A Revelation on Rainier (Part 3 of 6)

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This is the third in Josh's series of blog posts. Josh is our man across the Atlantic. Explorer, expedition leader, teacher, Bear Grylls survival expert and Wildfitness Coach, he explores the journey he has taken from outdoor passion to Wildfitness philosophy. He is also part of the team that will be delivering our first American retreats in the Hudson Valley, NY, in May.

“Dammit,” I cursed, glaring up into the swirling gray clouds hovering above the Emmons Glacier and completely concealing the upper flanks of Mt. Rainier from sight.

The light flurry of snow seems determined to increase as we pick our way up the steep slope below and towards Steamboat Prow. We are marching into the tail end of a freak summer storm that has battered Rainier with everything from snowfall, to gale force winds, to lightning. The fact that this storm fell on the exact dates that our team is in Washington to tackle the peak is of no surprise to anyone. My ability to bring foul weather with me has long been a running joke amidst my fellow adventurers.

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Yet I am not cursing at this fact. I’m not cursing at the costs we’ll incur to fly back a month from now to climb her again. I’m not even cursing at the fact that United Airlines lost my luggage containing all my precious climbing gear. (A feat that unbeknownst to me, they will repeat AGAIN a month from now when we return to complete the climb, leaving me to climb the most glaciated peak in the lower 48 using mostly women’s equipment, belonging to my friend and fellow climber Mat’s fiancée.)

I’m doing my best to remain grateful, considering I’m climbing at all. Back at Raigmore this past May, I was overjoyed to learn that my ankle was not broken, merely mashed, jammed, and sprained in the way one might expect from my Achmelvich antics.

A few days after, I found myself arguing briefly with Nala over how I was fine to join everyone on the day’s hike. She (rightly) had relegated me to driving duty so as to extend my healing time as much as possible. I quickly conceded despite my stubbornness, appreciating that perhaps my affinity for pushing too far had caused enough already. My climbing season, after all, had been saved.

Yet fast forwarding to July, I find now, that despite that I’ve managed to make it here with four functioning appendages, I’m cursing at myself, or more specifically, my climbing. My energy levels continue to spike and then crash, and my fuel of what I call glacier candy is not facilitating the levels of performance I am seeking, let alone accustomed to. Much of the team is ahead of me, and even though our climb is soon to be turned around, (we sought high camp in hopes of capturing some scenery, but the weather will not have it) it makes me no less frustrated.

I have always hiked and climbed relying on a mix of sugar based energy foods, and though I would certainly experience variances in my energy levels, I had always performed well. Today I’d made the mistake of leaving without breakfast, and wound up stuck with some sugary pastry in place of what would normally be a well-balanced meal. Now, I find myself peaking and crashing on a whole other level, while watching the rest of the team pull easily ahead on the windswept glacier.

Vic, our head camera man, who is normally a strong athlete as well, made the same mistake I did, and is lagging behind alongside me, sharing my frustrations.

Ego aside, this is not the type of climber I’m accustomed to being. There has to be a better way.

At about 9,000 feet the team regroups, sinking our ice axes in the snow around us for a quick discussion, before agreeing to turn around. One by one we sit in the snow to remove our crampons, in preparation to glissade down.

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For those of you that have never tried it, glissading can be a thoroughly exhilarating experience, so long as you have taken the time to be certain that you won’t deposit yourself at the bottom of a crevasse, or smash into a rock field at high speeds. It is essentially the process of sledding down a slope or mountainside on your rear end, using the bottom spike of your ice axe to control or brake. One will be quickly impressed, if not a bit unnerved by the high speeds this can achieve, not to mention the laughter at the sight of a team mate being launched into the air over a bump and landing in a heap at the bottom of the glacier.

The snow filled pants are well worth the fact that what may have taken hours to ascend is descended in a few high-adrenaline moments.

Back in Seattle, I complain to my team mates about what I perceive as my poor, sugar driven performance.

Mat, who is the central character of our film shoot, recommends the book Natural Born Heroes, the latest by Christopher MacDougall of Born to Run fame. I have been a barefoot runner for six years now, and won’t deny that the book was a large piece of the research I put into making the switch. So I’m more than open to whatever glass of Kool-Aid the author’s latest work has to offer.

Still, I didn’t read it right away. In fact, it wasn’t until after my team had returned to Rainier in August, summited successfully during the Perseid Meteor Shower, and flown back to New Jersey. This had all taken place over a single weekend, the climb itself being a 33-hour epic slog from car door to car door with virtually no sleep, and as previously mentioned (thanks to United), primarily in women’s climbing gear aside from my own boots and ice axe.

Yet, when I finally did open the book, in no way did I expect the story to be such a linchpin between the worlds of Wildfitness, climbing, training, and general nutrition.

I certainly didn’t expect it meant I’d be giving up brown rice and black beans for three months, a move akin to losing a relative for me.

What followed was an incredible and noble story of how the hearty people of the island of Crete, in cahoots with a few misfit Brits, formed the cast of one of the least known underdog stories of WWII. Together, they kidnapped a Nazi General from right under the nose of the German forces, an act of resistance amongst countless others resulting in so much trouble for Hitler that it was instrumental in delaying the flow of troops and supplies to the Russian Front. Eventually, this allowed the Russians the time to mobilize enough to start pushing the Nazis back west, and the rest is history.

Within this amazing tale was woven a narrative of fitness, wild movement, and dietary efficiency, specifically how the Cretan diet and way of life allowed them and their British cohorts to become hyper-effective mountain machines, allowing them to run, climb, and melt into and out of the mountains with ease.

Now we were speaking my language.

The story of the mountain fighters, and the description as to why and how they were able to move the way they did, proved to be the first time everything I had experienced back at Alladale took a contextual form in real life. Suddenly, a bridge had been built between the wild combos, the running, and the parkour that linked them directly to my number one playground, the mountains.

More so, the focus on a specific manner of eating had painted the locally sourced menu from the Alladale retreat into a whole new light, particularly with regards to the realm of athletic performance. Eating was the central pillar of Natural Born Heroes. More specifically, doing so in a manner that turned the body into a fat burning engine, using a system of diet and heart rate training called the Maffetone Method. I was to learn that while the average human body has roughly 5,000 to 8,000 sugar calories on hand to burn, it has roughly 140,000 fat calories at a given time, an endless source of fuel, should we only be able to tap into it.

It was admittedly all new to me, and I wasn’t sure just how well it would work once you threw in the wild card of steadily higher altitudes. But it was as though what I had been looking for had been dropped in my lap, so I decided then and there that I would serve as my own guinea pig to see whether or not all this would actually work.

To get started, all I had to do was take sugar out of my diet. Easy, I figured, considering I didn’t have a sweet tooth, and ate a generally low sugar diet already.

Or so, at least, I thought.

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The Ankle (Part 2 of 6)

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This is the second in a blog series by Josh Valentine, our man across the Atlantic. Explorer, expedition leader, teacher, Bear Grylls survival expert and Wildfitness Coach, he explores the journey he has taken from outdoor passion to Wildfitness philosophy. He is also part of the team that will be delivering our first American retreats in the Hudson Valley in May.

"I hate to see a broken man,"

Nala winces, her voice laden with sympathy as she tries to rub some of the swelling out of my clearly damaged ankle.

"Oh, I'm not broken," I insist.

Stupid, yes, and clearly injured, to that I could concede. But it took a lot more than this to break me, I assure aloud, as much to myself as to her.

Wildfitness Team: Josh, Nala, Hannah, Grant (clockwise from Josh)

Wildfitness Team: Josh, Nala, Hannah, Grant (clockwise from Josh)

Despite my attempt to keep positive, there is no stopping the wave of fear that I have just destroyed my climbing season on multiple levels. The countless small trips and plans that had been laid out for rock climbing season aside, there is the looming reality of my personal company's first big shoot on Mt. Rainier this coming July. On top of that, there is my first opportunity to climb in the Himalayas coming up in November. And let's not forget that as we speak, I am being paid as an instructor for Wildfitness Scotland. All things that require an individual to be able to move effectively on both feet.

You want to know what happened, well here it is:

It had been an incredible week leading up to that moment.

Wildfitness, I was to find, was a company full of interesting ideas presented by even more interesting people. I am beyond impressed with their knowledge and varied personalities, and have been soaking up the immense amounts of new information that comes out of them from all sides.

Nala, our leader, is a warm, endearing, and athletic woman to whom the clients are instantly drawn. Hannah, one of two assistants, is every bit as warm, and super high-energy, a constant source of enthusiasm for the team. Grant, the other assistant, is a veritable encyclopaedia of movement knowledge, matched only by his razor wit. Having myself come from a part of the U.S. where sarcasm is the local dialect, our sense of humour meshes immediately.

As all four of them are Brits, there is no shortage of good natured harassment over being the lone American. Yet we all mesh quickly as friends and teammates, and the laughter has been non-stop since.

As we work through the various areas of each day's activities with our clients, I am never bored. Some of the concepts are things I have seen and done before, such as varied martial arts basics, stretches, rolls, and games, while others are brand new to me. Regardless of which, I learn new aspects and techniques on how the human body was designed to live, eat, and move, whether I had seen them before or not.

Other times, we are square in my element, leading the clients on long scrambling hikes through the highlands, crossing rivers, or up to high lochs to roast fresh caught salmon over a fire. Between the physical action, the evening conceptual presentations, and the amazing, locally sourced wild menu, prepared by our local chef Lesley, alarms are going off in my head left and right. I have long maintained deep personal philosophies about mankind's dire need to reconnect with the natural world. The parallels between the Wildfitness ethos, my personal philosophies, and the ins and outs of the survivalist mindset leave me feeling as though I have just tapped into a lost source of ancient knowledge.

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In particular, the concepts of wild combos and parkour grabs me with a refusal to let go. While setting up for some basic jumping and vaulting work with the clients, Grant shows me how to do a jump called a Kong. A Kong is a fairly standard tactic in parkour, involving leaping with your hands extended out front and your feet high above and behind you over a log or rock, allowing enough clearance that your legs pass in between your arms and over the obstacle. It is an awkward feeling move at first, but it comes relatively quickly, to no shortage of enthusiasm. Soon after Grant is pointing to different logs and fallen trees, and calling out a move, which I in turn execute. Some come on the first shot, others take a few tries, yet with each one I grow increasingly more addicted to this new game.

"This is great," Grant cracks. "It's like I'm the brain and he's the body.

It's a partnership that I could spend the rest of the month exploring, save for the fact that we are meeting clients in a few minutes, which Nala reminds us.

"Good thing," I remark. "Because if you let me, I'd keep doing this until I managed to hurt myself."

If only I could so clearly see the future with regards to the stock market or something. I'd be a rich man.

By the end of the week, we are piled into Land Rovers and on our way to Achmelvich Beach, a stunning, white sand beach complete with shimmering aqua waters that look as though they have no earthly business on the north-west coast of Scotland. Indeed, if I didn't know better, I'd be certain we were somewhere on the Mediterranean.

The day is packed with a flurry of wild activity, including cold water swimming, wild running, combat games, and most notably to someone like myself, rock climbing. The beach is surrounded on all sides by jagged, clay colored cliffs that offer endless different bouldering and free solo routes. One of my jobs today is to introduce our clients to the basics of my personal obsession. In between our varied bouts of activity, we sit on the beach in the gorgeous sunshine, and take in the view while eating the deliciously prepared natural picnic menu that I can't seem to get enough of.

Another impromptu job becomes introducing my new British mates to the basics of American Football, which quickly becomes an entertaining competition in the white sand.

The day is an immense success, and as it winds down, the time comes for Nala to lead an exploratory run across the hills behind the shore. Dotted with sheep, rocks, paths, slopes, and all other manners of natural obstacle, they create the perfect playground for vaulting, jumping, rolling, and the countless other movements we have spent the last week honing.

It is an activity I become so quickly lost in that I hardly notice I am taking bigger jumps and risks with every step. The run ends successfully, but not before I attempt to cross a gap roughly twelve feet wide. It is only about four feet deep, and filled with sand, so a safe landing is seemingly guaranteed if I miss. I do, just barely, my feet grazing the far lip before I plunge into the sand. I can make this, I insist, despite being cautioned (rightly) to the contrary by Nala and everyone else in the group. My second attempt sees my feet slam directly into the far lip as I extend them in my attempt to land. An odd crunch reports from my left ankle, but no pain.

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I try twice more, then decide I need to work at my long jump once back in the States. We jog back to the beach, and proceed to climb for another twenty minutes or so, before the group showers and piles into the Land Rovers. I climb behind the wheel and we head to Kylesku for our delicious seafood experience.

One of the many aspects of the Wildfitness retreat is exposing clients to naturally, locally sourced foods and eating, which in this case has taken on the form of an incredible, fresh caught banquet of Scottish seafood. We're sitting outside in what is a steadily ascending drizzle, across from a restaurant in the small port town of Kylesku, Scotland. Around us on all sides are the jagged, beautiful profiles of the Highlands, jutting out from the lapping, salt water lochs and inlets of the Atlantic Ocean. About halfway through the clients and instructors gorging ourselves on everything from prawns, to scallops, to oysters, and beyond, I noticed an odd stiffness in my left ankle. In standing, I discover a pain so sharp that it is difficult to walk without limping. Difficult soon becomes impossible.

It's gonna be a nightmare to sort this out.

It would have been less of an issue, I suppose, had I not been the driver of one of two vehicles responsible for transporting everyone back to the Alladale reserve via our manual transmission Land Rovers, a task that would see my left foot depressing the clutch easily 200 times over the course of the hour-plus drive. While my stubborn side suggested that I suck it up, the part of me that realizes I am responsible for the safety of several people forces me to confess the situation.

Before long, I am speeding towards Raigmore Hospital with Val, the upbeat and high energy manager of Alladale, while the rest of the crew is heading back to the reserve. As my ankle throbs sharply with each winding turn along the narrow road, I stubbornly commit to saving my climbing season by any drastic means necessary, even if that means splinting my leg, jamming it into an oversized mountaineering boot, and dealing with the consequences somewhere later in life. It is a silly thought, but it keeps me positive.The next thing I know, I'm sitting next to Val in the waiting room of Raigmore Hospital, not far from Inverness, Scotland. I have abandoned my initial stubborn campaign to refuse the wheelchair, given in to the nurse's insistence. We have long taken to joking about my condition to pass the time, since there is little else we can do, and it helps maintain the positive outlook that assures me that I will be back to a functioning Wildfitness coach ASAP, not to mention a member of my mountaineering teams throughout the remaining year.

"Valentine," the nurse calls out suddenly. With I sigh, I am wheeled through the double doors.

You came for an adventure, I mutter to myself. Don't be mad because you found one. You'll be climbing again in no time.

Let's hope my ankle is as thick as my head.

The Majesty of the Midge (Part 1 of 6)

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My life is the wild. Quite literally in fact, which I feel privileged to be able to say with such sincerity. I make my living teaching and guiding a variety of outdoor programs and adventure sports, from mountaineering and climbing, to wilderness survival, to adventure film and writing, and so on. It is an ever-changing and an often unpredictable existence, to the point that I have forsaken a physical address and residence in favor of an old, gutted out minivan that has been converted into a gear closet on wheels. Weighed down to the wells with whitewater and climbing gear, it is a cozy little home, despite being one that often smells quite vividly of running shoe and wet dog. Sadly, there is no dog I can blame this upon. I achieve it regularly all on my own. If anyone out there has tricks for keeping the smell out of regularly used neoprene and climbing shoes, I'm all ears.

All that aside, I am comfortable saying that I have spent a good deal of my life training and thinking within a mindset that could be fairly described as “wild fitness”, long before I’d ever realised that there was actually a company out there by that very name.

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It's fair to say that no small amount of fireworks went off in my head once I’d been exposed to Wildfitness. Being exposed to what they do, I came to realise that there was a whole body of theory, knowledge, and practice to several concepts that had always been inherent, albeit undeveloped aspects of things I already thought and did. This world of wild movement even had its own subculture, one that connected so much from so many different fields, with more interwoven thought than I could have ever imagined.

Coming down from climbing a glacier on the largest mountain in the Pacific Northwestern US, I was unhappy with my performance and convinced that there is a better nutritional approach to mountaineering. This led my good friend and climbing partner to share a book with me on movement. The contents unexpectedly become the conceptual linchpin to a series of ideas that I’d first been exposed to while drinking a beer with a group of complete strangers, at a pub along the River Thames in London.

I had only met these strangers because of a chance encounter with one of them in the middle of nowhere, while teaching an extreme survival course in the Scottish Highlands and enduring the onslaught of their local insect swarms, warmly referred to as midges. And now, as I write these words, I am on a Chinese Airline to Nepal to test all of these concepts out atop one of the world's grander stages: the Himalayan Mountains.

My Himalayan story will come later on in my series of blogs, so for now, let's jump back in time about a year.

Sitting in the middle of a cloudy glen on a massive wildlife reserve known as Alladale, I am doing my best to give my clients on the Bear Grylls Survival Academy 5 Day Extreme Survival Course my full attention. I am teaching them to build fire, and they are struggling. Not so much because of the damp and oft-unforgiving wilderness of north Scotland, but more specifically because they are being swarmed by countless thousands of tiny, biting, gnat like creatures that literally cover their bodies and heads in patches large enough to obscure the colour of their outer garments.

For this reason, I too am struggling. The onslaught of the midge has gone on in varying intensity the last several days, and when they weren’t out, some form of disagreeable weather generally was. Yet this was a 5-Day Extreme Survival Course in the Scottish Highlands, offered by the Bear Grylls Survival Academy. So they as clients, and myself as one of three instructors (the other two currently taking refuge in a small stone shack called the Badger Hide, dreading their turn to teach their own lesson) knew what we were getting into when we signed on the line.

In fairness, I have dealt with plenty voracious insect swarms in my life, yet I couldn't deny that few, if any had rivalled the sheer capacity of the Scottish midge. Even our black flies back home in the Northeastern US were certainly capable of this, but only a few times had I experienced them to this level.

Needless to say, the last thing I expected to come across out in this barren setting was a well-dressed lady from London named Sara, scouting the preserve for some sort of fitness retreat.

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It made a fair bit more sense once I thought about it. The Alladale Lodge was massive and beautiful, just as the reserve was. Visit at the right time of year, and you’ll see a pristine image of a gorgeous landscape almost otherworldly, and free of the swarms of microscopic hellhounds currently feasting on my person. It seemed the perfect balance for what she was describing, and, (mostly because it had wild in the title), I presented myself as a viable candidate for the job.

About six months later, I was sitting around that pub table on the Thames with a group of enthusiastic strangers, drinking in beer and as much as I could about this company and what it delivered before I was shipped back to Alladale a month or so later (albeit under vastly more luxurious and midge-free conditions) to assist in delivering it.

In some ways, it was a bit of a jump. The Bear Grylls Academy slogan is “It may hurt a little,” whereas by contrast, the ethos of Wildfitness, from what I could gather, seemed to be teaching you wild ways to move and live designed to reduce pain. Since the vast majority of what I do for a living focused on enduring some sort of suffering or discomfort, a part of me was admittedly excited to see what came along with this new transition.

Since the company was new to me, I was brought on board for my wilderness background and specific knowledge of the reserve. The other instructors, led by a lively coach Nala (to this day I still think of the Lion King), would handle the bulk of the brand delivery, while I would deliver the wilderness aspects and assist and learn with everything else.

There was even discussion that if things progressed, and progressed well, then perhaps I would be able to act as a key piece of bringing Wildfitness over to the United States, a goal the company had held for some time. My mind flashed immediately to my home turf of the Northeast.

You can trust me when I say I've gone along with far worse ideas.

If nothing else, it was a new adventure with new people that promised plenty new to learn and experience. Before I knew it, I was on a plane bound for the U.K.

Standing in front of the Alladale Lodge, I watched the red stags graze across the lawn, and greedily drew in breath after breath of pleasant, midge-free highland air. And then, in need of a haircut, but otherwise fresh and ready in my new Wildfitness uniform, I set off from Alladale in one of two Land Rovers, bound for Inverness Airport to pick up our first batch of clients and see what this whole thing was all about.

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How to Feel Wild in the City

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As we launch our new locations and retreats for 2017, one question keeps cropping up: "Can we really do Wildfitness in a city?" In a nutshell, the answer is yes!

In this piece we look to our coaches for inspiration on how to feel Wild in the city.

Traditionally our retreats have, and continue to be, in fantastic locations that provide us with that break from hectic urban lives, noise and light pollution and the everyday hustle and bustle of commuting, traffic and being constantly online. However, we recognise that the other 51 weeks of our clients' year are in exactly this environment!

So we challenged ourselves: how do you get the movement nutrition while living in a city? We found that if we look at our environment from a different perspective then moving more closely to what our bodies expect can be easy and enjoyable, even in the city.

There are myriad opportunities to experience great movement lead by inspirational coaches. We have been under the skin of various cities during 2016, shunning tourist attractions for parks and woodland, giving open top buses a miss in favour of bicycles and kayaks and replacing museum visits with dance studios.

Here are some thoughts for do-it-yourself urban movement:

Chuck the guidebook - Step out of your comfort zone and don’t ask Siri for the best restaurants in the area or where the nearest park is - pop into the local deli or green grocer and ask for recommendations and you’re sure to find a hidden gem.

Get moving in your area - To identify a good spot you need to look at your environment from a movement perspective. Children are generally pretty amazing at this as it's very innate to them so if you need inspiration borrow a kid for the day or hire a Wildfitness coach - same difference!

