writing, and I am currently working on my next book.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I live in yoga gear… always cycling, doing yoga, or working at my desk here so casual and comfort works for me. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?  

Yes, I love https://bambooclothing.co.uk

I always purchase clothing using cotton, hemp, linen, etc., More and more companies offer these wonderful alternatives for vegan and ethical clothing. I love Matt & Nat for more dress shoes and bags and Wills London for my backpack and casual shoes and have boots from both of them. 

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

A new Ciao Bella – I adore feminine frilly dresses on the search. My next pair of yoga toe sandals from Supplefeet are on the list. They are fantastic, I have worn them for years and they keep your fee in great shape. 

Boots or Shoes? 

I love my chunky rubber sole sneakers, they look great with jeans, yoga gear, shorts and casual dresses. They are my first choice daily for comfort.

My Chelsea boots are my second choice…they are so versatile and can be worn in all seasons.

For pinning later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter/ instagram etc so that readers can find out more about you and Go Vegan.

Website, Instagram, facebook, you tube, linked In, twitter, 

www.macrovegan.org

https://www.instagram.com/macroveganinternational/

https://facebook.com/marlenewatsontaragovegan/

https://www.youtube.com/user/Molly19571/videos?view=0&sort=p&flow=grid&disable_polymer=true

https://www.linkedin.com/feed/

Thanks Marlene for an interesting chat and you have given me and my readers “food for thought”.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Marlene Watson-Tara

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An Interview With Dean Hodgkin

Keeping your body fit and healthy during lockdown … and for life beyond, is paramount. It’s difficult though and many of us need help to practice social distancing from the fridge, from the wine bottles and from the biscuit barrel. For tips and advice on keeping our bodies fit and healthy and to help us develop an understanding on how to maintain that fitness, I was lucky enough to chat to Dean Hodgkin – Head of Programming on TV Fit, fitness expert, karate champion, writer and speaker. Hi Dean!

Hi! I’m Dean Hodgkin, a veteran of the fitness industry with over 30 years on the clock and with varied experience that includes working in spas, premium health clubs, budget gyms, leisure centres and more recently boutique studios. I’ve co-authoured 2 fitness books written a large number of magazine and newspaper articles and I’ve also appeared in a number of broadcast formats as a health and fitness expert.

You’ve appeared at fitness events in 36 countries and collected the Best International Fitness Presenter at The One Body One World in New York, the ECA International Career Achievement Recognition Award, also in the US, in addition to the Lifetime Achievement award at Europe’s largest group fitness event, the International Fitness Showcase. On top of this you were also 3 times World and 2 times European karate champion so what triggered your love of sport and keeping fit? 

That’s a great question as I’m not sure I’ve ever really analysed my odyssey before! My Father was a semi-pro footballer so when I was very young I would spend every Saturday standing on the touchline, come rain or shine. My elder brother was also a particularly good player so naturally, I followed suit, becoming captain of my school team. There was a brief heartbreak when my Mother forced me to attend the best grammar school in our area – where they didn’t play soccer! However, I threw myself into rugby, again becoming team captain and realised the specific discipline was irrelevant…….I just loved participating in any sport. Like many kids in the 70s, when the Bruce Lee movies hit the cinemas, I was desperate to try martial arts. At first I was too young to join the local karate club so started my journey with judo but transferred as soon as I was allowed. I became absolutely immersed, training in every spare moment and perhaps as a result of such, I became quite proficient. When it became clear that I could actually achieve something through fighting, I began to get involved in fitness training, realising it would help me to perform better, although in those days it was simply running, basic calisthenics and stretching.


Have you always wanted a career in fitness or did your aspirations lie elsewhere?

When I graduated from university in the mid-80’s, the fitness industry in the UK was in a nascent state, concepts and experiences were only just drifting over from the US, so I didn’t view it as a career choice, particularly as fitness training was just something I did for fun. Additionally, having studied mathematics and management studies, my intention was to go into investment banking in the City of London. However, at the time I had already been selected for the British under-21 karate team but realised that to progress to senior level, I’d need to put in some serious graft so I negotiated a ‘gap year’ with my parents, allowing me to put finding a job on hold and instead to train full-time. This 1 year actually turned into 3, during which I spent so much of my time in sports centres and gyms that it occurred to me it would be great if I could combine my choice of vocation with my love of physical activity and so I enrolled on a fitness trainer course and progressed from there.



In your capacity as  Head of Programming on TV Fit ….What would you say are the most popular genre/programmes/classes?

This is a great question as the answer is actually 2 dimensional. In terms of the market, resistance training and high intensity interval training are leading the pack, hence our results-guaranteed STRONGER and LIMITLESS programmes an incredible numb of views. As an individual, however, the most popular workouts are the one’s you’ll actually do so pick what you enjoy, rather than those everyone else seems to be doing, as then you’re much more likely to adhere to it and see the results you desire. Working out shouldn’t feel like a chore, so try many different classes to find your flavour. Remember, exercise isn’t something you do TO your body – it’s something you do FOR your body, so enjoy it.

Which genre/programme/classes is your personal favourite?

Whilst, for obvious reasons, I love STRIKE, I honestly have no favourite so you’re just as likely to find me dancing or lifting weights as shadow-boxing or trying to fold myself into a downward dog. I truly love the freedom of movement exercise brings and enjoy exploring my body through the different physical challenges involved.

Must admit, when exercising, I hate doing “burpees” … even more than push ups!! Which exercise do you dislike the most?

I’m totally with you on that one – I’m pretty sure that a straw poll would result in near unanimous agreement!

Being in lockdown, keeping your body and mind fit and healthy is a must. Any top tips?

Due to the reduced amount of walking within our daily routines, the inability to play sport or go to the gym, the potential stress related to being cooped up with others or perhaps anxiety about future job prospects, I’d argue that exercise has never been more valuable. In addition to burning calories (helping to balance out the extra trips we might be making to the fridge!) the positive impact on mental health has been proven in an abundance of scientific research studies.What’s more, there are huge mood-uplifting benefits of exercising outdoors, something the Government recognised in the lockdown guidance by allowing us to venture outside once each day, so it’s vital to optimise this modicum of temporary freedom. If you’re a runner, fine but if you’re just beginning your fitness journey our SWEATCOIN WALK was created specifically for you, providing a personal trainer in your ear for motivation and visual tips to perfect your technique.Just in case you need further convincing, the father of medicine, Hippocrates, is quoted as declaring, ‘Walking is man’s best medicine’……..and he knew a thing or two about how to stay healthy in both mind and body!

What has been the most unusual Fitness class/ genre you’ve come across?

To be honest, there are way too many to mention! Dog Yoga and Naked Yoga have to be right up there and I still need to be convinced of the value of Napercise. Others include Voga (yep, that’s yoga with a few Madonna shapes thrown in) Kangoofit (bouncing around on boots with springs) Mermaid Fitness (wearing 1 huge flipper) Crowd Surf Ready (for lifters and liftees) High Intensity Interval Painting (sweat then paint then sweat then paint….) etc, etc, etc!


