Give your mental health the boost it needs with exercise

It’s not rocket science, we all know that looking after our health through exercise and clean eating is good for us. If you are happy with the way you are then great, it’s all about body confidence, but did you know that exercise and reducing your rubbish food intake doesn’t just keep your internal organs happy, help you lose weight and become stronger but it can also benefit your mental health.

When you exercise your body releases happy chemicals in your body; endorphins, dopamine and serotonin helping with the following;

  • reduce stress
  • ward off anxiety and feelings of depression
  • boost self-esteem
  • improve sleep

I’m not saying you need to strap on your trainers and get ready to run a marathon but just moving that little bit more can make all the difference to how you feel about yourself.

Ideally you should be aiming to get:

  • at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or brisk walking every week and
  • strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)

Set yourself realistic goals, if you want to relax and unwind try yoga. If you want something with a bit more intensity then try a cardio workout, there is something for everyone.

  • fitting in a home workout session while you watch your favourite programme two or three times a week.
  • YouTube have some excellent videos to suit all fitness levels, at the moment these are my preferred forms of exercise.
  • NHS website has some great suggestions to get you moving.

If home workouts aren’t for you then a group like Fitness in Mind could be just what you need. It ‘..was founded in 2014 by a kick boxer with social anxiety disorder, a rock climber with general anxiety disorder, and a couch potato with bipolar disorder’ so these people know what they are talking about. Through physical activity and creating a safe and welcoming environment they help people with mental health illnesses work through their concerns and feel good about themselves.

Sports for Confidence is another group who are doing a lot to help people to help people take back some control they may have lost because of their illness through exercise.

Don’t like the idea of structured exercise then try going for long walks, gardening even housework can have the same effect. If you’re anything like me then housework is way down your list of activities.

My fitness journey

I only started to look after myself in my adult years. As a child I was underweight, and didn’t have much strength. Throughout the years my relationship with exercise has changed. I’ve gone from being a cardio gym bunny to finding stress relief through kickboxing to now fitting in short but effective YouTube video workouts in the morning before work.

My lifestyle has changed and I have had to find ways to adapt to those changes. In my blog post ‘Trousers are a bit tight’ I talk about how I had put on weight and though not overweight I wasn’t happy with how I was feeling with myself inside and out.

Getting up earlier in the morning to workout wasn’t easy to begin with, I had to set myself realistic goals and start with less intense workouts and work my way up. I started to notice that even though I would be worn out I would recover quickly, as a result I have begun to feel more positive and happier within myself. It’s not about getting a 6 pack but getting to a point where I am content.

Running was on the cards for a period of time, due to the temperamental weather changes this has taken a back seat for now. Yes I know it’s a lame excuse.

Diet and moving more go hand in hand, by releasing the happy chemicals in my body  and choosing different types of food to keep me fuller for longer means I’m not always reaching for a sugar fix in the afternoons. I have tried to get to stage where I have a balance between healthy food, junk food and how much I move.

Exercise is not a magic pill and there are conditions that will require medication to help people feel better. This isn’t a sign of weakness, it takes strength to accept help when it’s needed.
The first step is the hardest but when you do you’ll be surprised by the results.

My body combat class experience

I have thought about going back to a kickboxing class but due to financial constraints this isn’t yet possible so in the mean time I’ve been on the lookout at the gym for a class that can give me the same release as kickboxing and came across the body combat classes. Plus side with the gym is that it is already paid for and fortunately my monthly membership isn’t extortionate as long as I go the gym every week. The class my youngest siblings and I attended was on Saturday morning, double bonus in the way that I get fit and I save money by then not going shopping and spending money on things I don’t really need. See how I am bigging up the positive points of trying out a body combat class on a Saturday morning? Now comes the evil part!

The class is intense, being my first time at this class I should have taken things a bit easier but with the music pumping and the instructor shouting out her words of encouragement you get caught up in moment until every part of body, inside and out, starts screaming at you to stop. But did I stop…person of course not! There were people in that class that were at least 10 years older than me and then there was my siblings who 10+ years younger than me, there was no way I was going to show weakness and give up.

e7e9c9e574890a90f57082e2a51fdb57--body-combat-les-mills afterFast forward as we come towards the end of the class, although I’m breathing deeply fortunately I’m still conscious. I thought when we were asked to use the mats to cool down I would have the opportunity to lay down, getting up would be a different story but laying down sounded good. Through my exhausted, sweat drenched state I was clearly getting this class confused with body balance where the cool down  involves laying down and closing your eyes. This ‘cool down’ involved sit ups and planks! My experience of body combat did remind of my first kickboxing lesson at a new club which I did have to leave early to go lay down in my car whilst I fought of the urge to vomit, I did go back again and went on to achieve two belts.
With the body combat class I felt like a part of me had died and my legs were feeling like jelly but I was able still able to drop my siblings off home and sit down for a bit before I drove myself home, by this point I also desperately needed a shower.