Find your closest green spaces - These provide the perfect place to unwind, take a post work stroll or go for an exploratory run and see what presents itself. Our cities’ green spaces allow us to connect with nature and, even if this connection is just on a small scale, research has shown this to be highly beneficial to our health.

Look for opportunities - By this we mean find tree branches for brachiating, balancing and climbing, logs for lifting or walls for jumping and crawling on! You can practice skills independently or put them into a sequence.

Fight the fear - Your options are limited only by your imagination. Learning to create a bespoke session for yourself is part of the fun. If you have children then incorporate movement into your free time with them - I’m sure they’ll surprise you.

Take a minute - Create time for a biophilic moment (biophilia meaning our innate love for, and connection with, nature). We believe stopping and appreciating nature can sometimes be more important for us than the movement aspect of achieving balance.

Step away from the electronic device - We are often over stimulated and aroused by artificial stressors and visual landscapes. Sometimes intense exercise is not the answer to combat this; simply turning off is

Socialise - Bring a few friends to make for a fun, fitness filled get together

Get it in the diary - Find what works for you and do it as consistently as possible to find that balance between arousal/challenge and relaxation/recovery.

5 Best Minimalist Shoes

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Head Coach Paul Suggests the Best Minimalist Shoes for Movement

1. Camper Beetle, www.camper.com

Providing a zero drop, wide toe box and a nice hug of the upper foot whilst allowing for maximal movement; plus enough style for most occasions. A shoe that feels better than most trainers.

2. Vivobarefoot Motus, www.vivobarefoot.com

Uber minimal footwear providing the best proprioceptive feedback to sole protection ratio out there. The added bonus is that the Motus is proving to be a touch more durable which helps.

3. Luna Sandals, www.primallifestyle.com

Made using upcycled tires and a Vibram midsole, these sandals LAST and the JC look is definitely back!

4. Innov-8 X-Talon 225, www.wiggle.co.uk

For those who plan on moving through particularly rugged terrain and need that little extra grip the X-Talon works well under the wettest and harshest of conditions and is also good when balancing on wet tree branches!

5. Barefoot, free: look down and spread those toes!

"The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art", Da Vinci. Nothing quite beats the real thing for connecting you to your environment, the benefits are huge when introduced with skill.

10 Tips to help you Workout in Winter

Sunset at 42 Acres, Somerset

Sunset at 42 Acres, Somerset

Sunset jogs around the park and rooftop yoga are no more now that the colder months are approaching and we know that finding motivation to exercise outdoors can be hard so our Head Coach Paul has some tips to make your workout a little more pleasant.

  1. Exposure for resilience - if we only venture into the outdoors under optimal conditions and weather we are giving our bodies a false sense of reality. The weather is changeable and the more we expose ourselves to it, within reason and with appropriate scaling, the more adaptable and resilient we become to it and as humans.

  2. Prep the body - before you rush out from the nice warm house straight into the cold for a run or movement session perform a few mobility drills in the areas you suffer with tension and tightness. Spinal waves (see 7) and rotations are great, as are hip, ankle and shoulder mobility drills, all common areas of restriction. This will decrease your chance of injury and done on a regular basis provide you with better range of motion.

  3. Avoid Seasonal Affective Disorder - a lot of us suffer with emotional lows during the winter period, the answer is to get out as often as possible for your much needed SAD suppressor, vitamin D and then vigorous movement on top of this will add a nice endorphin kick into the mix to help you smile more.

  4. Eat clean - Help avoid the flu this winter and opt for foods high in vitamin C which will help boost your immune system. Leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables by the shovel load would be the best choice as they are low in sugar and also brimming with fibre along with other vitamins and mineral that are amazingly good for us.

  5. Relax in a magnesium salt bath - The best part about training outdoors is getting home and sinking into a nice hot bath to sooth aching muscles and help you relax into a state of pure bliss. Add some magnesium salts to really nourish your muscles.

  6. Regular movement snacks - Winter tends to be the time we sit the most: breakfast, commute, desk, lunch, desk, commute home, dinner, TV, lots of sitting...sound familiar? Add regular and varied movement into your day, especially in the spine and hips which suffer a lot from the seated posture. Do this for at least five minutes, five times a day on top of more formal sessions.

  7. You're as old as your spine - your spine is a masterpiece of engineering but needs regular stimulation and movement for it to maintain its amazing functionality. The 'use or lose it' saying is super relevant with the spine and when we lose the ability to extend, flex, rotate, laterally bend in the spine, it has a very significant impact on our lives. Stand, root your feet to the floor and sway your spine like a tree in all the mentioned plains of movement.

  8. Drink Bone Broth - Take a Flask of bone broth with you wherever you go. Bone broth is full of nutrients and will keep you warm on a evening run or workout session in the park. For vegetarians use 1 tablespoon of veg stock to 250ml of warm water chop up some spring onions and grate carrots and celery into it for a warming quick fix.

  9. Keep your senses about you - Avoid switching off to your environment and enjoy the sounds, smells, tactile sensations that nature's seasons provide us with. Scientific research has shown that heightened awareness and connection to nature has significant psycho-physical benefits which are all more important during the winter months.

  10. Enjoy what it is you're doing - What you choose to do with regards to your form of movement or exercise should be rewarding and enjoyable. If it's not then the chances of quitting are even higher during the winter. Dance, climb, try a martial art, parkour, whatever it is you want to find an enjoyable challenge for it to be sustainable and beneficial.

Taste of the Spice Isles - Chicken with Banana Leaves

Banana leaves are the organic and original version of aluminium foil. Not only that, they infuse the food you cook them with to give it clean and woody taste.

Everyone will be eager to see what you have put in their well-wrapped and seasoned parcels. Why not deviate from the norm and try out this delicious dish?

Ingredients

  • 4 single chicken breast fillets (680g)

  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed

  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh lemon grass

  • 2 red Thai chillies, chopped finely

  • ½ cup loosely packed, coarsely chopped fresh coriander

  • 1/3 cup (80ml) lime juice

  • 1 ½ tablespoon peanut oil

  • 1 large banana leaf

  • 300g snow peas, trimmed

  • ¼ cup (40g) roasted pine nuts

Dressing

  • 1 tablespoons lime juice

  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

  • 1 tablespoon rice wine

  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce

  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil

  • ½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger

  • 1 clove garlic, crushed

  • 2 teaspoons of thai sweet chilli sauce

Method

Using sharp knife, make three shallow cuts on smooth side of each fillet.

Combine garlic, ginger, lemon grass, chilli, coriander, juice and oil in large bowl. Press spice mixture all over chicken, pressing firmly but gently into cuts. Cover; refrigerate while preparing banana leaf.

Cut banana leaf into four 30cm squares. Using tongs dip one square at a time into large saucepan of boiling water; remove immediately. Rinse under cold water; pat dry with absorbent paper. Leaves should be soft and pliable.

Centre each fillet on a banana leaf square. Fold leaf over fillet to enclose; secure each parcel with kitchen string. Place parcels in bamboo steamer over wok or large saucepan of boiling water; steam, covered, about 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Meanwhile, boil steam or microwave snow peas in medium bowl with pine nuts; add dressing. Toss to combine; serve snow peas with chicken.

Dressing: combine ingredients in glass screw-top jar; shake well.

chicken-in-banana-leaf.jpg

Taste of the Gods - Barbecued Asparagus

As the sun is set to shine this week, we are preparing for a guaranteed barbecue and our recipe is a corker.

When the coals are out, so are the meat eaters and if you are a vegetarian you become easily forgotten. Next time you're invited to a barbecue remember to take some asparagus spears and this recipe!

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

  • 1-2 garlic cloves, crushed

  • 375g (12 oz) tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and chopped

  • 7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 500g (1 lb) young asparagus spears

  • 50g (2 oz) pine nuts, toasted

  • 25g (1 oz) parmesan cheese, shaved into thin slivers

  • Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

  • Warm bread to serve

Method

Place the vinegar, garlic, chopped tomatoes and 5 tablespoons of the olive oil in a small bowl. Mix well to combine.

Trim the asparagus spears to remove any tough, fibrous stems. Brush the asparagus with the remaining olive oil and cook on an oiled barbecue grill over medium coals 5-6 minutes until tender.

Divide the asparagus between 4 warmed serving plates. Spoon over the balsamic vinegar and tomato dressing, top with the pine nuts and parmesan slivers and sprinkle with the sea salt flakes and pepper. Serve at once with plenty of warm bread to mop up the juices.

barbacued-asparagus.jpg

Taste of the Wild - Pumpkin Tagine

We don't want to wish away the summer but we are entering the fruitful months for harvesting and an abundance of fresh and easily sourced produce!

We've given the humble British pumpkin a spice infusion for the coming cold winter months.

Ingredients

20g butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 medium brown onions (300g), chopped coarsely

2 cloves garlic, crushed

4 cm piece fresh ginger (20g), grated

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind

1kg pumpkin, chopped coarsely

400g can chopped tomatoes

2 cups (500ml) vegetable stock

400g green beans, cut into 5cm lengths

1/3 cup (55g) sultanas

1 tablespoon honey

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint

Method

Heat butter and oil in large saucepan; cook onion and garlic, stirring, 5 minutes.

Add ginger, spices and rind; cook about 1 minute or until fragrant.

Add pumpkin, undrained tomatoes and stock; bring to boil.

Simmer, covered for about 15 minutes or until pumpkin is just tender.

Add beans to tagine mixture; cook, stirring, 5 minutes. Just before serving stir sultanas, honey and chopped herbs through.

pumpkin-bean-tagine.jpg

Taste of the the Wild - Rhubarb and Tomato Chutney

This chutney is not for the impatient, eager beavers or keen cooks as you’ll need to leave it in cool, dry storage place for about a year for the best tasting results. However you could be super prepared for Christmas and make enough so that all your friends and family can enjoy your efforts, either as a gift or as posh dinner condiment.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 and ½ tablespoons black mustard seeds

  • 1 and ½ tablespoons ground cumin

  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves

  • 11/2 tablespoons ground coriander

  • 11 medium (2kg) tomatoes, chopped

  • 2 large (400g) onions, chopped

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed

  • 2 cups (340g) raisins

  • 1 cup (200g) firmly packed brown sugar

  • 1 cup (250ml) brown vinegar

  • 1 bunch (700g) 4 cups chopped fresh rhubarb stems

Method

Heat oil in large pan, add seeds and spices, cook, stirring, until fragrant.

Add tomatoes, onions, salt, garlic, raisins, sugar and vinegar.

Stir over heat, without boiling until sugar is dissolved.

Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes or until mixture is thick.

Stir in rhubarb, simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes until rhubarb is tender.

Spoon hot chutney into hot sterilised jars; seal immediately.

rhubarb-tomato-chutney.jpg

Taste of the Spice Isles - Crab with Papaya

Can't wait to be in Zanzibar for our chefs to serve up some delicious fresh papaya and coconut, then we have given you a recipe to devour the flavours of the spice isles from your own dining table... if the scenery lacks beach vibes you can always watch a video on youtube of the waves lapping a delightful beach and dream of joining us on a retreat.

