What’s the best exercise?

How can I get in shape and what’s the best exercise?

In the zone

You may be thinking about getting in shape and wondering about how to go about it. Perhaps your New Year’s resolution stalled and you’re still getting your act together. There are a number of considerations about how you tackle the issue of getting in shape and there is an array of advice out there which may have left you overloaded and paralysed by inaction.

My preference is to keep things as simple as possible. When it comes to getting in shape there is one rule to bear in mind. ‘Run a calorie deficit’. If you’re expending more calories than you are consuming then eventually you’ll lose weight. You need to keep in mind what you’re eating nutritonally in order to improve your body composition in combination with exercise. Whilst you may lose weight on a calorie restriction diet you don’t want to lose valuable muscle in the process. That’s why body composition and bodyfat percentage is the key indicator to observe.

Measuring your initial bodyfat percentage needs equipment but Boots the chemist has in-store scales which when you grip the handles will measure your bodyfat percentage. It’s crude and not the best option but nevertheless you’ll have a starting point and you can also see your total weight in kilos or pounds as well as Body Mass Index.

Ideally, the equipment to measure bodyfat percentage should also give an indication of muscle mass or ratio of fat to muscle. This can be achieved by visiting a nutritionist or some gyms have installed better measuring equipment than what you’d find in a Boots store and more wide-ranging metrics.

Set a goal. You may have a target weight you want to reach but overarching this is the bodyfat percentage measure. You want this to decrease and you may find when you get there you weigh more than your goal weight but your body composition has improved because you’ve gained lean muscle. Lean muscle has a very metabolic quality. It burns calories whether you are exercising or not all-day and all-night long. If you can increase your lean muscle then you’re well on the way to getting good weight loss results and improving your bodyshape.

So what exercise should you do? – Cardio or weight training? Ideally both; regularly, although if you have a preference for one over the other, as long as your exercising regularly and eating healthily you’ll shape up. The advantage of weight-bearing exercise is that you’ll get stronger, be able to lift more, improve your core strength, increase your lean muscle and sculpt your body to a desirable shape. Cardio exercise alone will improve your heart health and combined with interval training will burn fat and boost endurance. The consensus now is that you need both forms of exercise in your regime.

So what weight bearing exercise should I do? I’d recommend starting with compound weight bearing exercises. These are exercises which work a number of muscle groups at once. So think barbell chest press, barbell shoulder press, bent-over-rows and squats. Even if you limited your workout regime to these 4 exercises you’ll get off to a good start and I recommend 2 to 3 sets done in a circuit fashion with little rest between exercises but rest for a short while at the end of the round or circuit. This means your are incorporating an element of cardiovascular training in your weight bearing workouts and will torch more calories rather than having long periods of rest between exercise. Ideally, on the last set or circuit if you want to, then you could push to exercise ‘failure’. This is where you reach a limit to the number of repetitions you can perform and so tear and recruit as many muscle fibres as possible in order form them to repair when you rest and grow larger.

Between compound weight training, try and add some cardiovascualr work. Alternate between intensities such as long walking, interval training which can be quite intense but burns a lot of calories however is only done for a short period which means it’s an efficient workout and you can fit it in if you’re busy.

On a nutrition front, try to have protein at every meal. Following a moderately ketogenic diet helps where you limit the amount of carbohyrate and compensate by eating proteins, healthy fats and some carbohydrate. See if you can make clever carbohydrate swaps such as sweet potato instead of ordinary potato – and if you are going to have carboyhydrate then choose wholegrain or wholemeal. Beans of most variety are a good source of energy and contain a decent level of protein. Lentil varieties are also a good food source and provide slow-release energy and promote even blood sugar levels.

In summary; a ketonogenic nutrition programme, healthy foods a combination of cardiovascular and weight bearing exercises will set you on the road to improving your bodyshape and body composition. A final word about exercise length. You should avoid prolonged torturous workouts. A compound exercise wholebody regime could be done in about 20 – 30 minutes two or three times a week supplemented with some decent amounts of walking or stairclimbing. It needn’t be so difficult that a. You never start or b. You are put off repeating it. Once you build the habits it should be self-sustaining, and if you fall of the wagon, don’t worry but restart as soon as possible. It’s normal to have setbacks or low motivation but re-commit and you’ll be on the way to getting the bodyshape you desire.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting

You may have heard of ‘intermittent fasting’. It has become quite vogue. Essentially, it involves periods of food restriction. One of the most popular intermittment fasting protocols is known as the ‘5:2 diet’ put forward by Dr.Michael Mosley in a book entitled the same.

