Weekend workouts & waterfalls in the beautiful Brecon Beacons

This week I focus on fitness once again, purely because I wanted to make the point that getting in a weekend workout does not have to mean dragging yourself out of bed to the gym before 11 o’clock in the morning. I mean, great if you can do that but who’d rather have a lie in? Me, that’s for sure.

There are so many simple easy things you can do to make your weekend workouts fun, especially if you feel cooped up in work during the week and struggle to reach your 10,000 steps per day Monday to Friday. You don’t even have to think of it as a workout, just think of it of getting outside and getting some fresh air – the great outdoors!

If you’re a runner, fab. You’re already pretty much there, just do your thing. If you’re a cycler, that’s fab too. Just pack up your car and head off somewhere stunning for a ride, why not! But if you’re a gym bunny like me these may not be the right options for you. My weekend workout of choice was a humble hike through the hills of South Wales; I can’t imagine a better one. I’m a born adventurer and (as we know from my Iceland post) a very keen geographer, so I’ll happily take any chance to go exploring in nature. There’s a long list of things to tick off my Welsh adventures bucket list but this weekend I picked waterfall hunting in the Brecon Beacons National Park – the Four Waterfalls Walk to be exact.

IMG_2623.JPG

Looking down the path of Four Waterfalls Walk

One of the absolute beauties of living in Cardiff is that Brecon isn’t even an hour drive away, it’s quite literally on your doorstep. It’s also the place that gets all the cute snow and ice when we don’t see it down here in the city, which makes winter walks all the more enjoyable (I especially enjoy the crunching sound of thick ice, why wouldn’t ​

​you?!). The only issue with this walk was that we found it very easy to get a little bit lost on the trail, only finding our way to 1 of 4 waterfalls before the cold and dark started setting in. However, this added to the sense of adventure and was all part of the fun if you ask me! Nothing wrong with getting lost in nature just so long as we find our way home in the end.

Crunch, crunch, slop, slop. The other thing of significance to note was that appropriate footwear was absolutely necessary. My company thought otherwise until, much to his surprise, we found ourselves on a mucky, sludgy path for which my walking boots were perfect and his trainers were not so much… Let us at this point remember the Scouts motto: Be Prepared.

IMG_3310.JPG

Sgwd Yr Eira looking lush

Anyway, we clambered through the mud and found the first (and in this case, only) waterfall: Sgwd Yr Eira. It was stunning as the sun shone through the trees beginning toimg_3309 set. This is also the one you can walk behind (see photo, left), reminding me of Seljandsfoss in Iceland although on a much smaller scale – still seriously cool though! The steps to and from the waterfall were a challenge in themselves, however, (I might have slipped over… but gracefully recovered injury free, of course) and this is where the real workout came in; I deliberately took long strides up in order to make it more of a challenge for my legs, even a throwing in a few squat jumps, but I’d recommend doing this without DOMS next time – did not ease my soreness! (DOMS = delayed onset muscle soreness, the pain you sometimes feel after a cracking workout) Still, a good way to get your glutes, hams and quads working away. I’d also recommend power-walking part of it if you want to feel a bit more benefit and get your heart rate up a little, or even bounding (safely) downhill every so often if you like to be a giddy little kid like me.

All in all, this 3 hour winter walk adventure racked up 14,488 steps alone – making my total for the day over 16k – and burned a whopping 825 calories, according to my Fitbit blaze. I don’t know about you but I’d class that as a great workout, whether you feel sore afterwards or not! Even better if you don’t feel it and just enjoy the ride, which is one of the best things about going walking in my opinion.

img_3301

Views from the path

As I said, there are many other Welsh adventures on my list, Pen-y-Fan currently at the top, but this was a great one to tick off and I’ll certainly be back to find the remaining 3 waterfalls. It seems silly to me not to explore all this beautiful countryside when it is right on our doorstep/such a short drive away, just get outside and go wild! If you don’t live near a National Park then there are plenty of other beautiful parks to walk around of a weekend, Roath Park and Bute Park being just two beautiful examples in Cardiff city centre. Most importantly, the weekends are about relaxing and a workout doesn’t always have to be hard work, life is about balance after all…

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Advertisements

My two top tricks for a happy, healthy new year: salmon & squats

The festive season is over and let’s face it, we all feel a little larger than before. That’s totally okay – we’ve earned it! But if you’re looking to improve your lifestyle this year, “new year, new me” an all that jazz, or just generally kick yourself into being a bit healthier, there are my two top tips: salmon and squats.

I know this sounds simple, but that’s because it is! Bringing a little more of these two things into your life can only be a good thing; I honestly can’t imagine being without them.