Serves 2-4 (appetite dependent)

Ingredients

  • 400g cooked crab meat, shredded

  • 1 medium green papaya (350g), grated coarsely

  • ½ cup (50g) coarsely grated fresh coconut

  • ½ cup coarsely chopped fresh mint

  • 1 fresh small red Thai chilli, chopped finely

  • 18 large betel leaves

For the Coconut dressing

  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil

  • 1 tablespoon lime juice

  • 2 tablespoon coconut cream

  • 2 teaspoon fish sauce

Method

To open fresh coconut, pierce one of the eyes then roast coconut briefly until cracks appear in the shell.

Cool the coconut, then break it apart and grate the flesh.

Make coconut dressing - combine ingredients in screw-top jar; shake well.

Combine crab, papaya, coconut, mint, chilli and dressing in medium bowl.

Divide crab mixture among betel leaves.

crab-papaya-salad.jpg

Taste of the Gods - Seared Beef and White Bean Mash

Craving a winter roast... well we have the ideal alternative that is a lighter summer special. A warming family meal reminiscent of the classic Roast, we have replaced the beloved roasties for a healthy white bean aka cannelini mash flavoured with horseradish. If you are trying to cut down on your daily intake of net carbs this substitution will revolutionise all of your meals. Give it a go and click on the title to see the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 tbsp chopped Fresh rosemary

  • 1 tbsp chopped Fresh thyme

  • 280g/9.5oz piece beef fillet, trimmed

  • 50g/2.5oz unsalted butter

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped

  • 2 crushed garlic cloves

  • 410g can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

  • 200g/8oz Savoy cabbage, cored and shredded

  • 3 tbsp chicken stock or water

  • 1 tbsp finely grated horseradish (from a jar is fine!)

  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

  • 2 tbsp basil/olive oil or drizzling.

Method

Mix 2 tablespoons of the oil with rosemary, thyme and some pepper in a shallow dish.

Coat the beef in it, cover and chill for 2 hours (or overnight). Let the beef come to room temperature.

Heat a cast iron griddle pan until very hot. Wipe the beef and cook for 4 – 6 minutes on each side for rare. Rest for 15 minutes.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil and half the butter in a pan. Gently cook the onion and garlic for 8 – 10 minutes until soft, not brown. Add beans and cook for 1 – 2 minutes.

Heat a wok or large pan. Add remaining oil and butter. Stir fry the cabbage for 1 – 2 minutes. Add stock. Cook for a few more minutes to evaporate most of the liquid. Stir horseradish into the beans and mash. Stir in the parsley.

Carve the beef into 4 slices. Serve with beans, cabbage and drizzled with oil.

seared-beef-with-bean-mash.jpg

Taste of the Spice Isles - Citrus and Avocado Salad

This week's recipe will impress the likes of the A-listers and they don't even know how easy it is to make. It is a perfect post diner refreshment when the salt you have taken in needs to find its equilibrium with sugar again which makes the taste sensation all the more poignant.

A refreshing and attractive citrus and avocado salad, ideal with grilled oily fish.

Ingredients

Mixed red and green lettuce or other salad leaves

2 sweet pink grapefruits

1 large or 2 small avocados, peeled, stoned (pitted) and sliced

For the dressing

90ml/6 tablespoons extra-virgin oil

30ml/ 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 garlic clove, crushed

5ml/ 1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard

Salt and ground black pepper

For the caramelised peel

4 oranges and the juice of one

50g/2oz/ ¼ cup caster (superfine) sugar

60ml/4 tablespoons cold water

Method

To make the caramelised peel, using a vegetable peeler, carefully remove the rind from the oranges in thin strips and reserve the fruit. Scrape away the white pith from the underside of the rind with a small, sharp knife, and cut the rind into fine shreds.

Put the sugar and water in a small pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Add the shreds of orange rind, increase the heat and boil steadily for 5 minutes, or until the rind is tender. Using two forks, remove the orange rind from the syrup and spread it out on a wire rack to dry. Reserve the cooking syrup to add to the dressing.

Wash and dry the lettuce or other salad leaves and tear or chop them into bite size pieces. Using a sharp knife, remove the pith from the oranges and the pith and peel from the grapefruit. Hold the citrus fruits over a bowl and cut out each segment leaving the membrane behind. Squeezing the remaining juice from the membrane in the bowl.

Put all the dressing ingredients into as screw-top jar and shake well. Add the reserved syrup and adjust the seasoning to taste. Arrange the salad ingredients on plates with the sliced avocado. Spoon over the dressing and sprinkle with the caramelised peel. Serve immediately.

citrus-avocado-salad.jpg

Taste of the Gods - Gingered Carrot Salad

Here we have combined the sweetness of carrots with ginger that can lift off any meal and make it one to remember.

Ginger has many healing qualities, so if you can introduce this ingredient into your daily life you should quickly reap the benefits.

Ingredients

305g/12oz carrots

30ml/ 2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves of garlic crushed and finely chopped

Thumbnail piece size of fresh root ginger peeled and grated

Half a bunch of fresh coriander finely chopped

Juice of half a lime

Salt and ground black pepper

Method

Peel the carrots and cut them into fine matchsticks. Put them in a bowl and stir in the oil and grated ginger.

Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes, to allow the flavours to develop fully.

Season the salad with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with coriander for a refreshing kick.

