By Megan Smiley, Oct 26 2018 10:19AM

British Summer Time officially ends this weekend and although that means you gain an extra hour in bed it also means shorter days, as well as cold and wet weather (especially in Glasgow), are well and truly here. So the heating is now on timed rather than a quick blast when it feels a little chilly, you’ve dug out that oversized cosy jumper/cardi that has seen better days but still does the job of keeping you feel warm and safe on the sofa, you’ve switched your meals from salads to soups and grilled fish and meats to warming one pot wonders. In other words you’ve gone into hibernation mode!

There are some other changes that often occur in this autumn hibernation transition, one being people become less active. Now I understand it is harder to get out of bed when it’s still dark, and it’s less appealing to go and run around, cycle, walk or whatever when it’s dark and cold. And there isn’t that summer motivation of wanting to look good in skimpier clothes/swimwear.

But that mindset just reflects the short-term view people take on health and fitness. As I always say, there aren’t any quick fixes or magic answers. Being fit and healthy is a long term commitment, a way of life that should be intertwined in your existence. It shouldn’t be because of a holiday, birthday or wedding, those things can be a great catalyst to start you off but you should want to find a routine that you can continue forever. Obviously there will be times when you need to adapt your routine and then times things will get dropped a little, but generally it’s about finding healthy habits that become second nature AND you enjoy (on some level)!

If you let those healthy habits and exercise routines you’ve built, drop off over autumn and winter it means, if you do start them up again, say in next spring, it’s going to be hard and take a while to get back into your routine and reach the levels you were at when you stopped.

So it’s about slightly adapting, working out how you can continue your healthy habits without having to go running in the rain if that’s something you don’t like. It’s amazing how much you can do inside, so even if you only have a small space in your home, you could still do a morning workout there. Also, think outside the box for spaces you could use (I used to train a client in the underground car park in the depth of winter), and things you could do. There are the obvious options of gyms and classes but maybe there’s some indoor activity you’ve always fancied but haven’t had the time to try, it could be indoor climbing, swimming or dance lessons.

Finally, as I touched on above, there is a tendency to move to a more wintry diet but it isn’t a bad thing. There are plenty of hearty and wholesome winter foods that are healthy. If you don’t fancy a cold salad, you could cook it instead – I love oven roasted little gem lettuce and cherry tomatoes. Warming food doesn’t have to be all about pies and puddings!

So what I’m saying is don’t just throw the towel in on your healthy habits as the days draw in. Keep being active and eating healthily but adapt it as necessary. Or if you’re wanting to get fit and healthy don’t think, there’s no point starting now, I’ll wait till spring. So carry on, or start now, and get your body fit, healthy and strong not just for summer but for life!

By Megan Smiley, Aug 3 2018 02:02PM

It honestly isn’t an exaggeration to say that being in London for the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics was one of the best times of my life. I loved watching all the different sports and was lucky enough to see athletics, hockey, basketball, football, handball, and a dress rehearsal for the opening ceremony. But it was the atmosphere and the buzz, not just at the events or in the Olympic Park, but right across London that I loved the most. When I think back to that time I remember people smiling a lot, people being more positive, understanding, welcoming and happy… I mean there were even strangers talking to each other on the tube! It really was a great time.

Glasgow hosted the Commonwealth Games in 2014 very successfully and apparently there was a similar feel around the city, maybe not to the same degree as London 2012 but an undeniable positivity that sport has the power to install in people and a place. Now Glasgow is the joint host, alongside Berlin, of the 2018 European Championships where over 3000 athletes from 52 European nations are competing in six sports over 11 days.

So I’m very happy I’m living in Glasgow to experience this sporting event. Over the next week and a bit I’ll get to see gymnastics, road cycling and mountain biking, as well as going to a number of the cultural festivities the city is putting on for the Championships.

It’s already been quite a summer of sporting excitement what with the World Cup in Russia. However, I have to say I think I slightly missed out on the excitement and buzz that was experienced south of the Scottish border! So England have had their sporting moment for the summer, and it’s now time for Scotland to enjoy their sporting moment by hosting what I hope will be a great 11 days of competition and celebrations.

By Megan Smiley, Jun 19 2018 04:34PM

Are you a flexitarian or thinking about being one? Flexitarianism is when you mainly follow a plant-based diet but eat a bit of everything at times.

It’s definitely something I think I could, or rather would, be willing to do. I have many friends who are pescatarians, vegetarians or vegans but the fact that I’m a big believer in variety in your diet for both health reasons and because I love eating lots of different types of food, I’ve struggled to entertain the idea of any of them. That is apart from one week as a young teenager I declared to my carnivorous family that I was going to be a veggie after watching an animal welfare video at school. As I said, it lasted a week. It’s not that I eat lots of meat, I have at least one meat-free day a week, my lunches are pretty much always vegetarian but giving up dairy, meat and in particular fish and seafood would be a struggle for me, especially when eating out and when my husband is involved (he’s your typical omnivore who thinks meat is that the focal point of a meal). So flexitarianism could be the solution.

I’m not the only one, as flexitarianism is becoming pretty popular for a combination of reasons including: environmental, ethical and health. Reducing the amount of meat and dairy consumption and therefore production is unquestionably beneficial for the environment and reduces an individual’s carbon footprint. Depending on where you source your non plant-based food from, the ethics and morals of production and distribution of these products are often pretty questionable, particularly in mainstream, low-cost products. Then the health benefits, and this is the bit I get a little stuck at as I’m completely on-board with the environmental and ethical reasons, but does cutting back on massive food groups -meat, fish, dairy – really make you healthier?

I guess the health issue is a little bit of a grey area as it depends on the individual’s starting point. Are you eating lots of meat especially processed meat and too much dairy? Do you hardly eat any fruit, veg and legumes? If so cutting back on the processed meat and increasing plant-based food is going to be good for you. But cutting back on all meat, fish and dairy means you’re going to be reducing important macronutrients (mainly protein and fats) and micronutrients (minerals and vitamins). So ensuring you get all the nutrition your body needs to operate at it’s best becomes more difficult and you need a greater level of understanding of food and functions that different nutrients support. I am not saying you can’t be a healthy flexie, pescie, veggie or vegan but you have to put in a little more effort to get a balanced diet. And this is at a time when the UK population is struggling with balancing the amount of food they eat vs the amount of food their bodies actually need, hence approximately a third of the population being overweight and a third being obese. So I’m sure you can see why I’m not all that confident that everyone is going to manage to achieve a balanced diet ensuring all important nutrients are included!

As with all diets, a little knowledge can be dangerous, and I feel flexitarianism could lead to people becoming nutrient deficient in many areas, therefore I think once again (all my blog posts seem to finish like this!) it’s about getting that balance right. So before you dive into a new diet have a think about how you will ensure you get enough of those important nutrients you’re cutting back on – where will your protein, omega 3 fatty acids, iron, calcium, zinc, iodine, vitamin B12 amongst many others come from? How much is sensible to cut back? Using a food tracker like My Fitness Pal will give you a break down of the nutrients in your food and is a good way of ensuring you’re getting the right amounts.

As I see it, flexitarianism is on a spectrum and you can choose where you put yourself on it, be it just one meat-free day a week or being a vegan apart from the very odd occasion, and that’s what I like about it – it’s flexible for you and your life. For me, I think I will try and ‘flex it up’ a little more for the environmental and ethical reasons, but for health (and selfish reasons- I like a variety of food too much) I’ll still make sure I get enough meat, fish and dairy for what is right for me. So choose what’s right for you and give it a go, but remember to think before you flex!

By Megan Smiley, May 3 2018 04:05PM

With Spring here, it being National Gardening Week and the house refurbishment being pretty much finished (apart from a million little niggling jobs that may not get done for a good while yet, if ever!), I turned my attention to our garden. It is a lovely garden and a great space but has been neglected for nearly 10 years so in need of some major TLC.

My previous gardening experience is somewhat limited, comprising of a metre squared yellow box I used to grow a handful of vegetables from in west London. So with a 30 metre long garden as well as a front garden, with very little knowledge and measly amount of experience, I set upon them! Luckily I have a helpful gardening consultant on lovely Mum!

So far I’ve ripped out lots of ivy, brambles and dead stuff, cut back various shrubs and bushes, and planted my first lot of vegetables. But as with the house, things seem to have got worse before they will, hopefully, get better. Instead of an overgrown garden, we now have a slightly less overgrown garden with lots of piles of garden waste in it.

So I am yet to see the fruits (or veg) of my labour in terms of the appearance of the garden, however what I have achieved is something less tangible but possibly more important, and what I often think of as benefits of exercise, in particular exercising outdoors.

I’m talking about the mental and physical benefits of gardening. It is that perfect level of having to think about what you’re doing so that your mind doesn’t wander too much but not too challenging that it becomes taxing. Therefore it’s very relaxing and has a meditative quality to it. Then there are the physical benefits. I tell you I think I’m pretty strong and fit but gardening is quite a workout. It requires strength, balance, co-ordination, explosive power, you name it and there will be a job in the garden that will cover it!

I also think nurturing living things to grow and develop is very therapeutic and rewarding, giving you a sense of accomplishment and a connection to nature. Then there’s the benefit of being outdoors getting fresh air and if you’re lucky enough some sunshine, soaking up that important vitamin D the sun dishes out. So all in all I am sold on this gardening stuff, which is a good thing as I’ve got plenty to do!

By Megan Smiley, Feb 16 2018 03:08PM

I tweaked a muscle in my shoulder yesterday which meant I had to stop the full body strength training session I was halfway through and transition the session into a lying down leg and ab focused workout! I was annoyed as it messed up my training plan for the week, plus it is pretty sore to turn my head to the left...

I then got some perspective on the situation as I was thinking about the 3,000 athletes currently competing at the Winter Olympics, and all the others that trained but because of an injury/situation weren’t competing. For people where sport is not only their passion and profession but their whole life, what must it feel like to pick up an injury or illness resulting in missing your chance you’ve been building up to and worked so hard for? Also, what about those cruel mishaps like Elise Christie’s hand getting knocked and her missing out on a medal in the short-track speed skating, especially after missing out on a medal in all three of her disciplines in Sochi four years ago.

To many the thought of being a top athlete where training is your job, might sound like a lot of fun but as with many things, the grass is always greener from afar. Whilst training and competing the pressure is immense, the training relentless and the sacrifices many. The money side of things can also be difficult, with funding and sponsorship limited to those at the top of their game, it can often be a struggle to support the training programmes, diet and lifestyle required.

But what seems like the hardest part is retirement, which even if they have a long and injury-free career, is very early compared to most others professions. There can be a difficult transition into “normal” life, and apart from coaching or commentating, for which there isn’t the demand to accommodate the number of retired athletes, then there isn’t always a clear career path for them. Although “past it” in the world of competing these are people who are still in their prime but often feel lost, lacking an identity and purpose now that they’re out of the adrenaline-fuelled limelight.

Then there are the physiological effects from reduced levels of exercise and new lifestyle patterns that can cause all sorts of issues too, and the social side of things - often when competing they are surrounded by people and are part of a team, when retired they can miss these close relationships that for so many years have been a massive part of their life. The fact that the cases of depression and suicides in retired athletes is above average reflects what is a challenging and sometimes devastating time for some.

So I’ll be admiring and cheering on all the athletes currently in Pyeongchang, in particular Elise Christie in her next two races. I really hope she gets a medal not (just) for Team GB but for all the hard work she and so many others have put in.

By Megan Smiley, Jan 5 2018 09:13AM

With social media full of reflective posts, goals for the year ahead and New Year resolutions, I couldn't help but be drawn in and do a little of that myself!

So 2017 was a year of getting stuff sorted and getting all my ducks in line. From rehabilitation on my foot, to tying up life in London, moving to Glasgow, settling into a new home/city/country and setting up my personal training business here. So as you can imagine there's been many a list and a few spreadsheets. But I feel that, not without a bit of stress, uncertainty and ongoing hard work, I'm getting there and life in Glasgow is starting to feel like the norm rather than a prolonged trip away/diy boot camp! I'm even, much to my (Scottish) husband's hilarity/embarrassment, picking up some Scottish mannerisms, albeit used in the wrong context and settings!

So my mantra for 2018 is keep doing the same as 2017! I can't really say it's a New Year’s resolution as it's not new. But as we all know things can have the tendency to slow down or stop completely after an initial burst of enthusiasm and energy. You then get stuck in a rut, forget your initial goals and ideas, and settle for what you currently have. But not this time, I'm not going to settle, I'm going to keep going (those ducks keep moving out of line and you may know how I don't like untidy things!). So I’ll continue pushing and promoting my PT business, I’ll keep increasing my running and building the strength back in my foot and leg, I’ll keep decorating (over half the house is now done). And I’ll keep being over friendly, verging on slightly desperate when meeting new people who could be potential friends/clients/tradesmen!

Then perhaps next year I can have a New Year’s resolution to slow down, hopefully being able to feel smug about my 2018 accomplishments!

By Megan Smiley, Sep 25 2017 09:08AM

I believe you should try and continuously challenge yourself in life. They don’t need to be big challenges all the time, they can just be little things that put you slightly out of your comfort zone. I think it’s important for many reasons, mainly to help you to develop as an individual and to stop you getting bored with life

But I also think challenges are good as sometimes people succeed and other times they don’t. Some people might think of not succeeding as failure but it shouldn’t be and it isn’t a negative thing. Not succeeding at things can be beneficial on many levels. It can provide a certain clarity on an issue, and you can gain skills that are useful for other areas of your life, and maybe one of the more obscure but I think important benefits is people see that not everything is perfect, easy, right, fun, and that sometimes deciding to give up on something or not succeeding on a task is actually the best thing. Think of a failing relationship...

With social media encouraging a portrayal of perfect lives with success stories of nobodies becoming rich, famous and successful, it’s good to see and hear about the other side too. Many of these rich, famous or successful people had failures before and maybe that’s what made them succeed in the end. So another lesson there is to keep going with challenge after challenge!

My stance on challenges is probably why four years ago I left my steady office based job and became a personal trainer, and is probably why after nearly a decade in London, I’ve moved to Glasgow, leaving a place that is very much my home, where I started and established my own business and where many of my friends are, to set up all over again. Albeit this is with my husband, which makes it both less of a challenge - not so scary as not doing it on my own, but more of a challenge in the way that marriages are!

So I’m in full settling/setting up mood (or procrastinating by writing a blog post?!) and the house refurbishment is in full swing, my basement studio is nearly finished, so I now just need to find a load of new clients, make new friends and… book a holiday to ensure a certain level of sunshine in my life!

Why not set yourself a little challenge, by doing that thing you’ve always thought/talked about, be it swimming lessons, learning a language, changing jobs, getting a personal trainer (sorry!) and if you succeed great and if you don’t that’s great too!

By Megan Smiley, Jul 19 2017 02:40PM

Being active and summer tend to go hand in hand in my mind. From childhood memories of the six week summer holidays filled with summer sport clubs, activity holidays, learning to windsurf, failing to master (or even understand) tennis, the list goes on. To the past month or so with the fab weather we’ve had, spending many an hour in various parks across London soaking up the sunshine, and although I’m not the one actually being that active, rather telling people to be active, but I’ll take the ‘being active’ by proxy!

Plus I AM getting more and more active since that pesky foot and two operations put me off track last summer. I have started running, not far, to be precise one minute running, one minute resting, eight times, twice a week but as I always say a little is much better than nothing. I’m able to jump (nothing crazy yet) rather than hop now - I have confused a number of my clients by trying to demonstrate exercises on one leg over the past six months. And my old trusty friend that is swimming which has been there helping me through the enforced time of reduced activity. The hot weather broadening my horizons from the council run local pool to lidos and a canal (I’m not sure I should admit to that one as I don’t think canals are meant for swimming, I blame the Pimms!)

Then there are the summer sporting events to inspire and excite your activity taste buds. From Wimbledon to the Tour de France, the Women’s Euros, the Open and many more.

Even those who aren’t into being active can’t help it on a sunny summer’s day, donning a pair of shorts and throwing around a frisbee in a park. The summer really does get people out and moving about, and I for one love it!