Firstly, the salmon. I’m giving you my top five ways of cooking this beautiful, beautiful fish. It’s packed full of natural protein (as much as 25g per 100g fish!), is nutrient rich, and is a fantastic post-workout meal choice for these exact reasons. It’s also really good brain food due to its naturally incredible homing mechanism. So go ahead, try a few of the below:

  1. Lemon & butter – the simplest way of all to make your salmon more than just a fillet of fish – a taste sensation. This particular method keeps it full of its natural freshness and flavour:
    Simply dash over some lemon juice OR slice a half or whole lemon (depending how big a fillet/portion you’re cooking and how lemony you like it) and place in atop the salmon, season to taste with salt & pepper and place a dollop of butter on top. Done! This works best all wrapped up in a foil parcel and oven-baked for 20-25mins on ~180 degrees. You can also whack in a few herbs for extra seasoning if you like, thyme being my personal recommendation for this.
  2. Cream cheese & garlic – this is my personal favourite when I want to indulge without being too unhealthy.
    Cut a few small incisions (around 2cm long) into the salmon fillet itself and push in some crushed garlic [photo 1], then smear your favourite cream cheese on top – as much or as little as you like but enough to get an even covering [photo 2]. Sprinkle with a little salt & pepper (and lemon juice optional) and you’re done! Cook as above. 

     

  3. Soy & ginger – a great Asian-style option to go with a stir fry or just add a little heat to your meal.
    Chop some fresh ginger and grate over your salmon fillet – you can use the same method as above by pushing it into small incisions or just leave it on top, dash over some soy sauce and a tiny bit of oil (Frylight is ideal) and cook as above.
  4. Pesto crusted – the best pesto to use for this, in my humble opinion, is my own red pesto recipe you can find on this blog. However, if you’d rather buy a jar than make it the idea is still the same.
    Simply smear an even covering of pesto on top of the fillet, sprinkle with some additional season if required and cook as above.
  5. Honey-glazed with almonds – this idea I got from a really lush seafood restaurant whilst visiting friends in Boston, MA. The trick is not to overdo this one though as burnt honey just isn’t the one.
    Arrange some sliced almonds evenly on top of the fillet, then drizzle the honey gently over the top trying to get as much coverage as possible and making sure it comes out as runny as possible in order to do so. Then wrap up and bake in foil as above but be careful not to go over time, the salmon should just be flaking the the honey shouldn’t be burnt. 

And there you have it, my top five ways to cook salmon! These can all be oven-baked in foil parcels for 20-25mins on 180 degrees, or you can purchase a microwave hot pot like mine and microwave it for 2-2.5mins on high heat. This gadget is brilliant, it’s like a microwave tagine and steams things perfectly from raw in just a few minutes! Perfect for healthy work lunches!

Next, the squats. Arguably the best all-round body exercise there is, squats strengthen your lower back, legs, glutes and abs all at the same time – so there’s literally nothing not to love! They hurt, don’t get me wrong, but are so worth it and will have you toning, fat burning and boosting overall performance in next-to-no time.

Here are five simple but very effective squats to get you started, or to give you something new to try in your next workout [filming credit goes to #getabswithabs]:

  1. Bulgarian split squats – if you sometimes suffer from lower back pain these are good ones to try; it reduces the overall stress on your lower back whilst focusing all the weight and resistance directly on your quads, hams & glutes and building up your single-leg stability. It’s also great for mobility and flexibility, so what’s not to love? (The pain, obviously)
  2. Kettlebell squats – like front squats but without the awkwardness of trying to balance the bar on your shoulders. Great for mobility and building strength in your lower back, legs and hips. Squeeze your glutes on the way up to build that squat booty too! I’ve gone for the sumo stance with legs wide apart, feet pointing out, as this gives me greater range of motion (allows me to squat lower, really engaging all leg and butt muscles).
  3. Goblet squats – again, the same awesome benefits as above. Keep your core and butt tight and you’re onto a winner, but be careful not to lean too far forward and focus your stability into your heels as these should stay firmly on the floor while you’re squatting.
  4. Jumping squats – absolute killer for me! But these are great as part of a high-intensity/HIIT workout. Not only do these build strength and muscle in your legs, they also promote an anabolic environment which helps to build other muscle groups during the rest of your workout, whilst the high-intensity nature of this exercise means it’s great for fat burn! (Just what we all need after the festive season) As well as helping to prevent injury by improving your balance. Bloody brilliant, right?
  5. Back squats – these are the standard squats but are by no means easy! Be sure to keep your back straight to prevent injury and keep the focus on your legs as this can also be great cardio while your heart is racing! Especially if you’re brave enough to try pause squats… I’d get the hang of the above first. The hormones released while squatting can also increase your upper body strength if done regularly – basically, squats are great.

Special credit goes to my girl Abbie Barton #getabswithabs for help with this fitness feature (including the video), for being a great inspiration and for being my kick up the arse when I need it the most! She’s also one of the best friends down here I could’ve asked for. If you’re looking for a great PT in Cardiff ladies, I know where to find one!

That’s all for now folks; I hope these ten simple suggestions give you some food for thought and some fresh ideas to try! Salmon & squats really are health hacks to live by, in my humble opinion, I love them both and I hope you will too. Here’s to a happy, healthy new year!

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx