Tenerife Holiday Blog: Vanilla Garden Hotel

For our first holiday abroad together as a couple, my girlfriend and I mutually decided to visit Tenerife. After changing our minds one too many times, and after several hours, days and weeks of indecisiveness and stress (because as we all know, booking holidays can be somewhat stressful!) we eventually came across the wonderful Vanilla Garden Hotel in the Playa De Las Americas area of Tenerife.

After hearing several good things about the hotel courtesy of scouring several TripAdvisor reviews, we decided it would be the perfect hotel for a week’s stay for us.

We flew out on the 27th July 2017 from Manchester Airport for a late afternoon flight so we weren’t due to arrive until in the evening. After we had arrived and collected our baggage and boarded the transfer coach, trouble soon struck as the coach engine failed to start. Just our luck! We thought to ourselves.

A gentleman boarded the coach and informed us that another would be along in five minutes. Wishful thinking that appeared to be, as we were left waiting for at least thirty minutes. Many people gave up and decided to obtain alternative travel arrangements, however we held out for the replacement coach despite feeling somewhat tired and in need of a good sleep.

Due to our relatively late flight, we were the last ones to check in. Our coach dropped us off across the road from the hotel so not much of a walk. We were greeted by a young gentleman on reception checked us in promptly and efficiently. He was very polite and friendly and an asset to the team. He let us know our room number and informed us that a cold meal had been prepared for us along with offering us a welcome drink. This was greatly appreciated and a nice touch.

In terms of the room itself, it was absolutely fantastic, very clean and spacious. There was a large wardrobe offering plenty of storage, tea and coffee making facilities, microwave and flat screen tv. The bathroom was large and had a walk in shower with a hairdryer and toiletries provided. The bed was large and extremely comfortable and you we enjoyed a great night’s sleep every night easily.

The air conditioning in the room was extremely reliable and much appreciated in the height of the summer! (be sure to keep your balcony door shut though as it will switch off). The location of the hotel was very convenient, easily accessible to all local bars, restaurants and shops. It is situated just down the road from all the main nightlife Playa de Las Americas has to offer, however we were never disturbed by any noise despite it being relatively close to the Veronicas.

The hotel is very quiet at night and ensures you can enjoy a good night’s sleep with the odd exception of a small amount of noise from people leaving early for flight’s but you would get this anywhere so not so much an issue.

We attended a meeting the first morning of our stay and the Thomson rep was very friendly and professional, he thoroughly explained all the excursions and explained on a map all the points of interest. He didn’t make us feel pressured or rushed into buying any tickets to any excursions and allowed us to take a look at which ones would interest us the most.

We returned and booked Teide by night which at 85 Euros seems steep but it was worth every penny (or cent in this case!) transport from the hotel was included, and you were able to experience picturesque, panoramic views of Tenerife in which we were able to watch the sunset from above the clouds,which was absolutely incredible. We had a lovely three course meal included in the cost, and a perfect end to a perfect day came in the form of a well informed and professional stargazing session.

The other excursion we chose to do was the Freebird Catamaran trip, which was also very enjoyable. We were able to view both dolphins and whales which was a great experience and something I had never done previously, highly recommended!

In terms of other things to do, we visited the Las Vistas beach which was approximately thirty minutes walk away, although you could get a taxi should you wish to. Word of warning though! Ensure you take flip-flops or a pair of shoes as the sand is unbearably hot! At least in the height of summer anyway. There was a beach close to our hotel, but we didn’t really fancy the nearby black sand beach as it doesn’t look quite as appealing despite being natural!

We also visited the Safari Centre which was approximately twenty minutes away, absolutely fantastic surroundings, nice and modern and made you feel like you were in Las Vegas, or at least I thought so! Additionally, we visited two of the nearby resorts in Costa Adeje, which was very picturesque and had a nice beachfront walk. Los Cristianos isn’t too far away also, and although this has a less touristy feel and felt more authentically Spanish, I would definitely recommend a visit. Plenty of lovely bars and restaurants available with decently priced drinks and meals.

Additional aspects of our hotel included the lovely pool surrounded by plenty of sun beds which we were always able to get no matter the time of day. There were notices around the hotel not to reserve them but as we all know everyone does it anyway! In terms of food we stayed half board so had breakfast and an evening meal included.

The breakfast was plentiful and catered for a wide range of tastes including cooked breakfasts including fried eggs, bacon and pancakes at the show cooking, and you could even get English hash browns which were lovely! drinks were included at breakfast but not at evening meal.

