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Nine reasons to workout (that don’t include a bikini body)

March 19, 2016

One of the things I loved the most when I first started working out was the massive rush of endorphins I felt after every session. I was genuinely surprised by the change in my energy levels and the increase in my mood, and this kept me going night after night when I might otherwise have thrown in the towel. After years of losing interest in the gym when I didn’t see instant physical results, this change of mindset has made all the difference when it came to sticking at it – and funnily enough, the physical changes followed as soon as I stopped caring about them so much.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m out to get fit, I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t important. I love watching my body changing. I love seeing hints of muscle in my arms, the feeling of clothes fitting that had been off-limits all year, craving banana and cashew nut smoothies rather than a coke. But more than all of that, and the fundamental difference this time round, I love the way I feel. I feel light. I wake up on the weekend ready to go, my mind is focused. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, and that’s where the addiction to fitness lies for me.

So if you’re looking for reasons to get back to the gym that don’t include shaping up for summer, I’ve listed a few of my favourites! And if you happen to drop a few pounds whilst you’re there? Well congratulations you multi-tasker, you.

Nine reasons to workout – that don’t include a bikini body

Improve your mental health
I’d bought a SAD lamp last year convinced the dark nights were getting me down. After hours of googling and fretting over why I felt so damn low and tired all the time, I concluded it must be a lack of vitamin D and logged on to lumie.com to order myself some bright white light. I honestly believe Lumie lamps are great, but luckily for me it has sat untouched in the corner of my bedroom since last year.

Exercise is one of the most effective ways to improve your mental health, and regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, ADHD, and more. Studies show that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication – without the side-effects – and maintaining your regime can prevent relapse. That’s a pretty good reason to work up a sweat if you ask me.

Increase your energy levels
After an eight hour day of tackling client meetings and creative briefs, I’m usually just about ready to drop. I’ve been known to sleep on a weekend until it’s dark and my energy levels never really moved far above ‘awake’. These days I’m home from yoga before 11am on a Saturday morning, and that in itself is quite frankly a miracle. Whilst I can’t attribute this change solely to exercise (cutting out the sharing bag of chocolate on a Friday evening plays its part) I do know that working out regularly will fight fatigue and ward off sluggish feelings. NHS Choices suggests that ‘even a single 15-minute walk can give you an energy boost, and the benefits increase with more frequent physical activity.’

Improve your focus
Swap your early morning caffeine for some pre-work cardio and avoid the lull you get when the effects of the latte wear off. A report from the University of Illinois found that aerobic exercise in particular may improve immediate and long-term functioning of the brain in regions relating to attention. Handy if you have a long presentation to sit through.

Ramp up your sex drive
Ahem. Proven to improve sex drive in both men and women, an intense cardio session can significantly enhance physiological sexual arousal. A good case to schedule a post work trip to the gym, then. Plus the boost in body image and confidence that comes from regularly working out can’t help when it comes to baring all.

Boost your self-esteem
Which leads us on to body image. I can’t stress enough just how effective exercise is in improving our perception of ourselves. Even the simple act of turning up to the gym after a long day shows you’re taking charge of your body and your mind, and that in itself is seriously empowering.

Justify your ever-expanding lycra collection
Just saying.

Get to know your body
It seems strange now, but when I started working out I wasn’t at all aware how much weight I’d put on or how often I was covering up in baggy clothes and hiding from the world. I still looked presentable, if I do say so myself, in oversized COS and Whistles turtle necks, so no alarm bells rang for a long time. When I finally admitted to myself that I was unhappy with my lifestyle and the fact my confidence had fallen off of a cliff, it was a bit of a shock.

These days I feel far more in tune with my body. I’m starting to embrace the bits I can’t change, I recognise when PMS is making an appearance (yes, there is an app for that), and I don’t stress when I put on a pound or two because I know I can lose it again. Going to the gym makes you focus on yourself and on your whole body – how it feels at certain times of the month, how far you can push it in a yoga class – and I love this sudden awareness.

Realise how strong you are
Realising your own strength is a similarly amazing feeling. Lifting a set of weights you never thought you’d get off the ground feels really satisfying, and reminds you your body isn’t just there to look pretty.

General positive vibes
You know the old Instagram saying… ‘I really regretted that workout’ said no one, ever.

What keeps you motivated to exercise? Is it mainly to see a physical change or for the way it makes you feel?

Emma x

Life Style

This week I love: Fossil 1954 fragrance

October 7, 2015

Every now and then I find a fragrance that I literally cannot get enough of. This time it’s gone so far as ‘popping into’ Fossil each time I pass a store for a quick spray…

Officially number one on my Christmas wish list (hints have been given to Oliver), this week I love Fossil’s new 1954 fragrance. Spicy and warm, it just smells downright tasty and has a pleasingly heavy, wintery scent that lasts, blending mandarin blossom with pink pepper, ginger, and cedarwood.

A sucker for pretty packaging (I blame three years of studying advertising), the bottle also makes me very happy. Fingers crossed it ends up in my stocking. Yes, family and friends, that’s another hint.