His principal is to eat as you normally would for 5 days in every 7 with two of those days only eating up to 500 calorie meals. Quite cultish, the 5:2 diet inspired a mass-following with legions of fans swearing by its weight loss effectiveness.

Indeed, a close friend of mine has experiment with 5:2 and according to him he’s seen pounds drop off.

The reality according to him is you need to be disciplined. On the days you are effectively fasting you will crave food and constantly think about food. Although the intensity of this feeling may diminish with practice it is still a very real challenge.

He prefers on his fasting days to eat just one small meal at the end of the day although there are people who will graze at morsels of food throughout the day until they reach their 500 calorie threshold to sate their hunger.

Some people prefer to leave their fasting days for the weekend with the idea that it is easier for them to comply with the program without the pressures of work and with the comfort that it is the weekend.

The risk is non-compliance with the regime. You may give into your hunger and overeat and suffer the setback but the idea on the 5:2 diet is that if you reduce your total weekly intake of food by at least 3500 calories that should equate to about losing a pound of body mass. It’s important to stay hydrated on the 5:2 diet and some people complain of headaches initially.

An alternative to the 5:2 is the ‘6:1’ where you fast on one day only a week which may be more manageable however the results will be less dramatic or it will take longer time to reduce your weight.

Another alternative is to try the 16:8 where in a given 24 hour day you have a 8 hour window only to eat food. Individuals following this protocol tend to eat just 2 meals a day usually staggered at strategic times during the day. The idea being you’re eating less calories from 2 meals than you would with 3. However when you do eat, it’s important to be mindful of portion size, and good quality wholesome ingredients that make up your food. A recommendation by fitness professionals is to eat a meaningful amount of protein with your meals as this will leave you feeling more satisfied and contribute to greater saitey.

Whether you choose to undertake intermittment fasting is up to you but you should always speak to a health professional before undertaking such a regime especially if you have any health conditions or take any medications for ailments.

Spinach & Eggs power brunch

Create a quick and easy Sunday brunch.

For this simple Mediterranean inspire brunch find a large frying pan and…

Drizzle a guzzle of Sunflower or vegetable oil in the pan

Finely chop lots of Spanish garlic and add

Take about 4 or 5 large handfuls of spinach, prefarably organic

Fry gently and cover till the spinach is partially wilted

Remove the cover and create 3 spaces in the spinach

Crack 3 eggs – preferably free range and organic and place in the spaces

Cover again and let the eggs poach.

Once the eggs are cooked, remove the cover and add a few grinds of seasalt and ground black pepper

Divide and serve.

Great with toasted wholemeal grain bread.

Hard lessons learned in starting a micro-business

Running the numbers
Running the numbers – make or break

I started micro-business which over time failed. What were my reasons for starting it – and what did I learn which I can share with you?

I had always had a burning ambition to start my own business and then one day, the timing just seemed right.

I had quit my job and was disatisfied with traditional employment finding it very limiting, narrow and narrow-minded and ultimately a bit spirit-crushing.

Whilst I was still working for someone else however, I was working on my website during the evening and weekends. When I quit my job I had more time on my hands and could fully focus.

I commissioned a website agency, an SEO agency and an analytics agency to undertake some online marketing optimisation for me. That cost me a small subscription and a few hundred pounds.

I had a business plan in my backpocket and I knew my breakeven point and when I was expected to breakeven during the course of the tax year. I needed a certain number of bookings a month just to stay afloat.

In hindsight the portents didn’t look good. I had zero marketing budget. The customers I gained were through a combination of referrals and just being lucky by being found online. Work was sporadic and so therefore was the cash. The business month after month was in negative territory, and whilst this is normal for a small start-up it means you have to hold your nerve whilst your business becomes profitable. The horizon for doing so varies according to the director’s confidence, available resources and ambition.

As a director I was in control and I loved the autonomy. I was learning new things all the time and challenged daily to use the best of my smarts. I guess a lack of marketing firepower, hardly any marketing budget and going after the wrong customer, and giving away some of my most valuable ideas and heavily discounting others – were my key mistakes. They literally cost me.

Operating alone as sole director and having no-one to turn to for advice made me seriously question my faith in the longevity of the business and if I could stay the course.

Ultimately, with cash going out each month and very little coming in there comes a point where you think is this worth it? It’s a diffcult call to make because you are walking away from your creation, and walking away from a lifestyle you enjoy. After a few years I chose to walk away. It simply wasnt paying me my time and being in negative territory each month with outgoings and commitments to pay for was very discouraging.

The key thing for me would be if I were to do it again I’d try and get a mentor. Someone experienced in entreprenuership and has been round the block a few times. A go to person, a confidente, an advisor. Secondly, I’d rethink the whole conversion funnel.

Mindlessly creating social media posts just for the sake of it isn’t going to win you any business, and you can spend hours optimising your online presence for little return. Anecdotally, I’ve heard that 98% of your website visitors never convert and it takes many emails off a back of an organic list before a micro percentage are ready to buy from you.

So you can see already, that you’re spending a lot of overhead in terms of time spent – your time – with no cash is coming in – if anything it’s going in the other direction.

If I were to start another micro-business I’d rethink conversion entirely, and try to short-cut the process from initial lead to close. I’d try to run more test and learn experiments and learn from fails and iterate forward for succcess. I’d also try and have at least a small but reasonably sized budget behind me for marketing and promotion purposes to buy the initial attention. Secondly, I’d seek out affiliate businesses who could recommend my services to others. Thirdly, finance.

Personally I’d be reluctant to have an investor on board as I’d like to own 100% of the business and the kind of business I am thinking meets two needs – income and lifestyle. For me, it’s not necessarily about scalability on a massive level but should have the expansion potential.

In place of finance I’d go with a mentor, preferably somesort of small business veteran. Lastly, I’d join an enterprise hub or real-life entreprenuership network to promote the brand, acquire customers and stay cutting-edge. I found I was a member of the wrong kind of networks which didn’t drive referals and I think one of the single biggest other factors I underestimated was the competition.

In the digital space it can be quite saturated with substitute providers on a global scale so I would try and reconsider my niche and proposition to make it stand out from the rest. Looking back I think the differentiation was there however the established competition in my space just had more marketing firepower, slick branding, more customer support and simply more people and money at their disposal.

On reflection, I’ve enjoyed the experience and would recommend anyone to have a go but if you can, have a go the “right” way and make sure you have plenty of support – both business and emotionally to succeed. You’ll need all you can get.

Warm Lemon salts detox

#Warm Lemon salts detox

Try this easy detox first-thing after waking in the morning. You’re body will be dehydrated after sleep and this warm lemon dextox is a perfect start to your morning routine.

Couple of slices of fresh lemon preferably organic

A few grinds or granules of Himalyan pink sea salt to provide replenshing minerals

Add boiling water and let cool for a few minutes.

Optional extras included adding manuka honey and some grated ginger root for added sweetness and zing.

#Green campaigner fights for clean water at HS2 site in the Colne Valley, south Harefield.

Green campaigner Sarah Green explains what HS2 is doing at Harvil Road in Harefield, New Year’s Green Bourne river within the Colne Valley region of northwest Middlesex and nearby Bucks where HS2 propose to drive several hundred piles into the chalk aquifer that supplies 22% of London northwest’s drinking water.

Sarah stands accused of alleged aggravated trespass and breaking the Highways injunction for demanding legal documentation that our drinking water will be safe from a nearby known pollution area at the site of HS2’s activities.

£55 million has been earmarked for mitigation against water loss however it will not be local water and will not be of equitable quality says Sarah.

Her case is being heard on April 1st 2019 at Uxbridge Magistrates court. Please support her Crowd Justice campaign here.

#300 acres of ecologically diverse habit being taken by High Speed rail in Hillingdon

#Brainfood recipe of the week

Healthy low-calorie iron-rich omega-3 rich salad.


2 x beatroots roughly chopped

Rocket lettuce

Few cubes for full-fat French cheese

One-mackeral fillet torn into pieces

Half an avocado sliced

Drizzle of balsmic di Modena vinegar

Drizzle of Extra virgin olive oil

Few grinds of Himlayan seasalt

Few grinds of black pepper

Prepare a bed of rocket lettuce on a plate. Scatter the remaining ingredients over the bed of rocket. Splash some balsmic vinegar and drizzle of extra virgin olive oil with a few grinds of seasoning. Prep time about 7 minutes and voila! Sumptous nutritious brainfood to keep you going through your working day.

#brainfood salad #fastprep

Mental health is not cut and dry

Mental health is complex.

I have been to some dark dark places in my mind. I have travelled to the centre of a black hole of depression right into the heart of its singularity from which no light escapes. If it wasn’t a phonecall to my friend Steve at the critical time then it could have been oh so different. He saved my life (and I had saved his – a few years back).