After shower and food I was good for nothing and spent the rest of the day on the sofa reading a book & my appetite shot through the roof, I kept eating what felt like every hour! It has taken my body nearly two days to recover and be able to raise my arms without the muscles in my upper arms and shoulders screaming in resistance. Crazy as it sounds, though my body was put through its paces and pushed to its limits it was worth it, I slept well that night and know that if I was to keep up with this class my stamina would improve as well as my recovery time. I’m being over dramatic but it does make for a good blog article.

All that said and done I’m no quitter and am aiming to attend the class again this Saturday, guess I’m just glutton for punishment.

New trainers; the bouncy feeling

Last month I finally decided to bite the bullet and buy a new pair of trainers. This may not sound like a big deal but I have a habit of wear things until they can’t be worn anymore plus I like my old trainers and still use them (they are still wearable, just tired looking) But I had begun to notice the old trainers didn’t have that bouncy feeling you get with new trainers any more.

If you do any kind of exercise it is generally a good idea to invest in a good pair of trainers, not just because of the bouncy feeling but also the support a decent pair of trainers can provide for your feet and ankles. If your ankles are anything like mine they need all the support they can get!

20170505_202350One of the things that puts me off buying new trainers is the cost of them, they are always so expensive or maybe I’m just tight fisted with money that to me they’re expensive.  Nevertheless off I went to Sports Direct and bought these bad boys, they ticked all the boxes; my size, look nice and in my price range.

Going back to the bouncy feeling, for me personally these new trainers led me into a false sense of security them made me feeling invincible. At the gym I prefer not to focus on how many calories lost but like to set myself goals and see how much distance I can cover in a certain amount of time. Whilst on the treadmill the new trainers made me feel so light that I thought to myself  ‘this is feeling a bit easier than usual’. So of course I thought I’d go a bit faster, I did manage to run a bit further than normal but my heart and lungs didn’t feel like thanking me for it. Then there are my knees, they that suffered the most, dodgy ankles, dodgy knees what’s next? Could it just be a factor I’m getting older? Hmm I don’t think so at least I hope not, am hoping that over time and gradually increasing how much exercise at a steady pace will strengthen my knees or at least not feel like I’ve been crippled.

So when buying new trainers beware of the bouncy feeling. It could give you the feeling that you are an Olympic runner when you’re not quite there. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Gym bunny?

bunny-eating-carrot-mdDue to circumstances and changes in my life, towards the end of last year I wasn’t looking after myself very well. I hadn’t exercised properly for the last 6 months and if you have been reading my blog for a while you will know even if I did nothing else I would still try and attend a kickboxing class. My diet eventually consisted of takeaway food or whatever I could grab on the go, mix in copious amount of tea with 2 teaspoons of sugar at a time it’s a wonder I haven’t put on an excessive amount of weight. Saying that my weight hasn’t increased to the point where I am at risk of obesity but to a level I am not used to. Hence the small steps I have started taking to try and improve my emotional and physical wellbeing.
Not only did my weight, energy level suffers but so did my immune system. Usually I can fight off a cold but over the Christmas and New Year period I was pretty much bed ridden and comatose due to germs and antibiotics.

As a child I had a very small appetite, I didn’t put on weight easily. Strange how a bit of weight gain and mum remembers things, hence this conversation with my mum;

Mum; Well Fozia, who would have thought you would put on weight from hiding your roti (chapatti) when you were younger (so it looked like I had eaten it all)

Me; Do I look fat?

Mum; No, you look healthier

If anyone one would have told me I was on the verge of becoming a chunky monkey it would my mum.

20140129_103646MugOfTea[1]Nevertheless, I am still embarking on a somewhat healthier lifestyle. I haven’t cut out certain types of food like crisps, white bread etc just reduced the intake of them. I am drinking more water, and although I do have to keep going to the toilet I do also feel less sluggish and feel like I have more energy. Haven’t noticed too much in the way how my hair and skin looks but then I have only been at it for about a week. I’ve reduced my tea intake or the caffeinated version anyway. I do like my tea, I do like herbal teas as well but you can’t beat a nice cup of normal, caffeine induced tea.

I’d like to be able to tell that with this renewed desire to be healthier I am eating the recommended 5 pieces of fruit and vegetables a day but I would only be lying. I’m managing two maybe three pieces on a good day. Changes take time.