Being a world champion at karate, I can take it that that must be one of, if not your favourite sport. Are there any other sports you take part in or enjoy watching?

I’m a complete sportaholic and regularly achieve nothing of any significance at weekends due to camping out in front of the TV, so the lockdown live sport ban has left me totally disorientated on Saturdays and Sundays. Favourites are rugby, soccer, basketball, MMA, american football, tennis and athletics.

I love shows like Strictly Come Dancing – I especially love watching the Argentine Tango! Hypothetically speaking, if you were to take part, which dance style would you love to try?

I’m also a Strictly addict, primarily as I appreciate the amount of training they put in and the incredible improvement in their performance level through the course of the series. I also watch in wonder at the pros who are so athletic and appear to be excellent at every discipline. I’d love to learn the more technical dances but fear I’d only have a chance of mastering the jive due to it clearly being a fast and very physical challenge for which I hope my years of fitness training have prepared me.

Personal now, what outfits/footwear would you normally wear?

Over the years I have been very fortunate to have been, at different times, sponsored by Nike, Reebok and Puma but now I’m a total brand whore – I’ll purchase and wear whatever takes my fancy.

Boots Or Shoes?

For fitness – high tops for lifting and basketball, lows for dancing and HIIT, barefoot for combat and yoga. Out of the gym, boots in winter and flip-flops for as long as the weather allows.

For pinning later



Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can learn more about you

www.deanhodgkin.com
https://www.facebook.com/dean.hodgkin.7
https://www.instagram.com/deanhodgkin/

Hmm.. Voga sounds fun but Naked Yoga sounds pretty embarrassing , unless you’re doing it on your own! Ha ha! Thanks for chatting with me Dean – I particularly liked your advice regarding picking a workout that you enjoy rather than one that is trendy and you are doing it “just because”.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Dean Hodgkin

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Spotlight On Apocalypse Survival Training

During lockdown, or indeed just keeping fit, there are a plethora of online classes, apps, videos and ideas just waiting for you to explore. Going for a run or a jog? Plug in your headphones and listen to the music as you achieve your 10,000 steps. BUT WAIT. Are you craving for a totally different way to keep fit? I think I’ve found what you’re looking for – Apocalypse Survival Training. This is a story based fitness app created by London based fitness trainer Adele Andersen. Using the app, you can immerse yourself into a different world, a world where you are a secret agent trying to save London from an alien invasion whilst all the time getting fit to with running, circuits and yoga workouts. Sound intriguing? I thought so too, so after doing a quick spin of saving London, I had a chat with Adele to find out more… Hi Adele!

Hi I’m Adele Andersen, creator of Apocalypse Survival Training. I’m an Aussie who came to the UK 14 years years ago but somehow never quite made it back home. I’ve been working as a fitness instructor for 11 years and run a west London bootcamp. I live in Acton with my metal singer/music producer husband Rasmus and our three cats. 

What inspired you to create the story based fitness app, Apocalypse Survival Training?

7 years ago I was doing a lot of script writing and had just had a radio play performed at a Discworld fan event, Hogswatch (essentially the Christmas celebration of Terry Pratchett’s novel series). In a conversation after in the pub, a group of friends were complaining about how boring exercising is but how they wished they could be fit like I was, which came around to the question of what would make exercising fun for them – an entertainment factor – and whether I could combine my fitness coaching with my writing to make story based workouts which people would want to keep going with, to find out what happened next in the story. It’s been a looooong process from that night to now! 

Have you always wanted a career in fitness or did your aspirations lie elsewhere?

Absolutely not! Never even stepped inside a gym before I came to London! I only ever wanted to be a Grand Prix dressage rider and write fantasy novels. Tragically, I was not a particularly gifted rider and feel like I will never be able to afford horses again 😭 I’m finally finishing my first novel though! 
I started on horse yards in the UK but quickly ran out of money and ended up in London looking for a job. I started working at Sky in the winter, where I left and got back home in the dark and cold, and had no natural physical labour to do anymore. The office had a lunch gym group so I went along for a Body Pump class, which I liked, and then a Body Combat class, which I adored. I ended up in the gym a lot – I’m pretty high energy and not well suited to a desk job – so when the financial crash of 2008 froze hiring, one of my best friends suggested I train as a group fitness instructor to at least be paid for the many hours I was taking part in group exercise classes. It was loosely intended as a 3 year plan, but it turned out to be something I’m really good at. The first job I’d ever had that I was naturally good at. I qualified in 2009 and am still teaching – and loving it – 11 years later! 

In your capacity as a fitness trainer, what type of fitness training or exercises are most popular with the classes that you have taught?

Broadly speaking, exercise to music. There’s true magic in exercise choreographed to music because the music is a driver but also an amazing emotional connector, and so people work harder but experience genuine enjoyment while working out, which makes them more likely to keep exercising. 

Have you always wanted a career in fitness or did your aspirations lie elsewhere?

I only teach classes I am truly passionate about and so can deliver with heart and soul. Body Combat is my absolute favourite, it’s an incredibly exhilarating class and the reason I have a career in fitness. I also love Body Pump and Body Balance, which have big performance elements on my part, and then my own freestyle HIIT cycle and a complete switch to my outdoor bootcamp, which is community driven, social and requires very creative planning to keep it super interactive for members. 
I love exercises and movements that use the whole body – never ever got the hang of machines. The feeling of moving your own bodyweight around is incredible, and that feeling of having worked all over at the end of a session is the best. 

Must admit, when exercising, I hate doing “burpees” … even more than push ups!! Which exercise do you dislike the most? 

Well the one that’s beating me hard at the moment is pull ups. I’ve had a few years of issues with my right arm which stopped me being able to pull my bodyweight, but in lockdown Ras has challenged me to do his workouts, and those rings are just kicking my ass! Anything I hate though I know is an opportunity to push my comfort zone and I love the feeling of conquering a problem though, so I’ll keep hanging off them and swearing through negatives until I’m able to pull properly again!

Back to the app, how difficult was it to organise the sound effects, storyline and to choreograph the exercises to create the effect that you wanted to create? 

Just after we recorded the original test episode, Hardman’s Army, I met Ras, who is a singer, composer and audio producer. I dated and then married my audio producer! That made life a LOT easier 😉
We got lucky with a recommendation from a friend to Adam Hay, a BAFTA award winning game sound designer, who did the sound effects on Part 1. I sent him scripts, he sent me back amazing sounds, and Ras mixed those in with the dialogue and music (which is SUPER complicated). 
The storyline took ages, and I actually rewrote episode 1 about a dozen times. We recorded and edited two or three versions before the one on the app, and it’s still the episode I wince the most about. The storyline itself came out of a throwaway line from Hardman’s Army about a city being completely destroyed by aliens – that was the obvious place to start (although it took a friend to point that out to me!). Finding a story frame that allowed us to put in the Strength and Control episodes with the Speed episodes, in a reasonably natural way, was also very challenging. 
The Control (yoga/stretch) episodes were the hardest. I think I wrote 4 full scripts and we definitely recorded and edited that three times to get to what’s on the app. I had to keep simplifying and simplifying, because the app is primarily an audio experience and so it’s essential that anyone could follow the exercises, largely by audio cue only (there’s also a player screen on the app for visual reference). 
Now that I’m making TALON: Lockdown, a video based workout series as a leader to the app, I’m having a ball because they are visual workouts, so I can work so much more with the music! My only worry with Lockdown is that people who come to the app from the video workouts might prefer the video workouts (even though the app story, audio design and characterisation is far superior – plus you’re the main character of the app, and only implicitly present in the video workouts). 

Having downloaded the app & tried it out myself ( the running part at any rate) I was impressed by the clear instructions in my ear. It certainly made it a different experience than running with music in the background. What other workout options are on the app and what levels of fitness do you cover?

The story progresses episodically over three types of workout, what we term Speed, Strength and Control. This means episode 1 is a running workout, 2 is a bodyweight circuit workout, 3 is a yoga stretch workout and then 4 is back to running, and so on. 
The Strength and Control episodes have Intro and Advanced options to select at the start, which determines which level of each exercise is shown to you on the player. Then, within the story, we have characters of different abilities, who are all taught to. This is exactly the same as a group exercise class, where I need to coach to the super fit 20 year old and then the middle aged person who hasn’t exercised in 10 years. But we can do that through character, within the story, which is super fun. The hope is that most users will find themselves recognisably represented by one of the characters, and will follow the coaching directed to them. 
While the episodes are of fixed duration (as they’re essentially radio plays), meaning the workouts are all around 30 mins length, your ‘handler’, Skyler, who is like your best friend and personal cheerleader, spends a lot of time assuring you that you only need to do what you can, and assuring you that it’s ok to take breaks. I can DIE doing the circuit episodes by pushing very hard,  but also people who are not fit can get through them by pacing themselves. That’s the convenience of programming to time intervals – everyone can work their own pace within that time. 

Why did you specifically pick an apocalypse survival story as your app? What came first – the idea for the story or the workouts for a story to fit around?

Hardman’s Army, a test episode to see if I could write a fitness audio drama, came first. It was a circuit workout in the story frame of the whole world has been sent to the army to be trained for an alien invasion, and most people don’t want to be there (which made the characters sympathetic to users who don’t like exercising – everything they would be thinking, a character was actually saying!). That tested really well. 
Then I wanted to test a concept: that multiple types of exercise could be put to story. At that time, Zombies, Run! was starting to gain traction, but it was only running. So I didn’t really want to do running, BUT I needed a vivid plot/concept, and people ‘got’ the idea of story based running better than say story based circuits! 
I did a request on my Facebook for gripping titles – AST was actually called ‘Catalyst’ right up through the first video we shot for the kickstarter, at which point a friend Dig rang me and was like ‘Adele, you have to fix the name.’ There were dozens and dozens of comments and we ended up crowd sourcing the title Apocalypse Survival Training. I mean, it’s vivid, right? And the story was built around this challenge of incorporating 3 types of workout: running, bodyweight strength, and flexibility. We termed it as ‘giving you the speed, strength and control you need to get Apocalypse Ready!’ which was fun.

As you are based in London, is your app available to download worldwide, iOS & Android?  

Yes, world wide, although the dialogue with its many accents I think would be very difficult to follow to people who are not native English speakers. Everyone said do iOS first, one of my mentors had an Android phone and I really wanted to be able to make the kickstarter for everyone, so committed to doing both. HUGE mistake, which we’re still paying for! I would now also advise anyone else to do iOS native first. 

Personal now, what outfits/footwear would you normally wear?

Leggings, EVERYWHERE. I’m so lazy. I have one or two fav tops at a time and they’re all I wear when I can. Because almost every day involves teaching, I’m usually in my sports gear from the morning, save changing later. I work from home or cafes in the area, there’s no office or dress code so convenience and comfort are the name of the game! 

Boots Or Shoes?

Boots – or trainers! Boots look better with leggings than any shoe other than sneakers 😉 

For pinning later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can learn more about Apocalypse Survival Training

ANDROID app: http://bit.ly/2wCsy9ziOS app: https://apple.co/31fgzg4Promo Video: https://youtu.be/hyUqsP-3bo8Web: https://www.apocalypsesurvivaltraining.com/Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/apcocalypsesurvivaltraining/Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/a.s.t_fitness_app/TALON: Lockdown Ep 1: https://bit.ly/TALONep1

Many thanks for the interview Adele. I hope Adele’s app has given you, dear readers, the encouragement to get up and train, apocalyptic style!

Linda x

Photographs by Richard Wakefield and Sean Kelly, published with kind permission of Adele Andersen.

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An Interview With Tot Knots Of Brighton

Tot Knots of Brighton specialise in turban hats, headscarves, tot knots and headbands made exclusively with Liberty of London fabrics. Owners Katie and Susan, wanted to promote their beautiful headbands from a completely different angle – as a great stylish addition to gym/sportswear. Gifted with a lovely multicolour graphic Liberty of London headband, my friend Tracy and I put the headband through its paces as part of our gym gear and took it for a run, walk, aerobic exercise, yoga and Pilates… here are our results…

Disclosure: I was gifted the “Multicolour Graphic Liberty of London Headband” in exchange for an honest review; all opinions expressed are entirely my ownand Tracy’s imput too!

Photo by Linda Hobden

REVIEW

THE WEBSITE: Lovely site full of lovely looking headbands, turbans, headscarves for both adults and children in a variety of colours and Liberty of London prints. From a gym/sports point of view : if you like to be colour coordinated, then I’m sure you’ll find a headband to match. The headbands are virtually bespoke – the headband needs to fit as snug as possible, especially when doing exercise – there is an easy to follow measuring guide on the website.

Photo courtesy of Tot Knots of Brighton

DELIVERY: Nice packaging. The headband print and colour matched the description on the website. It was silky and soft to touch. You can see at a glance that an awful lot of love, care and attention had been put into the making of the headband. There was a guide enclosed if the headband needed to be altered further – my headband was spot on. Very impressed. Taking it for a yoga and Pilates spin, the headband was soft to wear. My score: 8/10

Photo by Linda Hobden

Taking the headband for its energetic spin, my friend Tracy put it through its paces with a high powered walk, running and an energetic aerobic session ! Tracy ‘s opinion was that the headband looked good and was fine with the high powered walking, yoga and Pilates sessions; however, it was slightly too bulky, as it gets very sweaty, when it came to running and the aerobics sessions. During an energetic workout, the silky headband struggled to stay put – soon remedied with some clips though. Tracy’s score: for sports wear 3/10 ; for general use, as it looks good & is comfortable 8/10

So, who are Tot Knots of Brighton? I caught up with Susan & Katie to find out more… welcome ladies 😊

Hello. We are a mother (Susan) and daughter (Katie) team creating accessories and beautiful handmade headbands, hair ties, turbans and eye masks for little and grown up people. We specialise in Liberty prints and luxury, natural fabrics, perfect for delicate skin. I (Katie) recently left my role as Picture Editor on a UK national magazine to fully focus on Tot Knots and my family.

What inspired you to set up “Tot Knots of Brighton”? 