By Megan Smiley, May 12 2017 08:07AM

It seems like every time you hear the news there’s another food that’s become dangerous. The recent one I thought was a little ridiculous was burnt toast and potatoes, you would have to eat a LOT of burnt toast and/or potatoes for it to be harmful and who would do that? It’s not like they are tastier burnt or that you can’t help yourself putting toast down for a second time to achieve that burnt je ne sais quoi. So generally I tend to ignore/take with a big pinch of salt all these stories of the latest food that is bad for you. When you look into it, most of the claims are from pretty small samples or often not on humans (the burnt toast/potatoes was only proven in mice).

I think there are hidden dangers in food though, ones you don’t hear about in the news, and I’m not talking freak occurrences like the Sunny D river or the goats cheese fire that I would never have heard of but for the recent Guardian article.

I’m talking less newsworthy dangers but those that happen to all of us on a regular basis. The crusty bread that lacerates your mouth, the hot soup that burns your tongue, your over zealous chomping that causes you to bite half your cheek off, now these any the real dangers of food! Then there are the dangers not due to the eating but the preparing. The cuts (especially when you have just bought a new kitchen knife and aren’t using the blunt, pathetic knife you’re used to), the burns from your hand-eye coordination letting you down when reaching into the oven, and the list goes on.

Then there are ones that I’ve experienced that might be a little less common: the fine bones of anchovies getting embedded into the roof of my mouth and spiralizing my index finger trying to get that final courgetti strand out of my courgette.

As with most things in life that are rewarding, fun and pleasurable, and I think eating is up there in all three of those areas, then they come at a price and I’ll take the (probably more often than should be with me) food related injuries and potential links to health damaging effects for the enjoyment of eating any day!

By Megan Smiley, Mar 21 2017 04:35PM

With International Day of Happiness just been and in the never-ending quest for happiness, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes people, and me, happy. Yes, some people are just bubbly, happy people and others less so, and then some put on a front portraying happiness when that’s not actually the case behind closed doors. I wonder how many of those blissfully tranquil and happy Instagram posts are actually a vision of what that person strives for rather than what they actually have.

After some thought on how to achieve the happiest version of myself, I’ve decided that basically you should ‘Just Do It’ (to steal Nike’s 80s tag-line). ‘It’ being whatever makes you happy, obviously within reason. I’m not suggesting doing something completely crazy that makes you happy short-term and leaves you stranded and miserable long-term. Think little things that can be incorporated into your existing life without too much impact on your constraints e.g. time, money, health, obligations etc.

For me eating, drinking and spending time with friends makes me happy, but there’s only so much of that you can do, and I already do a fair bit of it! Plus the more I do of it the more I have increasingly guilty feelings about spending too much money and eating and drinking too much. Also, being active, exercising and playing sport make me very happy but I’m pretty much at the limit of what I can realistically do with that at the moment.

But there are other, more guilt free doable things like buying flowers, lighting a scented candle, having a massage, sitting having a coffee in the sunshine. All of these are pretty achievable without breaking the bank or cancelling prior commitments and are healthy for both the mind and body. However, these are things I often forget about or don’t get round to doing. So I’m going to start telling myself to ‘Just Do It’.

The other side of the happiness conundrum I think is solved by stopping doing what you don’t like. Now this one is a little trickier and again I’m talking within reason. There will no doubt always be some parts of life that you don’t enjoy and there are those bits that you don’t look forward to but then when you do them you actually quite enjoy. Both of these I think you should carry on doing.

So which bits am I talking about then? Well it’s again the little things. Those things you dislike that you could change without it having a drastic effect on anything other than your happiness. For example, you hate the post-work trip to the supermarket, do an online shop and freeze bits so the shop can last you all week (it’s amazing what you can freeze). You hate spending two hours at the weekend cleaning the house, get a cleaner. Yes, it will cost you a bit of money but if it’ll make you happier...

Why don’t you write a list of the little things that make you happy and the things that don’t, and try to make some small and gradual changes to make life that little bit happier! I’ve got my list done, and I’m going to ‘Just Do It’!