Gym bunny

gym-bunnyThe gym is back in play, I have noticed that I can’t run on the treadmill as much as I used to but am steadily building my stamina up. I also remembered why I strongly disliked going to the gym during January and some of February, it’s always filled with people who have made New Year’s resolutions to get fit and go to the gym. Until slowly that large pizza for one creeps back in and those people peter off by mid to late February. You may think me harsh, but I don’t think I am. How would you feel not being able to use the machines you want because someone thinks spending an hour on one machine at a time is going to magically disintegrate the fat to reveal the tight abs that were lurking beneath all along? No people, that is not how it works.

Exercise classes

My sister and I have been trying to go to an exercise class but something always jinx’s our attempts.
Tried to go to a Body Balance class last week, turned up at the time is used to run to find out the start times had changed, starting 30 minutes earlier. Nevermind, went to the gym instead.
Friday, thought we’d try a yoga class, then the blizzard hit Essex and there was no way I was going to drive when visibility was that poor.
Monday this week, we did make it to a Zumba class only for it to be cancelled because there weren’t enough people! Who knows if and when we’ll make it to an exercise class.
I haven’t gone back to kickboxing yet, the timing of the classes I used to go to don’t fit in with my schedule these days which is a shame but life sometimes has a habit of getting the way. I have a kickboxing exercise video that I do now and then but it’s not the same feeling that you get from a class and hitting pads.


I haven’t been on this healthy trip for long so haven’t noticed any huge physical changes as yet. I think the weighing scales are evil, they just don’t like me and the feeling is mutual.  I’m not looking to lose much weight as I don’t think I look too bad as I am. It’s more about being at point of feeling better within myself which is half the battle.

The tale of Movember & the Fitbit


Those of you who don’t know, this is the month of Movember, the month where men are encouraged to grow a moustache in support of men’s health; encourage men to look after their mental and physical wellbeing. Yes we know men like to be seen as the strong and protective but you’re only human too. There is nothing sexist about this project, ladies are encouraged to get involved; Mo sista’s, if you wish ladies you too can put aside the hair removal products and bleaching creams to show your support or alternatively take part, arrange events encouraging men to get talking about their health and letting them know the different forms of support that is available to them.

14938372_901917079907957_6141922829369801878_nWorking for a health trust and one that also provides mental health services it would have been a bit daft of us not to get involved in this cause. We took part in an event organised by Fitness in Mind, The Brentwood Leisure Centre & Basildon Disability Forum. It was an entertaining day encouraging members of the public to come and view the different stalls and find out what support and help is out there if they are worried about any aspect of their health. Fitness in Mind offer free exercises classes, as you know getting those happy chemicals in your body moving benefit your physical and your mental help. Release the aggression and tension in your body so hopefully you feel more relaxed and get to meet some new people.

Whilst on the topic of exercise, colleague and I took part in a little raffle and the prize was a Fitbit, guess who won? It would be me, the person who hasn’t seen the inside of a gym or dojo in a number of weeks going into months! I am thinking about giving it to my cwl1nfuw8aa9-e2sister as a present as she has been after one but now the manager of our employee engagement team is asking how I am getting along with the fitbit, I think so she can turn it into some kind of feature to promote staff health & wellbeing. Fortunately I haven’t reached the size of house considering what my diet had been consisting of, don’t worry I have rediscovered fruit that isn’t covered in chocolate or is a cake ingredient. Exercise is something that hasn’t been a 2fec2283428d52fdfe06130e06d47165regular occurrence in my weekly routine for a while, I have found a few yoga and kickboxing for exercise YouTube, after the kickboxing video although I really  enjoyed I had to have some orange juice and lay down afterwards; adrenaline was going into overdrive. Could give the kickboxing video another try  and see what happens, it would help improve my fitness and get me ready for when I do eventually feel ready to go back to a kickboxing class. Will let you know if the fitbit ever makes it out of its packaging!

Whilst I battle with the exercise demons you can spread the word, grow those tache’s to your desired style and help stop men dying too young.

Red belt training

Finally, for what seems like forever my awful cough is going! I can actually get a sentence out without suddenly being overcome with the need to cough my lungs out, this cough was most likely linked to an infection that left me feeling exhausted.  Although I wasn’t convinced about the asthma pump I was prescribed I have been using it and it has been helping.