We were on holiday together with my little girls and were struggling to keep summer hats on their heads – especially as my littlest had cradle cap – so my clever Mum fashioned a turban headscarf al la land girls 1940s out of a handkerchief and e voila it worked! – not only did it stay on but they loved wearing them and got loads of attention from everyone we met.  So when we got back home we decided to develop this further and create our first kids readymade turban and see if there was a market for them – and there was
.

Your products are created using the beautiful Liberty of London fabrics, lined with 100% cotton or 100% silk. What do you like most about using Liberty of London fabrics?

Liberty fabrics are iconic and synonymous with quality and design – and, in fact, my mum has been working with them since the 70s. She used to make smocked dresses for us and private clients in the 80s. Tana Lawn is still believed to be the best cotton on the market, and it is exclusively produced for Liberty.  It is so lovely to work with and feels beautiful to the touch, and one of the best parts of the job is being able to handpick from a huge range of beautiful colours and prints for each of our collections.. For us it is really important that we only use the highest quality fabrics we can find – be it silks / velvets / cottons and wools to give our loyal customers the best quality products we can.


I personally love the multicolour graphic print that you kindly sent to me to review  –  and I love the new season Yellow D’anjo Floral design too. What items & prints are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season? 

We love the Merchant graphic we gave you and think that is going to be a big hit for us this season too.  The red and white Marco is proving to be our best seller – as it seems to bridge lots of seasons, but we’ve had an overwhelming response to our first summertime preview – in the yellow floral D’anjo – so we have high hopes for the new collection which is going to be fully released on 1st May.   

Out of all your pieces, do you have any favourites? 

We love the twisted turban headbands as they are really vertisile  – can be worn to dress up an outfit, rectify a bad hair day – great on holiday sunbathing on the beach, or keeping your hair back during a work out.  There is no occasion it can’t be of some practical and stylistic use! They are classic and timeless and seem to suit all ages really well.
 
You currently offer a wide range of products including turban hats, headscarves, headbands – for adults & children alike. Have you got any new products in the pipeline?

Our summertime collection is going to launch on 1st May with a host of beautiful new prints.  We are very excited to be launching our ultimate luxury silk turban collection this month (date TBC) – this is going to be a very exclusive and limited edition using Liberty printed silk and silk crepe instead of Tana lawn, for the ultimate in luxury. 

As you are based in England, are your products available to purchase overseas?

Yes, we ship worldwide.  Mostly to the USA, but also to Australia and we are very popular in Europe.
 
When choosing print designs/colours to add to your collection, do you take into account your own tastes, your customer base, current fashion trends, requests, traditional charm, colour or bits of all those?  

Bit of all of those – it is quite an instinctive process – when we see a print we absolutely love it’s hard not go for it. 

Have you got any advice on how to keep your turban/headband in tip top condition? 

We recommend dry cleaning or handwash carefully in tepid water, with a very gentle silk / wool wash detergent but our top tip to give any of our products a refresh is to get the iron out and gently press them back to their beautiful crisp cotton, boxfresh-ness!

Have you always wanted to pursue a career in sewing/ craftwork/ textiles?

Yes it’s been part of Susan’s world since the swinging 60s when making clothes for herself and friends she realised she not only had a passion but a real talent for it – handed down by her own mum.  For as long as I remember there has been a family ‘cottage’ industry of sewing and handcrafts.  Being creative has always been part of our family life. 

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I (Susan) have quite a modern classic style – slip on pumps, cut off trousers, and a cashmere or cotton knit top suits me just fine!I (Katie) love denim of all kinds – it’s so versatile and great teamed up with a plain, crisp, white shirt, big statement earrings and topped off with a tot knot twisted headband or Alice band for a splash of colour!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? (Apart from your own!)

Susan loves Bimba and Lola, Pure, Paige Jeans, and loves a designer bargain.Katie loves Cos for classic basics and great cuts, Top Shop Moto jeans are affordable and fit  well, Whistles and Sezane for something a little extra special 13.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Susan –  Another Missoni dress (preferably in the sale!)Katie – I am always on the hunt for a pair of denim dungarees! I love Rockthejumpsuit.com and one day I will buy a pair of Chloe Susannah boots (crossing fingers!)

Boots or Shoes?

Boots – total comfort and work all year round not just for winter but look great with summer dresses and a good denim or leather jacket.
 

For Pinning Later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about Tot Knots of Brighton

https://totknotsofbrighton.com/
Summertime collection goes fully live  on 1st May: https://totknotsofbrighton.com/collections/summertime

Thank you both for the headband and for chatting to us today about your lovely headbands & turbans. The material, products and prints are exquisite. I remember walking through Liberty store in London in the 1980s, a treasure trove of textiles! I adored the place.

Linda x

My thanks to Tracy Cook for reviewing the headband on my behalf.

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Tot Knots of Brighton, Tracy Cook and Linda Hobden.

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Spotlight On Workout Shoes

If you are looking for a pair of trainers (sneakers), there are so many styles, brands, soles, prices, those that are dull looking and those that are very bright; that choosing a pair can be quite daunting. It really isn’t as simple as it seems. Trainers are made in different ways and styles according to what they are used for – and it is important too to differentiate between a workout/gym shoe and a running shoe. Although both are similar in design and style, the running shoe has been made to support forward movements and are generally more cushioned to absorb the shock from each footfall; the workout shoe/cross trainer is designed for the gym and is sturdy enough to withstand an intense bout of high intensity interval training. There are Workout Shoes for those who want to do weightlifting; some cross-trainers have the capability to accommodate short distance running, weight training, cycling, HIIT; others are more lightweight and have been created for indoor/studio use eg dance, cardio, aerobics. Don’t pick a workout shoe designed for weightlifting if your normal workouts involve jumping jacks and sprints.

The price of the trainers differ greatly. I came across an interesting study conducted by Nick Rizzo, Fitness Research Director at RunRepeat, the largest athletic footwear review company in the world. Nick is an elite level power lifter too, so he knows his stuff! Nick published a new study analysing 323,776 reviews and prices of 336 workout shoes representing 20 different brands. What I was amazed at was that one of the key findings indicated that the cheaper a workout shoe, the higher the ratings and user satisfaction. The top 10 most expensive workout shoes cost 183.05% more and have a 2.3% lower rating on average than the cheapest workout shoes. I was pleased that my favourite brand, Skechers rated highly; my teenage sons and husband wear Nike and Asics, which scored favourably too. To read Nick’s full report: https://RunRepeat.com/affordable-workout-shoes-better

Copyright ©Nick Rizzo, RunRepeat

According to Nick’s study:

3 Worst Workout Brands: Merrell; Vivobarefoot; The North Face

3 Best Workout Brands: NoBull; Skechers; Jordan

3 Cheapest Workout Brands: Avia; Skechers; Ryka

3 Most Expensive Workout Brands: Vivobarefoot; NoBull; Inov-8

Copyright ©Nick Rizzo, RunRepeat.com

So having sorted out the brand in the price bracket you’re happy with, what should you look for in a workout shoe?