It’s a different experience for different people and affects people in differing degrees and profundity. The medical protocols can have quite an impact but the aim of any practitioner is to support independence and freedom of living, management of the condition and functional wellbeing.

Often, those who have a mental health issue have accompanying challenges. It is known amongst this cohort they have the highest levels of wanting to work but the lowest levels of in work rates. Issues such as employment, making work work for them, substance abuse, complex family issues and housing needs all burn at the same time in somesort of crucible.

It is added pressure to those who are already stressed and in need. Needless to say a lot of the services have been cut. A lot of the support that exists beyond your GP – who isn’t a specialist – can be hard to travel to, and costly to get there. Across London, there are a patchwork of services and organisations – charities or otherwise doing the best they can to mitigate the problem but provision needs to have more concerted thinking and delivery.

I am fortunate, that in my part of the Borough, services are joined up to a greater degree but when you walk out that door, you walk out alone – and then it hits you. You’re on your own, trying to survive and this is a test of your own leadership to solve. You have to be leader to lead yourself out of what can be a quagmire. And if you can make it, anyone can.

#TimetoTalk #TimetoChange

Samaritans call 116 123 (UK) 116 123 (ROI)

#Save our drinking water and our wetland! Think local, act global.

#Vital Wetlands are under threat in one of London’s oldest villages

You probably saw the Channel 4 Dispatches programme by Liam Halligan into HS2 and how much it is costing and overrunning the government – and us as taxpayers!

We, locally are affected by this and it’s time to #WAKEUP! As a resident of northwest Middlesex, HS2 impacts many of our local areas and some of which you may be surprised are quite close to home.

Works are on-going in Ruislip; by West Ruislip station – the Fairway Golf Club, as well as precious areas of the Colne Valley, River Colne and the area of land around Moorhall Road, the Grand Union canal as well as south-easterly over in Harefield, Harvil Road. More work will soon start in Eastcote. Nearly all this work will involve long term road closures, much HGV traffic, noise, pollution and disruption.

The Harvil Road site has a major stake in the HS2 project. There are a
number of sites along Harvil Road used by HS2. It has heavy, visible and what I would describe at times as intimidating looking security staff.

Right here, at this place in London, we are about to witness the wiping
out of 3 nature reserves, a site of scientific and special interest, and
the last remnant of wet woodland (highly protected in UK/European law) in London; 370 acres of woodland in total, 60 acres of wetland, all home to an amazing 2400 species (12 species of bat, otter, water vole, eels, glow worms, barn owls, tawny owls, kestrel, hobby, even osprey!). We are about to witness the desecration of the natural aquifer that freely cleans and provides 22% of London’s drinking water. We are about to witness the crumbling of the last village in London.

Green Party campaigner Sarah Green has made a stand for us all at the
Harvil Road site to protect our drinking water against the HS2

HS2 contractors plan to pile drive into the Chalk Aquifer in Hillingdon
in multiple places, one of which is New Year’s Green Bourne, off Harvil
Rd, Harefield, which is a known pollution pathway from a contaminated

Without adequate protections this will contaminate the water which
supplies 22% of London’s drinking water, negatively impact on the
natural filter of the chalk aquifer and reduce the volume of water.

Pollution is already so high in this area, Ickenham pumping station had to be permanently closed as a public water supply. Affinity Water warned HS2 in 2014, in their petition to the Houses of Parliament, that planned activities could entirely jeopardise public drinking water in our area.

Nature protectors, Sarah Green and Lora Hughes, stand accused of obstructing this ‘legal’ work. They challenge the charge on the grounds
that the planned work is not legal. HS2 have failed to demonstrate that
they have any protective provisions in place which they are required to do by law.

Already, lack of planning that is a direct product of the hybrid bill process is throwing up mistakes after mistake and vast unforeseen costs. Our environment is being experimented on aimlessly by people who have never set foot here.

Locals are losing their homes, losing businesses, being bankrupted and suffering immeasurable stress for a project being driven by the most blunder-ridden minister ever seen in British Government.

This is all happening in Hillingdon; we need to step up to safeguard our
green environment as places of special interest for ourselves, our
families, and future generations.

Your support is urgently needed. Join the call for environmental
protection laws to be enforced for our Public Water Supplies by the
courts, Local Authorities and the Police.

Drop-in to visit the Harvil Road camp, you’ll be made very welcome for a chat and a cuppa. The camp is on Harvil Rd, near the Harefield Dog’s Trust. Easiest by public transport, U9 (15 min journey every 20 min most of day) from Uxbridge tube.