Last night was my first week back at my Thursday kickboxing classes. The first set of crescent kicks to warm up would usually be simple enough, this time I was getting tired quite quickly. It’s not all doom and gloom though, all the single kicks and combinations we were working on were part of the red belt syllabus, guess who’s working towards their red belt? 😉 To top it off my round kicks are not only getting more powerful but I am also managing to kick a bit higher without my hips feeling like they are being ripped apart! Improving my kicks was in part getting the technique right but for most it was all in my head, focusing and finding the confidence to believe I could perform a decent round kick.

No one is a perfect martial artist, we all have our strengths and weaknesses,. My kicks may not be able to take a sparring opponent down but I can use them to help give me an opening to come in with some good punches.

We didn’t work on our punches last night but my instructor knows I can throw out some decent punches, for me to get that red belt it’s the kicks that need work. I’m not going to lie, there is nothing lady like about my expressions and what I would say are growling sounds that come out of me when I getting power in those kicks and punches but knowing I have that strength is a feeling I can’t explain, especially when to many people I look like a delicate flower.

By the end of the class my energy levels were low but it was worth going. I had my asthma pump if I needed it, built up a good sweat to drain out some germs and I get a good nights sleep. Win win situation really 🙂

Since the class was forced to change times to a later slot to fit in with the gym’s schedule our class numbers have been sporadic so it was good to see two new faces. Whether these girls come back next week remains to be seen. I hope they do as it is a good class with a great bunch of people. If you are looking for a martial art class in Essex then check out the Mcallister Academy Of Martial Arts.

Bring on Tuesday for a two hour kickboxing workout!

Round kick bruises

Thursday nights kickboxing was not one of my favourite classes, we worked on our round kicks. As I’ve mentioned before I struggle with these kicks, I have tight hips which makes these kicks that little bit more difficult for me.

The way the lesson was structured meant we did a lot of repetitive moves, this worked well for me as it gave my leg muscles a chance to warm up and for my hips to open up. As the class went on I noticed my kicks were starting to get a bit higher without feeling any pain!

IMG_20140921_092245[1]We kept changing partners and even though we were sharing shin guards I think one of the women may have had some pent up anger which she let out in her kicks. I’ve had worse bruises but they still hurt the following few days! I know I’m glutton for punishment and will be back there again, in all fairness I can give as good as I get, usually with a hook or a jab 😉

We did the usual rounds of sparring which contributed to me glowing a lot and getting ready to collapse, I usually recover by the time I get home. With every minute of sparing I kept thinking to myself ‘think of the abs, think of the abs’, I keep trying to achieve the 4 pack abs which keep evading me. I guess it doesn’t help when I can go through a share bag of crisps by myself in one sitting. 😉

Traffic and Kickboxing; Exciting life I lead ;-)

Did all the Gods get together, decide to set aside their differences and create a nightmare on the roads this week?!? This week has been a colossal pain in the rear, Wednesday it took an additional 45 minutes to get home, stop start, stop start. Fortunately I made it home in time for Great British Bake so at least that was one crisis averted, sitting in traffic, hungry, tired and missing GBBO would not have made a happy Foz.

I know other drivers too want to get home too, they’re tired, hungry, frustrated but people let’s not forget the stick near your wheel, yep the indicator. Please use it just to give me a heads up that you want to change lanes before you start moving into the side of my car. I know the traffic is moving slowly and it may appear that my lane is moving faster than yours for that nano second but if you hit my car and cause an accident, that lane won’t be moving faster for much longer will it now?

Plus side of this week, despite being flat out exhausted I have survived the week! I had two excellent kickboxing sessions. Tuesday’s Kickboxing was an interesting one, walked into the class a few minutes late and noticed there were a lot of new faces. The addition of new people meant for a change the hall we train in was full, I also noticed I was the only female in the class! Usually there are at least three other females but for some reason they weren’t there, it felt like a memo saying guys only class had been sent out, only I didn’t get it.

All of that said it was a very good session, we worked on improving the basic moves and learning different stretching techniques. I sweated buckets, disgusting I know and was sore right up until Thursday’s class but it all pays off in the end.

Speaking of Thursday’s class is was a reversal of Tuesday as in the only male was the instructor. We did a few circuits before practising techniques, it was enough to get a decent workout and for me not fighting the urge to chuck my guts.

Today my eldest nephew starts primary school. It will only be an hour to begin with and my sister will stay with him, gradually moving to half days without my sister staying then moving onto full time. The little angelic demon is growing up.

Have a good weekend peeps!

Kickboxing: Hold the pads in the right place!

It’s no secret I enjoy kickboxing, even the bruises, the sweating the adrenaline rush. Ok maybe not the part where I generally feel like I’m going to vomit my guts out but most of it. So you can imagine how peeved I get when I’m partnered with someone who can’t be bothered to put in a bit of effort or acts like they don’t want to be there.