*Variation*

To make a parsnip and sesame seed salad, replace the carrots with parsnip and blanch in boiling salted water for 1 minute before combining with the oil and ginger. Replace the poppy seeds with the same quantity of sesame seeds.

gingered-carrot-salad.jpg

Taste of the Gods - Bulgar Wheat and Tomato Salad

Let us start of your weekend with a summer dish, perfect to accompany the charred goodness from the barbecue whether it be large sweet peppers or a well garnished kebab. This dish can compliment almost any meal, turn a mediterranean dish into a mezze platter by adding hummus on the side with a few small falafels, full of goodness.

Ingredients

  • 350g/2 cups bulgur wheat

  • 250g frozen broad beans

  • 115g/1 cup frozen petits pois

  • 225g cherry tomatoes, halved

  • 1 onion, chopped

  • 1 red (bell) pepper, seeded and diced

  • 50g mangetouts, chopped

  • 50g watercress

  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil and thyme

For the dressing

  • 5 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon mustard powder

  • Salt and ground black pepper

Method

Put the bulgur wheat into a large bowl. Add enough cold water to come 2.5cm/1 in above the level of the wheat. Leave to soak for approximately 30 minutes.

Turn the soaked bulgur wheat into a sieve (strainer) lined with a clean dish towel. Drain the wheat well and use the dish towel to squeeze out any excess water.

Cook the broad beans and petits pois in a pan of boiling water for about 3 minutes, until tender. Drain thoroughly and mix with the prepared bulgur wheat in a bowl.

Add the cherry tomatoes, onion, pepper, mangetouts and watercress to the bulgur wheat mixture and mix. Combine all the ingredients for the dressing, season and stir well.

Add the herbs to the salad, season and add enough dressing to taste. Toss the ingredients together.

Serve immediately or cover and chill in the refrigerator before serving.

bulgar-wheat-tomato-salad.jpg

Cool Green Juice Boost

Feeling hot, hot, hot? Enjoy a juice boost to cool you down.

A very refreshing and super energising juice to kick start your day. To steer clear of the coughs and colds going round recently, I have been having one of these juices every morning and immediately I can feel the vitamins having an effect on me. I may have gone overboard with the ginger in this recipe, but I love what it gives me; I'll have a spring in my step for the rest of the day!

Ingredients (Serves 2)

  • 1 apple, core discarded

  • 2 inches root ginger, peeled

  • 1 lemon, rind removed

  • 2 stalks celery

  • 1/2 cucumber

  • Dash of cayenne pepper

  • Ice cubes, optional

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend together for a minute or so.

Serve immediately and enjoy!

cool-juice-boost.jpg

Taste of the Gods - Mediterranean Chicken

This is a quick and easy recipe to transform your everyday dinners to make it that little bit more special or to impress any guests. I'm a bit of a fussy chicken eater - it has to be perfectly cooked and I can't cope when it's dry. By filling the breast with basil, sun-dried tomatoes and olives, it helps keep the chicken as tender as possible and infuse it with delicious Mediterranean flavours.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 4 chicken breasts, flattened to approx. 5mm thickness

  • Handful of sun-dried tomatoes, chopped roughly

  • Handful of fresh basil leaves, torn

  • Handful of olives, chopped roughly

Crust

  • 130g ground almonds

  • Seasoning

  • 1 whisked egg

Pesto

  • Handful of toasted pumpkin seeds

  • Handful of sun-dried tomatoes

  • 3 handfuls of fresh basil

  • 1 clove garlic

  • 200ml extra virgin olive oil

  • Juice of half a lemon

  • Seasoning

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 C.

Mix the basil, olives and sun-dried tomatoes together and spread evenly on to all four flattened chicken breasts. Roll each breast, the filling in the centre and leave to one side.

Prepare the crust. Mix the almonds with seasoning and put into a bowl. Put the whisked egg into another bowl. Cover each rolled breast in the whisked egg and then dip into the ground almonds, until they are lightly coated.

Place the coated breasts onto a baking tray and bake for 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

Place all the pesto ingredients in a blender for a minute, or until combined.

Slice the chicken and place on top of some steamed veg of your choice (or salad) and top with a drizzle of pesto.

mediterranean-chicken.jpg

Taste of the Spice Isles - Coconut Prawns

We bring you the "Taste of the Spice Isles" with our deliciously healthy recipe for Coconut Prawns with a Spicy Mango and Ginger Salsa. Perfect starter for 2 people.

Ingredients

Coconut prawns

150g king prawns (preferably uncooked but works with pre-cooked prawns too)

2tbsp buckwheat flour (you can also use other flours like rice, chickpea, quinoa, etc)

1 egg, whisked

3tbsp dessicated coconut

1 pinch sea salt

1 glug of coconut oil

Salsa

1/2 mango, diced

1/2 fresh lime juice

1/4 red onion, diced finely

1 inch root ginger, grated

2 sprigs of fresh mint leaves, shredded (coriander also works well)

2 pinches of red chilli flakes

2 pinches of sea salt

1 glug of extra virgin olive oil

Method

Begin by making the salsa. Mix all the ingredients together and leave aside while you prepare the prawns.

Pat the prawns dry with some kitchen roll. Put the flour, whisked egg and coconut in three different bowls and begin by dipping the prawns in the flour, then egg mixture and lastly the coconut. Make sure they are well coated in coconut.

Place a frying pan on medium to high heat and add the coconut oil. Once the pan is hot, add the prawns and leave to cook on one side for 5 minutes, until slightly golden. Flip them and cook for a further couple of minutes.

Serve immediately, with the mango salsa.

coconut-prawn-salsa.jpg