  1. Think about your workout/gym routine. Look for a workout shoe designed for the purpose – weightlifting, cross training, aerobics, Pilates….
  2. Comfort. Workout shoes are supposed to feel comfortable and sturdy as soon as you put them on. Unlike normal shoes, there shouldn’t be a breaking in period …. Firm cushioning rather than soft to provide a stable base.
  3. Support. The workout shoe should be able to provide a complete foot support – especially solid support in the side panels and heels. A supportive ankle bar is a necessity for during sprints and interval training.
  4. Fit Well. Too loose can hinder performance and can even cause accidents. The shoe should have a secure lacing system, a padded tongue and collar.
  5. Breathable.
  6. Sole. A good workout trainer should have a relatively flat sole, especially at the heel where it should also be wide. For indoor/studio use, a smooth rubber outsole with minimal or no treads is ideal.
Copyright ©Linda Hobden. For Pinning Later

Your workout shoe should also be durable. How long your shoe lasts does depend on how often you use them, but with a bit of due care and attention you should be looking at least 6 months wear plus. Replace when the support is no longer there and visible signs of wear and tear have set in. Always keep your trainers dry and well ventilated. Avoid wearing them outside of your workout eg walking on pavements.

Finding the right workout shoe is like navigating through a minefield, but with perseverance you’ll find the right shoe. Remember, the best workout/gym shoe should offer improved grip and support so you can workout more safely and with greater effectiveness.

Linda x

My thanks to Nick Rizzo Of RunRepeat.com for introducing me to his research.

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An Interview With Anne Welsh

Living with an invisible disability is difficult as people and businesses are often unaware of the chronic pain a person may be suffering. Sickle cell anemia sufferer Anne Welsh has written an interesting book about overcoming chronic pain through management, lifestyle and diet choices. This book is an interesting mix – Anne tells her own frank personal story about her life living with sickle cell anemia – warts ‘n’ all. From being a small child, how her parents coped, teenage years, university, work life, boyfriends, married life, pregnancy. Intertwined with the chapters are Anne’s honest look at the decisions made and what she advises to help make the life of someone suffering with chronic pain easier and advice for family and friends too. How to stay positive is her mantra. Although her advice can help all those living with chronic pain, she is adamant to spread the word about sickle cell disease, which is actually the most common genetic disease in the world, but people are not necessarily aware of it. I really enjoyed reading Anne’s book,” Pain-less “- she has a lovely chatty style – and I highly recommend it. You don’t need to suffer chronic pain to understand and devour her book – although she does give invaluable advice! I caught up with Anne recently and asked her a few questions….!! Hi Anne!

Hi! I would say that Anne Welsh is an internationally recognised author, entrepreneur and philanthropist.  Most importantly I am a married mother of two and finds great joy in being close to family and friends.  I have recently launched my memoir, Pain-less to inspire people who, like myself, live with sickle cell and work hard to find a path-way to a gratifying life while living with pain.  It is a book that will motivate the reader to act and overcome challenges in life. 

Through this book I am using my voice to help others by speaking on many radio and television spots, such as the BBC and London live, and in front of decision makers and parliamentary political leaders in the UK or in countries around the world where sickle cell is a serious health issue.   

I have a degree in Accounting and Finance and an MSc in Investment Management and broke barriers as an investment banker with Lehman Brothers, by establishing workplace practices for ethnic minorities and people with disability.   I now run my own consultancy firm based in London, England and is an expert in bringing business opportunities to investors around the globe.

Your book, “Pain-Less” is truly inspirational  – but what made you decide to write “Pain-Less” in the first place? 

I decided to write my book Pain-Less as I felt it was time to finally share my story with the world. It was truly a struggle growing up.   I was constantly in hospital and each time I would lose hope that I would be better or would I just be burden on my family and society for the rest of my life.  

As I broke away from the negativity that surrounded my life, I knew that I could make a positive difference to others with invisible illnesses, who were going through  similar experiences to me.   By sharing my story I could help them to overcome their fears, live life to the fullest and being able to achieve their life long aspirations. 


I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish. I liked how you wrote the book – the mix of your personal story, your struggle to overcome chronic pain and your sound advice. Fortunately, I don’t suffer from a chronic complaint but I do know people who do, so it was an eye opening insight for me to understand what it is like living with an invisible disease. I really appreciated the advice you gave in the book to family, friends, peers and employers on how to handle someone with an invisible disability. What changes do you feel that employers/businesses should think about to help those with an invisible disability?

People with an invisible illness are prone to the same emotions as everyone else.   They often don’t ask for special treatment, but they do ask for an understanding of the invisible illness you have.  Sometimes negative reactions from your colleagues are amplified because you don’t look sick or have a visible physical disability that accompanies empathy that is often demonstrated by people you may be working with.  

Therefore, awareness is key.  As a person with an illness you must make your employer aware that you have an invisible disease.  Employers should take the time to put in place suitable infrastructure where necessary to make the lives of those living with an invisible illness can perform without restrictions. I can tell you the moment my employers were able to give me the help I needed; I saw an improvement in my performance  and my contribution to the team was immediately recognised. 

What was, for you, the hardest part(s) to write about in “Pain-less”? 

Overcoming the fact that I was putting myself out to the world to scrutinise.  A memoir is more than just your life highlights – to do it well you must make the point of including those things that make you the person you are at a moment in life.  It creates a personal tension within yourself and forces to analyse your true feelings about many subjects that you had not really considered before.  This can be a very mentally demanding task. 


I had heard about Sickle Cell Anaemia, mostly through a novel I recently read written by a Nigerian author who mentioned it in passing as one of the characters was a mum whose children died of sickle cell at toddler age – but I had no idea of the symptoms of sickle cell, how some people are carriers and some get the full blown disease, and that it doesn’t automatically carry a death sentence.  Neither did I realise that Sickle Cell disease is the most common genetic disease in the world. Being an Ambassador for Raising Awareness Of Sickle Cell Disease, what are your main aims & tasks? What are the main misconceptions about sickle cell?   

My aim is to ensure that proper attention is paid to this disease.  Often it helps to have those difficult conversations with decision makers and influencers, and I will use my network to have as many as I can.  

A huge misconception about sickle cell is that it is a life sentence that and those who suffer from it cannot lead a truly fulfilling life.  True it drastically reduces the life span of individuals in areas where basic pain management and health care is not readily available; however, this capacity for care continues to improve worldwide. 

Finally, the struggle is as much a mental struggle as a physical one. The disease’s negative impact on a person must be viewed in its totality.  Depression, loneliness, difficulty in securing a job are all issues that need to be addressed by the individual and society in general.  

In your book you describe your ways of helping to manage your pain via lifestyle choices, diet and medication.  I liked the frank way you described your experiences and that there was a lot of trial and error involved along the way as you tried to make your way as a schoolgirl, as a teenager, as a university student, as a girlfriend, as a wife, as a mother too.  As an adult, it is easier to make sensible choices re lifestyle & diet; how was it trying to stay positive and manage your disease as a youngster? 

As a youngster, I could not fully comprehend why I was different other than the pain was terrible, and I could not do the things my sisters and friends could do.  I felt isolated and I truly relied on my parents to survive.  I just knew I had to survive.  It is not more complex than that. 

As a mum myself, I know how stressful it is going through pregnancy and eventual childbirth.  Knowing that you also had the added risk of passing on the genetic disease to your unborn child; the pain of giving birth on top of your chronic pain; yet your desire for children  – must have made it a tough decision for you and your husband to make!  What worried you most whilst pregnant? 

Actually, passing on the genetic disease was luckily not an issue.  My husband was Caucasian with European  lineage so the passing on of the disease on was not a worry. 

Everything else on the journey to motherhood was stress filled. Getting to the finish line and having a healthy child pop out was always in my thoughts.  Both children were born five weeks and the care regime I was placed under helped me reduce the anxiety greatly. I cannot thank the team of doctors and nurses that helped me along the way.

Being stressed doesn’t help anybody, let alone somebody with sickle cell anemia – so what do you do to relax and de-stress? 

I constantly monitor the health of my body.  I realise when I need to rest and when I need to reduce the work-load I am under.  I just enjoy hanging out with my family, sisters and their families and friends.  

Following the correct eating plan and doing exercise plays a very important role in achieving the relaxation and a I less stressed environment. 

Is “Pain-Less” available to purchase worldwide?

The book can be purchased directly from the publisher SilverWood Books or it  an be found on Amazon. https://www.silverwoodbooks.co.uk/product/9781781329047/pain-less-hardback

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I love the classic mixed with modern look. Now we are in autumn you will find me wearing lots of sweaters dresses, ankle length boots in a variety of colours, always accented by the appropriate sunglasses.  

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

Zara and Net-a-porter

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

A new Trench coat from Burberry and the Jimmy Choo white boots. 

Boots or Shoes?

When it is cold and raining,  definitely boots.   Boots, keep me warm and this prevents a sickle cell crisis from  coming on quickly. 

For Pinning Later


Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc

www.annewelsh.com

Instagram: @ladyannewelsh

Facebook: ladyannewelsh

Twitter: @ladyannewelsh

YouTube: annewelsh

It has been a real pleasure chatting to you Anne and I wish your book every success. Your tips are truly invaluable and I am sure that many readers will appreciate your honest advice.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Anne Welsh.

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Walking In Thetford Forest

There is something undeniably therapeutic about being in a forest – the greenery is relaxing, the silence, the smells, the general aura of the trees, the feeling of being remote, the shade on a hot day …. Ever since I was a young child I have loved being amongst trees. My woodland playground in them days was Epping Forest, on the fringes of East London and Essex. A woodland setting for a hot July weekend away recently was bliss – destination Thetford Forest.

Mile Marker in Thetford Forest

Thetford Forest straddles the border between Suffolk and Norfolk in the East Anglia region of England. It covers well over 19,000ha (47,000 acres). It is the largest lowland pine forest in England, although other trees are present including oak, beech, lime, walnut, red oak and maple. These hardwood trees are found along the sides of the roads acting as fire breaks. This Forest is actually manmade – a fact I was amazed to discover- it was created after the First World War in 1922 to provide a strategic reserve of timber since Britain had lost so many oaks and other slow growing trees as a consequence of the war.

Deep in Thetford Forest

Considering that 4 main roads bisect Thetford Forest and that visitor numbers exceed 1 million annually; the part of the forest we visited was extremely quiet and remote and we passed only a couple of fellow walkers going the opposite way to us. Thetford Forest is a very popular destination for mountain biking – there are several trails to make the most of the experience.

Driving through one of the main roads that bisect Thetford Forest

However, as my youngest son had a broken foot and was on crutches, we didn’t partake. At his insistence though, we did the 5 mile circular walk trail through the forest, starting from Lynford Hall, passing the metal statue of the Lynford Stag at the halfway stage, crossing the Lynford Lakes and back to the hall. The walk is actually a distance of 4.5miles (7.2km) but we did get lost and ventured down the wrong path and had to retrace our steps! As the weather was hot and dry, the paths were easy to walk on (and to use crutches) but there were some areas where the paths were overgrown and my son did have some trouble disentangling his crutches out of the grass!

Half Way – Lynford Stag

Thetford Forest is home to a large population of hares, rabbits, game birds, scarce breeding birds such as woodlarks and golden pheasants, and breeds of deer (muntjac, roe deer & red deer). The air was alive with the sounds of birdsong and you could hear the occasional rustle in the trees … was that a gruffalo?! …. alas we didn’t see any deer but we knew they were close by as we came across piles of deer poo pellets! Ethan was trying to avoid landing his crutches in them! By the lakes we saw a few frogs though…

Part of the Lynford Lakes

The wildlife are able to thrive in the forest because of the Forestry Commission’s strict policies – dogs are welcome to be walked in the area but must be kept on a lead at all times and kept away from the children’s play areas. In the Lynford Arboretum area dogs are not allowed (except guide dogs). Each winter, The British Siberian Husky Racing Association hold several husky racing events in the forest. I have been on a sledge driven by huskies when I was in Finland – they went really fast over bush and logs etc – it was like a rollercoaster! So I can only imagine what fun husky racing can be! Might be something to mark in the calendar….

Thetford Forest

Our start and end destination to our walk was the beautiful Lynford Hall, set in the heart of Thetford Forest. The original Hall was built in the 1800s and belonged to the Sutton family, and sat in its grounds of 7,718 acres. In 1857 Mr & Mrs Lyne Stephens took up residence & began to rebuild the present hall, designed by William Burn. It took 7 years to build, and when it was finished in 1869 it became a grade 2 Mansion. Mr Lyne Stephens made his money by inventing Dolls Eyes that opened and closed. In 1930 it became residence of Sir James Calder who frequently entertained his friend, the then American Ambassador, Joseph Kennedy, and his son, John F Kennedy, who eventually became US President. Even King Edward VII viewed Lynford Hall as a Royal Residence but chose Sandringham instead.

Nearly finished the walk…. the drive of Lynford Hall

In recent years Lynford Hall has been the setting for many popular TV series including “Allo Allo”, “Love On The Branch Line”, “You Rang My Lord” and “Dad’s Army”. Nowadays it is a hotel that also hosts events and weddings – such a great venue amongst the lakes, parkland and thousands of acres of forest that adjoin Thetford Forest itself.

Lynford Hall Country House Hotel

When we’ve visited Thetford Forest before we stayed at Center Parcs …. and there are various other lodges and campsites in the forest that offer accommodation in the forest. This weekend though we stayed at Lynford Hall. My boys said they felt very “Royal” ! I didn’t get a picture of my youngest going up and down the grand sweeping staircase with his crutches but I did get pictures of the gorgeous views and gardens…

Ornate gateway of Lynford Hall
A window view, Lynford Hall

One thing my sons were fascinated with was the old gramophone that sat outside our room – I think they were dying to have a go but didn’t! Standing in the ballroom I can just imagine the Royals and other VIPs of the day, dancing to the sounds of the gramophone…

The gramophone At Lynford Hall

What a weekend – a lovely mix of nature and history, peace and romance! Do trees inspire you in the same way?

Linda x

All photographs are by Linda Hobden

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Destination Lincoln

As part of my husband’s ongoing cycle training for the Grand Depart Classic in Brussels (first leg of the 2019 Tour De France) on Saturday 29 June 2019 – he is riding on behalf of Prostate Cancer UK (find out more HERE) – Adam took part in early May in the Lincoln GP Sportive (Lincoln Grand Prix). Although the Brussels ride is around 125 miles, the 75 mile Lincoln GP ride was excellent training as the finishing line was at the top of a 23% gradient cobbled hill – aptly named Steep Hill – and the cobbles were something Adam had not yet faced and the Brussels ride features two cobbled hills of steep gradients – so Lincoln was the perfect training ride. Fortunately the hills in Brussels are not at the end of a gruelling 75 mile undulating cycle ride but occur when legs are still relatively fresh, so to speak. Our two youngest sons and I were in Lincoln to cheer on Adam and to give him some moral support as he attempted the cobbles. In the meantime, the boys and I had about 6 hours to kill whilst Adam was poodling around the Lincolnshire countryside so we did some exploring of our own around the city of Lincoln…

This was the first time I had actually spent some time in Lincolnshire – I had travelled through the county on my way to Yorkshire, Newcastle and Scotland in the past – so I was looking forward to spending some time in Lincoln. I must admit I was under the impression that Lincolnshire was a flat county – however, I now know that Lincoln itself is pretty steep and Adam assures me that the Lincolnshire Wolds that surround Lincoln were pretty undulating too! Having arrived in the evening, in rain, it was great to open our hotel room curtains and have a terrific view of Lincoln cathedral and blue skies. The boys and I decided the first place we will be exploring was to be Lincoln Cathedral.

View of Lincoln Cathedral from Premier Inn Lincoln City Centre

It was a 10 minute uphill walk to the Cathedral and on the way we diverted into a small park with trees planted in dedication to university staff who had died. It was a pretty place to wander around with a small outdoor gym. I must admit I was hoping that there was an underpass or shortcut across the busy main road via the park but I was disappointed that the park’s path was a circular route (oh well, just think of those Fitbit steps!)

Lincoln cathedral

Lincoln Cathedral is pretty impressive. It was first constructed in 1072 in the gothic style of that era. In fact, from 1311 – 1548 it was the tallest building in the world. Nowadays it is the 4th largest cathedral in the UK after Liverpool, St Paul’s, and York Minster. The original Cathedral was damaged by an earthquake on 15 April 1185 – an eye witness described the Cathedral as having been “split from top to bottom”. All I can say is that the reconstruction must have been sturdier as the Cathedral looked strong to me! Lincoln Cathedral is one of the few English cathedrals built from the rock it is standing on. The Cathedral’s stonemasons use more than 100 tonnes of stone per year for maintenance and repairs. It was in maintenance mode when we visited, but the building still looked splendid. You might have seen Lincoln Cathedral in films: it doubled up as Westminster Abbey in “Young Victoria” and in the Netflix Shakespeare film “TheKing”. Lincoln Cathedral also once housed a copy of the Magna Carta – now it is housed in Lincoln Castle …

Lincoln Cathedral

Out of Lincoln Cathedral, past the Magna Carta pub, we ventured onto Lincoln Castle with its extensive grounds and intact wall. Visitors can now walk the full circumference of the wall, which is an impressive third of a mile long. The views over Lincoln and the countryside are supposed to be stunning but I must admit that the clouds started to roll in and a cup of tea beckoned so we retreated to the cafe that was set within the castle walls & the Victorian prison instead. Lincoln Castle was built by William The Conqueror in 1068. The Victorian prison was added on in 1788. In the Castle grounds was the impressive building of Lincoln Crown Court, alas not open to the public. The boys though were more interested in the Lego Space Exhibition being held in the grounds. Presented and built by Bricklive, the exhibits included larger than life models of The Earth, astronauts and the Space Shuttle.

Lincoln Castle Walls
Lincoln Castle Walls
Lincoln Crown Court
Lego “Earth” at Lincoln Castle
Lego Astronaut
Lego Space Shuttle

Next stop, Steep Hill. This cobbled hill & its adjacent street, Mickelgate, was where the finishing line was. We still had a bit of time to visit a shop on Steep Hill that I had discovered online some months previously: Roly’s Fudge Pantry! I couldn’t wait to discover this little fudge enclave and I thought Adam and his fellow team cyclists might appreciate fudge once they passed that finish line. Let me tell you, the fudge pantry did not disappoint! The sweet aroma hits you as soon as you crossed the threshold and there was fudge being made in front of our very own eyes. So many flavours to choose from ! The fudge was appreciated by the cyclists at the end and we came back the next day to buy more before our drive home . We tried the following flavours: Maple & Walnut; Honeycomb; Strawberry & Prosecco; Mint Chocolate; Hot Cross Bun; Whisky & Ginger; Chocolate; Salted Maple & Pecan….. it was hard to pick a favourite but my 3 faves were salted maple & pecan; strawberry & prosecco and whisky & ginger. Apparently you can now buy them online.

Roly’s Fudge Pantry

Other shops on Steep Hill worth checking out are Pimento Lincoln’s Original Vegetarian Cafe for their soya hot chocolate with vegan whipped cream & marshmallows; Annushka Russian Dolls Shop (!) and the Mouse House Cheese Shop & Coffee Bar ….for marmite scones …

Steep Hill

Around 2.30pm, my boys and I were halfway down Steep Hill ready to cheer on the cyclists as they make their arduous way up the steep cobbled hill. Adam and his teammates made it up the hill in one piece and are ready to face the Belgian challenge.

Steep Hill
Adam on Steep Hill
Made it!

Lincoln is a university town so after dark on a Saturday night the place was buzzing with bars, clubs and restaurants – it was especially vibrant down by the waterfront. We ate in Zizzi’s and I highly recommend their King Prawn Linguine.

Lincoln had so much to offer that I didn’t manage to explore the shops, the Museum of Lincolnshire or The Collection Usher Gallery …. but I will endeavour to visit next time ( a repeat visit to the fudge pantry would be on my itinerary too)

Check out my previous blogpost about Adam & his prostrate cancer cycling rides: http://bootsshoesandfashion.com/one-in-eight-men

For Pinning Later

Linda x

Photographs are by Linda Hobden

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An Interview With City Dance Parties

It might have been the popularity of TV shows like Strictly Come Dancing or it might have been the heady days of the 1970s/1980s with the emergence of films such as Saturday Night Fever, Grease, Fame…but one thing is for sure is that on the whole the UK seems to be “dance- mad”. I’m sure the other world nations are the same, though. Since launching in January 2017, City Dance Parties have gained in popularity, and they were winners of the “Best Hen and Stag Provider” category at the 2019 British Wedding Awards. The dance parties are not just for hen nights, as I found out when I chatted with founder, Jenny Haynes. Hi Jenny!

Hello! My name’s Jenny Haynes, and I’m the founder of City Dance Parties, a nation-wide dance party company that specialises in dance classes for hen parties, birthdays and corporate events. 

Congratulations on being the winner of “Best Hen And Stag Provider” at the 2019 British Wedding Awards  – so, what triggered the eureka moment to begin your company, City Dance Parties? 

Thank you! What a bonkers surprise, I’m absolutely over the moon still. I trained as an actor at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, and to earn a bit of extra money to help with living expenses, started teaching hen party dance classes on a Saturday afternoon (we were in school Monday-Friday from 8am -7pm). It was after my partner pointed out that he always really enjoyed hanging out with me after I’d finished teaching the classes as I was in such a good mood that  I realised how much I really enjoyed the work, and thought this was something I might want to take more seriously.  After I graduated from Bristol, I started putting things into action, so I could try to forge a side hustle that would work in tandem with auditions, and acting……we’ve grown step by step from there really! 

Have you always wanted a career in dance or did your aspirations lie elsewhere? 

I’ve always loved dance/movement, and always wanted to work in the physical theatre and movement side of acting – discovering how much I enjoyed teaching hen parties dancing took things on a slightly off piste path (a path I’m very grateful for), into a career that is a mixture of event planning, dancing and teaching!  

You offer a vast range of dance classes, including Burlesque, Beyoncé, Bollywood, Dirty Dancing, 80s & 90s dance classes, salsa ….What would you say are the most popular dance masterclasses?

The most popular last year was definitely Beyonce! Everyone is loving Queen B (and with good reason in my opinion) – we once had a booking for a Beyonce class for a 70th Birthday, which I thought was absolutely F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S.  This year (for obvious reasons), Spice Girls have been making a big resurgence, and 90s dance is always super popular, as 90’s Children/Teens are all starting to get married now! Disney, which we added last year,  has been a really popular choice, and, Dirty Dancing continues to be a firm favourite! 

Which dance masterclass is your personal favourite? 

I have to say I love a bit of Roaring 20’s…..it’s the perfect opportunity to get dressed up, and get really into the feel of the class (we’ve had some fabulously dressed groups for our 20’s classes over the past few years!). 90s Dance, Beyonce and Belly Dance are also solid favourites of mine to teach! 

What does a typical Hen Party Dance Class include?

The exact details of the class can vary slightly depending on what length of class you choose, and what style, but you can expect lots of laughs, all the basics of your chosen style, taught to you by a professional choreographer, dance-offs, and a fun-filled group routine (we sometimes even crack out a MegaMix routine depending on the style of dance!) that everyone can perform together, and video, so that you’ve got a long lasting memory of your special day. 

A lot of parties like to dress up or at least have a few accessories to jazz up the weekend – what clothing guidelines do you recommend? What dressing up outfits are most popular? What has been the most unusual/unique dance party outfit you have seen?

We tend to say that as long as you can move comfortably, that’s the main thing! Some groups love to dress up, others wear dance/gym gear, and some wear slightly more relaxed clothes they’re wearing out later on. It’s all about finding what you’re comfortable in, and what will make the session most enjoyable for you. We’ve had some fantastic fancy dress, and some absolutely bonkers costumes….some of my highlights are: a group we had come in dressed as archaeologists and dinosaurs, a group that came dressed as various iconic artists from the 90’s (YES to the lady who came in a power rangers morph suit!!), and a group who donned the most stunning vintage outfits for a 20’s masterclass. One that always sticks in my memory though, is one from a few years ago, when a group of ladies came to a burlesque class slightly later on in the day (I think a few glasses of bubbly had been had by that point!), and within 5 minutes of the class, one lady had stripped completely naked, and was stood covering her modesty with two strategically placed feather fans!!  (NOT compulsory for Burlesque Classes I might add!) 

You currently operate in Bath, Bristol, Brighton, Cardiff, Durham, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle and York. Any new places on the horizon for 2019?

We actually added Edinburgh, Glasgow, Nottingham, Birmingham and Chester to the list last year! I’m always keen to keep expanding and branching out into new cities. Sheffield is one that’s definitely being added to the list, and we’re slowly taking over the UK! I never want to rush things and try and grow too quickly, as I want to really establish a good quality base in each city we offer. We do have our first international booking in May this year, so just watch this space!! 

Would the dance classes take into account those who may be uncoordinated, unfit or not as agile?  

Absolutely. With an event like a hen do, or a birthday, there’s often going to be a big range in abilities, ages, and often co-ordination, so I try to cater the sessions so they’re really suitable for all abilities, and they’re fast paced enough for those experienced in dance, but also really accommodating and fun for those who have never donned their dancing shoes before! We’ve had groups of ex professional dancers in before, and ladies who have never taken a dance class in their life; whatever the ability, our main focus is creating a class that’s fun for you, and will ensure you have the best time possible.  
Often the idea of dance can be a bit nerve-racking,  especially if you haven’t got much experience, or haven’t danced in a while, so we try to make the sessions focused around having fun, creating some special memories and building confidence. It’s actually one of my favourite things about the work….having ladies come in who aren’t confident at all, and are perhaps a little resistant about the idea of dancing leaving with big smiles on their faces, new skills, and the realisation that dance can be great fun! 

I love shows like Strictly Come Dancing – I especially love watching the Argentine Tango! Which dance style do you enjoy watching?  Is there any dance style that you would like to try that you haven’t attempted before? 

I LOVED watching So You Think You Can Dance when I was a teenager – it’s an American reality dance show, that showcases some incredible choreographers and dancers of all different styles. I personally love a bit of jazz and commercial….the sassier the better! I’ve never been particularly good at tumbling or flips, so I’d say the ‘Acro’ or ‘Gymnastics’ side of dance is something I’d love to really master one day.  

Personal now, what outfits/footwear would you normally wear for a dance class?

Now…I’m a sucker for a lace leotard. I have some customised City Dance Parties leotards I wear for classes I teach (I mostly work on the admin side of things now, but always try and jump in and teach on quieter weekends!) , and my absolute favourite is a backless black lace number. Combine it with some bright, funky leggings (my wardrobe is 99% lycra so I need to make sure I’m kitted out properly!) and some bright trainers and you are good to go! A brand I’ve been LOVING recently is KYODAN, which I buy through TK Maxx; they’re really gorgeous designs, fab fitting, and won’t break the bank. 

Boots Or Shoes?

I have to say shoes…..in particular trainers!! I grew up wearing high heels on any occasion (Geordie Girl born and bred!)  but after a back injury in my early 20’s switched over to trainers pretty much full time, and I’m now a convert to trainers for pretty much whatever occasion I can get away with wearing them! 

For Pinning Later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can learn more about City Dance Parties

City Dance Parties – www.citydanceparties.co.uk Facebook – www.facebook.com/citydancepartiesTwitter: @CityDance_UK Instagram: www.instagram.com/citydanceparties

Thanks Jenny! Those classes sound a lot of fun! Talking about loving lace leotards – in the 1980s one of my favourite “disco” outfits was a bright yellow lace leotard/bodysuit which I wore with black satiny leggings and a bright yellow/black kimono style shirt/jacket held together with a wide black patent belt! And black patent court shoes with a high thin metal stiletto heel! 🙂 Couldn’t dance in heels like that nowadays though!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission from City Dance Parties; apart from the Pinterest photo which is by Linda Hobden

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