HS2 is government taking on the mantle of corporation, HS2 is a
complete dismantling of democracy and all the protections that should
afford us, and HS2’s hopeless lack of planning and forethought can only carry a narrative of blunder after blunder and utter desecration of so much that we all hold dear, and all for so little if any gain at all

Mark Keir, Hillingdon Green Party

To donate to this campaign click here https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=2301363669895914&id=100000669103758&sfnsn=mo

For more information about HS2 visit https://www.hs2.org.uk/

HS2 Ltd Already Breaking Their Promises – Woodland Trust

Loving someone with dementia

My own story.

It’s hard. Damn hard to keep loving someone with dementia. My mum was placed into a residential care home suffering from early-stage dementia.

The antecendents were plain to see. A long gradual spiritless decline. A protracted surrender into dependency and regression into infancy. She became a child but a child who had forgotten how to speak English. She would communicate in Italian dialect but it made no sense. I would sit there and try to converse with her. I knew ~I could change the way she felt when she saw me. I’d hug and kiss her and she would chuckle sweetly. Physically, she presented well. Some of the staff would comment on how young she looked. Her skin was white milk chocolate with few lines but her grey hair which soon turned white betrayed her.

I had been told the bad news in advance. Few residents last more than two years in such an institution before they pass away. She managed seven. They were seven long sad years of unfailing visits, cups of tea and biscuits and brought in chocolate. My mum always managed a smile. I remember one-day she fell ill and was taken to hospital. I drove up to see her to see if she was alright. And then whilst she was supine on a hospital trolley she said in an Italian-English accent: “You been busy?” and with those words I felt she was momentarily cured and that God existed.

Over time my mum lost the power of speech. She would sit there bemused in front of me and I would be exasperated at the futility of trying to make conversation but I carried on telling her what I had been up to – to pass the time and really make myself feel better but I knew I had lost her in a new, profound way. The saving grace was that she seemed to still recognise me momentarily. There was a glimmer in her eyes as if something silent was communicated.

I’d always introduce myself to her in Italian as her son; as if this might jog a long term memory in the hope she could reach that far. Eventually the dementia worsened and she lost the ability to swallow. She had to be fed food specially prepared by one of the staff. That was another blow.

In the end she succumbed after what was a painful admittance to hospital. I witnessed her with laboured breathing and beads of sweat across her brow. The medical team said: “It’s in the lap of the Gods”. She was discharged to a palliative care unit back at the residential home.

I remember a phonecall being made at 4.15am. I had to come quickly. My mother was not well. I knew. I arrived 2 minutes too late. The staff said she was gasping, waiting for me. There was nothing I could do. A doctor was called and I observed her perform checks around her heart with a stethoscope. I knew. There were no signs of a beat. And that was it.

My mum was told she had challenging behaviour. In reality she didn’t want to go into a residential care home. If you’re in the position of placing a loved one into care think long and hard. It may actually be good thing – you can’t cope, it’s causing arguements with your partner, you’re worn out juggling looking after a loved one, a partner and your children.

Do your due diligence on the said home or homes, chat to the staff, look at their care record and rating. Sadly, somebody stole my mum’s wedding ring off her finger and the answer I got did not satisfy. You want to be sure that the manager, the staff and the care home are doing all they can for your loved one.

At the home my mum was at; there was an alleged case of abuse which made the local papers. That’s not meant to scare you – it’s pretty rare but the home has a responsibility and is monitored by an inspectorate. There is no place for abuse in the system. Period.

Italians have a reputation for family first, and I personally know of friends and relatives who do their utmost to accommodate their elderly loved ones at home or in a specific abode for them to keep them under a watchful eye as well as keep a strong family bond. It’s not for everyone, and doesn’t work for everyone nor does it mean you have the finances to do so but my advice is do your due diligence and ask questions of the proposed options. Do not slavishly follow the advice of the State.

Looking back, I can see my mum was well looked after 99% of the time.

The care system needs a radical overhaul as it is – and will be big big business for private operators but the safeguards need to be in place and the care profession needs a image makeover as well as proper continued professional development in place to make it an attractive career choice.

My mum was well liked. She had a lot of fight in her and was fiercely independent – an attitude that should be supported in the community until she was no longer able to.

In Italian hospitals – there is a concept of ‘#assistenza‘ which means a family member or next of kin should be present. There may be only so much you can humanly do but do what you can for your loved one. You’ll be glad you did for your own sense of peace and theirs.