For me and others I train with, kickboxing isn’t just a health conscious thing or learning how to fight it’s also about having a bit of fun and meeting new people. This doesn’t mean when we train we act like it’s a walk in the park we put in a lot of effort and try to improve the moves, after all we’re all going to get better with practice. This also applies to the person you are partnered with, you can only improve if they encourage you, hold the pads correctly for you and don’t stand there biting their nails or wincing when my leg connects with theirs because they couldn’t be bothered to hold the pads in the right bloody place to begin with.

I’ve reached the point where I am going to execute the moves whether the pads are the right place or not. Fortunately the instructor adjusted the pads of the person I was partnered with so I could do a kick or a punch as close to being correct as possible but still mid-way through the set that person would act like they’ve lost interest and the pads would go back to where they were before they were adjusted. Stop biting or picking at your nails or whatever it is you are doing and hold the flipping pads with a bit of support behind them and in the right place, seriously is it too much to ask for?

I just don’t get it, if you don’t want to be there then why pay your money every week? The only reason I’m paired with some people is because there is a lack of females in the class, but how can I improve if I’m not with someone who doesn’t seem interested in improving themselves or aren’t able push me to also do better without me coming across as a total and complete b1tch? Answers, anyone because I am at a total loss. Yes one person in particular is much younger than me, I have given up even making small talk because the nonsense that comes out of their mouth just gives me a headache.

Is it because the instructor comes round and says I’m doing well, they do that to everybody in the class! Or because I joke not flirt but joke around with some of the guys in the class? Is it an attention issue that I’m not aware of? Or is it simply that this person is just a colossal pain in the booty?

Towards the end of the class the person I was paired with gave up and sat out, it was only 5 minutes until the end of the class, the instructor held the pads for me so that was ok.

I know I am probably sounding unfair and unreasonable but people, guys and girls, if you don’t want to make an effort then don’t come. You won’t be chastised for making mistakes and the kickboxing classes I’ve been to, the people are very nice, helpful with higher grades advising how to make a kick or punch more powerful. But if you have that glazed look on your face that gives the impression there is tumbleweed blowing through the gap between your ears then spare the person you will be partnered with. Either partner with someone else who also just likes to tell people ‘oh I go kickboxing’ or just stay home.

Charity boxing match

20140607_Me&Tracy[1]I went to the charity boxing match with my friend and training partner, Tracy, on Saturday. Those taking part were a part of the Ambulance, Police, Fireman and Prison services. The guy we went along to support, Chris, was from the ambulance service.

There was also a raffle to help raise money for a young girl suffering from, I think Leukaemia, it was difficult to hear but me and Tracy bought a strip of raffles tickets anyway. It’s all for a good cause.

We got a bit lost finding the venue but got their just before the first fight. When we eventually found the rest of our friends and kickboxing club members we found out our friend James was also going to be taking part. Sly dog, kept that one quiet, so it was only fair that he got punched for being a secret squirrel.

It was good to see a few familiar faces, some of us train on different days so we don’t get to see each other that often. Our other friend, Emma, videoed the fights one her phone. I’ll see if I can get hold of the footage. Both guys fought well, I thought James held back as he could have easily taken his opponent down. As far as I know it was his first competition fight and was most likely a bit nervous. That aside both Chris and James fought well.

Maybe it’s a male macho, testosterone, adrenaline over load type of thing but the guys were seriously pummelling each other. I’m not sure what the fighters from the prison service have for breakfast but they were pretty brutal in my opinion. Their opponents put up a good fight, but there is only so much you can do when there is a flurry of punches coming at your head!

Bearing in mind many of the fighters were not boxers it was a really good night. There was one knockout and one broken nose which isn’t too bad considering there were about 22 fights in total.

mcdonalds-Filet-O-Fish-Extra-Value-MealsTowards the end of the evening Tracy and I were starving. We hadn’t eaten before we came and there wasn’t any food at the venue. After we said our goodbyes to everyone, hopefully not completely ruined a blossoming romance between a friend and a new lady friend, (we were just gauging if she was a nutter and seeing if she would like to come to our kickboxing class. 😉 ) we headed over to Macdonald’s as that was one of the few places open at 11.30.

Fortunately me and Tracy are similar in personality and were happy to people to watch whilst we ate. Saturday night in Romford is an interesting experience and not one I am in a hurry to recreate. But the range of characters of varying ages was entertaining, some nice fashion ensembles others looked the only way I can describe as different.

Overall it was a good night out with our club members and I got to go to my first ever boxing match!