Fossil 1954 Fragrance – £49 for 50ml, available at fossil.co.uk.

Beautifully illustrated by Brooke Costello. See more of her work here.

Life Style

Things I love: H&M bug sweater

April 2, 2015

I really love this cute embroidered sweater from H&M. I particularly love the fact that it’s £24.99…

On yet another occasion that I was supposed to be ‘saving money’, I popped into H&M and came out with a new favourite. I’ve been looking for the perfect grey sweater  for a while now – so why not try one covered in bugs?

As ever, the wonderful Brooke Costello has captured the look perfectly. I plan to wear this with puffy skirts and layered over a white shirt paired with black high waisted jeans.

Get the original here: H&M Bug Sweater

Illustration by Brooke Costello. See more of her work here or take a look at past collaborations here.

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Life Style

Burgundy Boots and Weekend Dressing

March 24, 2015

These photos were taken in the impossibly cute town of Saffron Walden in Essex. I can’t tell you what it is I love so much about this place, but every time I go I fall even more in love with the gorgeous town houses, the cosy pubs and the treasure-trove charity shops. It may have something to do with a particularly tasty baked camembert on offer in the Cross Keys.

This look was a bit mix and match (the green top was stolen from my sister’s ebay pile whilst I was at home for the weekend) and I can’t say I’ve ever thought to pair the fur gilet with baggy houndstooth trousers, but it turned out to be one of my favourites. The burgundy Topshop boots were passed on to me last year after I complained that I had no nice boots to wear and mum was feeling generous… quite a result.

I love the way that weekend dressing can be so much more playful than what we’re stuck with during the confines of the working week. Although I have to admit that *ahem*  I often take office dressing to the edge of what’s deemed acceptable, it’s great to properly experiment and play about with clothes. It’s a shame that my bedroom tends to resemble a jumble sale once I’ve done so.

Life Style

Olivia Williams | 88&Half Co-Founder

March 18, 2015

The latest to feature as part of the Nine to Five series, Olivia Williams from luxury sheepskin & knitwear brand 88&Half gives us the low down on launching the company, life working alongside her sister Grace, and her tips for young entrepreneurs.

Describe a typical day at 88&Half.
Each day is different from the next but would usually start by checking emails, liaising with boutiques and general sorting in the studio. If we have been at an event or show we would follow up with any leads from press or buyers. In the afternoon I like to be creative in the studio, so set time aside for designing, developing ideas, selecting colours, yarns and skins for the new collection.

How did the business progress after showcasing your final collection at Graduate Fashion Week 2012?
After showing my collection at Graduate Fashion Week I went straight into developing 88&Half. I began by making accessories and smaller pieces, to sell specifically at fairs and trade shows. The products were so well received that I began to struggle to keep up with the demand, so decided it was time to find a manufacturer. I really believe in supporting and celebrating English production so knew I wanted an English based manufacturer for the sheepskin pieces. After a year of retail sales we began to find a demand for supplying independent boutiques. We launched into wholesale with the AW14 collection, which was a big step for 88&Half in growing the business and developing the brand.

What has been your biggest challenge so far?
My biggest challenge so far was producing the full AW14 collection to show at Scoop International. It is such a prestigious trade show, I felt the pressure to get it right and wanted to make a good impression. I found it particularly tough juggling the sheepskin and knitwear designs but feel very proud of what we achieved.

And your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement was managing to secure seven boutique stockists for our debut AW14 collection. This was a challenge I set out to achieve – being an emerging brand I knew the value of having great stockists onboard. I really feel that the boutiques are great outlets for our brand.

Where do you find inspiration for new collections in such a specialist area?
I find inspiration for my collections from many different mediums. I am a very hands on designer and often like to develop patterns and silhouettes on the stand as apposed to sketching. I always look to the raw products to gain inspiration, for example new sheepskins tones and colours as well as textural yarns and stitch choices.

What attracted you to work with knitwear and sheepskin?
I was keen to work with sheepskin and knitwear together as they both embody luxurious qualities. Having trained as a knitwear designer I felt in a strong position to push the knitwear and develop all the skills I had learnt at university.

How do you find running a business with your sister?
My sister and I are great friends and are lucky to share an open and honest relationship. We respect each other’s opinions, which is how we can work together so successfully. Like everyone we do have our moments, but on the rare occasions when we do disagree it is always resolved for the better. Grace and I have a good balance in the office as we bring different attributes to the company and push each other to develop areas of weakness.

As a young entrepreneur, what advice would you give someone looking to start their own business?
– Think carefully, as you need to have drive and be self-disciplined. You really need to believe in yourself & your vision as no one else is going to push you.
– Have a good plan and idea of what you want to achieve before jumping in.
– Talk to people outside of your industry, and don’t be afraid to share your ideas with others and get their slant on your business ideas.

Want to know more about Olivia? You can find her on twitter @88andhalf or check out the collections at 88andhalf.com.