You could get drinks charged to your room which saved taking cash to the poolside for example, although you needed to set this up at reception first. We found the evening meal to be adequate and had a variety of meals throughout the week. You could get options from the show cooking including beef, steak and chicken which we tried and thoroughly enjoyed and they even asked how you liked your steak cooked which was perfect.

There was a pool party twice a week in which there was a live DJ however we chose not to attend. The music was quite loud but it was during the day and didn’t really bother us although it may not be to everyone’s tastes.

We spent a lot of time on the balcony which overlooked a terrace below however you could see the road when sat out on it so the view wasn’t the best, but this did not affect our stay in any way so no complaints. The overall cleanliness of the hotel was fantastic and the grounds were cleaned by the staff every morning. Our room was usually cleaned by 11.30am to a very high standard with fresh bedding and towels provided and the maids were very friendly whenever greeting you.

There is an outdoor gym under cover with a small but adequate selection of equipment, along with an outdoor jacuzzi which when we checked out was cordoned off so we weren’t able to use this unfortunately. There is a chillout area at the reception with a 24 hour bar and there is also the pool bar which offered an excellent selection of drinks at decent prices, including the local beer Dorada which is very nice and widely available across Tenerife at a cheap price.

The front gate at the hotel is locked after 12am I think it was, but you are able to obtain entry once reception staff notice you are stood there. There is also a back gate situated by the pool which was locked at 10pm although we only used this for walking out of the hotel so weren’t sure on how to gain access back into the hotel through this gate. It is a good option though if you wish to avoid any punters enticing you into their bars etc.

When checking out there was an option to pay a fee to extend your check out time from the usual 12pm which in hindsight we probably should have paid for, along with the option for a courtesy room they provided you with for half an hour to have a quick shower before your flight. However don’t make the mistake we made, you have to let reception know in advance as it is first come first served, so unfortunately we weren’t able to obtain one of these courtesy rooms which was disappointing, but understandable given we had not given adequate notice.

Overall I would highly recommend staying here, there were couples and small groups of all ages and nationalities staying at the hotel and so we didn’t feel out of place at all. It was generally younger people but don’t feel put off if you are slightly older. I would definitely return if staying in Las Americas again and any positives far outweigh any negatives.

Preparing for Interviews

So you have applied for a job, if not several and have reached the next step in the recruitment process, having been offered an interview at the company you strive to work for. Congratulations! But remember you haven’t got the job yet, so effective preparation is key. The age old saying: ‘If you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail’ certainly comes into play.

When it comes to preparing for interviews, this is a task that takes time and can be a tedious process. However, it is essential to prepare to give yourself the best shot of getting the role, and to make your personality shine through, as well as making you stand out from the crowd. The following post shares some essential tips to effectively prepare for any future interviews, what to do during the interview and once the interview is over.

Prior To the Interview

Ensure You Work Around Your Other Commitments

  • It might not be the best of ideas to tell your current boss that you need time off to attend an interview, so ensure you book time off in advance. Do not call in sick as this can sever ties or lead to disciplinary action with your current company if they were to find out. When contacting your potential new employer, arrange a mutually convenient time, but give yourself enough time to prepare.

Practice Common Interview Questions.

  • Make use of online sources such as YouTube or perform a Google search to find common interview questions and good answers for them. Ensure you have plenty of examples at hand so you won’t be left stumped when you are asked any questions, in particular, difficult ones that are made to try to catch you off guard.
  • Do not use the same example more than once as this can backfire and show that you have not prepared effectively.

Research the Company and the Role Itself.

  • Perform some research on the company you are applying for, know their locations, departments, who their competitors are, as well as trying to find out their future plans, and recent news regarding the company that may have appeared in local newspapers etc. This will really pay off and shows you are keen, pro-active and highly interested in working for that particular company. The interviewer will know if you have done this so really do your research!
  • Get to know the job description like the back of your hand, and have examples that demonstrates your ability to perform the daily tasks required of the role, as well as the essential skills that are needed.
  • If the salary has not been stated, you will be asked your requirements, so try to do some research on the typical salary range for that particular role in the company, if not a similar role in another company. Use websites such as Glassdooror Indeed in order to find out this information.

On the Day

Dress To Impress.

  • Ensure you make an extra effort, and show that you take care in your appearance, this will really pay off as it shows you will represent their company professionally by conforming to their dress code. Don’t overdo it though, this is not the time to wear your favourite tuxedo!

Be On Time.

  • Ensure you plan in advance how you are getting to the interview, arrive in plenty of time, if you are early you can always go for a coffee somewhere and go over your notes.
  • Aim to arrive 10-15 minutes early to show you are a good timekeeper, and so the interview process runs smoothly and on time, they may have many other interviews to get through that day.

Show Enthusiasm.

  • Ensure positive body language, show your interest by maintaining eye contact and when answering questions, really let your personality shine through and make sure to smile!

Be Professional.

  • Don’t badmouth past or current employers, this will make you look bad. Also, back up any weaknesses you may have with a positive for example, you might come across as a shy character, but that is only because you like to assess the information you have been presented with and pay attention to detail.

Ask Questions.

  • An interview is not only the employer assessing your suitability for the role and getting to know you, but also you finding out everything you want to know and seeing if the role is ideal for you.
  • Prepare a list of questions so you don’t walk out of the interview having not found out something you wanted to know. By asking questions, you can find out any information you wanted to know that perhaps you weren’t aware of, and it is useful to be smart by asking questions relevant to the company. This will show further just how interested you are in working for them. Perhaps don’t ask about the benefits such as holiday entitlement just yet though, unless they tell you first.

After The Interview

Take Notes.

  • As soon as you walk out of the interview, quickly write down any questions that they asked before you forget, especially any difficult ones you might have struggled with. This can help you to prepare if you don’t get offered the job, and you will be able to utilise this information in any future interviews you may have and continually improve your interview technique. Also take note of any information you might want to remember such as holiday entitlement, working hours and salary.

Be Patient.

  • Some employers might get back to you straight away, others may take a while longer depending on how many interviews have taken place, and how many candidates they have to assess. Be patient and get on with your daily life and don’t be waiting around for an email or phone call, you will drive yourself crazy through anxiousness. Keep yourself busy to pass the time and take your mind off whether or not you have got the job. When you receive the call, if you have got the job, congratulations! your efforts have truly paid off and you can give yourself a pat on the back, embarking on the latest chapter of your life. If not, don’t get yourself down, as this will make you fall off track going forward in your job search. Keep applying for jobs, this one just wasn’t meant to be, you will find your ideal role eventually through perseverance and determination.

 

7 Top Tips for Booking Holidays

Booking a holiday can often be a stressful task. It can take time to find the perfect holiday for you, having spent hours upon hours of browsing the internet, visiting travel agents and looking at reviews. The following post shares seven essential tips in order to find the ideal holiday for you, and perhaps save yourself time, money and stress.

1. Plan Ahead

Whether you are travelling alone, as a couple or with family or friends it would be beneficial to decide on dates that are mutually convenient as possible to all those involved. Booking time off work is the first step, and they are often first-come-first-served so get your holiday forms handed into your manager as soon as possible!

Prior to booking, ensure your passport is up to date and not close to expiry. This is where a lot of people go wrong and can lead to a lot of stress realising your passport is due to expire a week before you jet off. So avoid the potential embarrassment at the airport, and in order to receive your passport quicker, I would suggest using the check and send service provided by the Post Office, it costs extra but is 100% worth the extra money, I promise!

Additionally, ensure you purchase the necessary things you will need for your holiday including clothes, luggage and most importantly travel insurance! This needs to be booked as soon as possible after booking as this covers you in the event you can’t make your holiday due to an injury for example. Many people leave it last minute but this is highly unadvisable. Also, if travelling in Europe, ensure you have an up to date EHIC card. This will enable you to get access to free healthcare should you need it, if the locals don’t pay for it you shouldn’t have to either. Many people make the mistake of assuming that this adequately covers them in the event of injury or sickness, however it is highly advisable to have travel insurance also.

2. Tailor your search to suit you

Consider your budget, and make sure you know how you are paying for the holiday and your budget. Have the money up front? Go for it. If not, many companies offer deposit schemes such as Jet2Holidays who offer a deposit of £60pp with the remainder of the balance payable in installments. OnTheBeach also offer a deposit system, with you not having to pay until 2 weeks before your holiday subject to Ts and Cs.

In terms of accommodation, consider your board basis (All inclusive, half board, self-catering etc) and choose the one which works best for you. If you prefer more freedom, then half board, self-catering or B&B may be your best option as this enables you to have more meals outside of your hotel, or cook for yourself. All inclusive means all your meals and drinks are included, but some often get fed up of eating in the same place, so choose wisely.

Also, consider the type of holiday you want to go on and the hotel’s suitability for your travelling party. Have kids? you might want to read up on the facilities available both at your hotel and the local area. Fancy somewhere more relaxed as a couple? go for adults only as these tend to be more suitable. Or perhaps you fancy a short break, in which case city breaks over a weekend might be a good option.

3. Visit the High Street

You can usually find the best deals on the internet, from the comfort of your own home. Don’t rule out visiting your high street travel agents though, you can sometimes find excellent deals that are not available online, particularly last minute deals. Keep your options open and don’t restrict your search to the internet only.

4. Utilise package holiday websites

Through using package holiday sites such as Thomson or Jet2Holidays, you can include all the aspects of a holiday in one booking. Particularly for those who are less experienced when it comes to booking holidays, this can save a lot of time and stress. Your hotel, flights, and transfers will be included, and you can choose flight times to you, and even upgrade to a private transfer for an additional cost if you just can’t bear the thought of going on a coach. For those who are able to drive, you even have the option to include car hire as an extra. There are restrictions including age, how long you have had your licence for so be sure to check up on the rules regarding your particular car hire provider.

5. Consider booking separately

Don’t just assume that package holidays are cheaper. A lot of the time they can be, but by searching around using separate sites can sometimes save you some of you hard earned cash. See my recommendations below for booking separately:

Accommodation:

Hotels.com, Booking.com or Trivago.

Car Hire

Skyscanner Car Hire

Flights

Skyscanner

6. Consider Flight and Transfer Times

Choose a flight time convenient for all those travelling, however choosing certain flights can often add to the cost. Compromises may need to be made in terms of flight times particularly if you are on a budget. Choosing a later flight time for departure may mean losing out on a day at the start of your holiday, but if you wish to save yourself some cash then this can be an option.

Additionally, take into consideration how long your transfer to your hotel will take. When booking your holiday many websites will display how long the transfer will take from the airport, so if you prefer to keep the transfer time to a minimum, take this into consideration when booking your hotel.

7. Check Reviews

If you have found a hotel you particularly like the look of, it will really help to view reviews before booking. This will give you more of an idea as to what the hotel is really like, and you can find several unbiased reviews published by people from all over the world sharing their experience staying at a particular accommodation provider. The most widely used review site is Tripadvisor.co.uk and I highly recommend using this site. Consider writing your own review upon returning from your holiday as this can really help other travellers.

Trip to York: My Experience

After thoroughly enjoying our trip away to Newcastle together (minus the bad weather of course, courtesy of Storm Doris) me and my girlfriend decided to book another trip away during the Easter holidays. We opted to stay for an additional night as opposed to the one night we spent in Newcastle in order to enjoy the many wonders of the historic city of York, and feel less rushed to see all the sights. 

After conducting research I came across the wonderful Staycity York Aparthotel. It is situated around a 20 minute walk from York train station, right next door to York Barbican. There are several options to get there should this be too much of a walk for some however. There is a taxi rank handily placed outside the train station, or you could take a bus, or cycle if this suits you. 

We took the option to walk as the weather was on our side, and at first it seemed a long walk but this was perhaps due to us having our luggage with us, and since it had been a while since either of us had visited the city we had to get our bearings about us, once we had done this walking around exploring was rather pleasant. York itself is a very historic city, and there were plenty of tourist attractions to visit suitable for all ages, including York Castle Museum, York City Walls and Rowntree Park, all of which we visited and thoroughly enjoyed. We had hoped to go on a ghost walk also, having been recommended this, but the one we wished to take part in unfortunately was due to take place the day after we had left. 

Upon arrival we were greeted and checked in by a polite and professional woman on reception. She checked some details and since we chose to pay on arrival this was done promptly and we were provided with our room key and she even offered us a map of the city which came in very useful.

In addition to this she explained to us the quickest route into the city centre and so this was very much appreciated and she seemed very knowledgeable. In terms of overall customer service provided by the reception staff I cannot fault them in any way whatsoever, all enquiries were dealt with promptly and efficiently. 

We stayed in a studio apartment and all necessary amenities were provided. Small kitchenette with sink, hob, microwave, dishwasher with one tablet provided, kettle etc were provided along with cutlery, plates, bowls, all the necessary equipment. The bathroom was a good size with a decent shower with plenty of hot water. There are no windows to open however A/C is provided so not so much an issue. 

Good quality of sleep is easily achievable through a large, comfortable bed and there are blackout curtains. There are signs around the corridors of the hotel which state between the hours of 10pm and 7am there are restrictions on noise, luckily we had no issue with any noise from neighbouring rooms at any time so I cannot comment on the staff’s procedure of dealing with any excessive noise, although I have no doubt if we had any issues the staff would be able to deal with this promptly and professionally.

There is a Co-op conveniently located next door to the hotel and so no need to bring much in terms of food/drink prior to arrival, and there are plenty of restaurants within easy reach of the hotel. On our first night we visited local Italian restaurant Totos and enjoyed a lovely two course meal here, highly recommended.

Overall I would definitely recommend the Staycity Aparthotel. Couldn’t fault the room, the staff and location as the walk into the centre really isn’t that far once you have got your bearings. Easily accessible to all the big attractions, particularly the city walls and York Castle Museum/ Clifford’s Tower. Upon checking out the staff allowed us to store our luggage, much appreciated seeing as we checked out at 11am and our train wasn’t until 6pm. Perfect place to stay if visiting York and offers excellent rates particularly during the week. 

Five Ways to Work Successfully in the Retail Industry

It doesn’t take a genius to recognise that one of the key aspects to running a successful business in the retail industry is to provide a high level of customer service, and to maintain this in order to ensure customer satisfaction and retention. This blog post shares five important aspects to ensure excellent customer service is provided, and that staff morale remains as high as possible.

1. Team work

Working effectively as part of a team allows for tasks to be completed in an efficient manner, as each of you can use each other’s strengths. Daily tasks such as facing up and general cleaning and tidying need to be performed to ensure the store remains in a presentable condition at all times. Working hard as part of a team boosts morale, and ensures everyone plays their part in completing all required tasks.

2. Going the extra mile

Going the extra mile means that you go one step further in providing a high level of service to customers. This is a sure fire way to ensure your customers remain happy with the service you have provided them with. They will appreciate the level of effort you have gone to by being polite, courteous and patient, whilst seeing to their every need efficiently, effectively and professionally.

3. Using initiative

Using initiative is something that will not usually go unnoticed by members of the management team. It shows you are willing to go above and beyond the tasks that are typically required in your role, and sometimes these acts will be rewarded and will often save time and money in the long run. Using initiative shows you are proactive, which is an important attribute for any staff member to have when working in retail. Those who use initiative are likely to be shown appreciation, and often complete tasks without being asked to do so by management.

4. Working under pressure

There will be times where things just don’t go to plan. It is not necessarily enjoyable but it can happen often in a retail based environment. It is important to anticipate such issues and when they arise, act upon them accordingly and as quickly as possible. On occasion, there will be customers who will become irate for a number of reasons, including being refused the sale of age restricted products, or perhaps being refused a refund due to lack of proof of purchase. In situations such as this, as easy as it can be to lose your temper, it is crucial to try not to escalate the situation and remain calm and collected. Try to diffuse the situation yourself and if this fails, then call your manager who will be able to assist you.

5. Positive, Can-do Attitude

Working in retail, it is important to remain positive when completing required tasks. Sometimes things can happen unexpectedly that can make you fall off track or feel unmotivated, such as when your store is short staffed. If the store is down on staff members it can be rather stressful for those who are working on that day, especially if the store is particularly busy. Daily tasks will be expected to have been completed but it is not always possible to do so. So in situations such as this, offering support to colleagues will go a long way, and your fellow team members and management will appreciate your efforts.

Romelu Lukaku linked to £75m Manchester United move

Manchester United were yesterday linked with a sensational move for Everton striker Romelu Lukaku. A reported fee of £75m was reported to have been accepted by the Merseyside club, although there is no deal yet in place.

In a remarkable turn of events, Lukaku had looked set to return to former club Chelsea, with the Londoners reportedly looking to re-sign the striker as a replacement for Diego Costa, who has recently been linked with moves to China, as well as his former club Athletico Madrid, despite the Spanish club’s transfer ban.

Lukaku, who plies his trade internationally with Belgium, has been at Goodison Park since 2013. The Toffees then signed him permanently from Chelsea in a £28m deal ahead of the 2014-15 league campaign having undergone a successful loan period with them in the 2013-14 season.

The towering Belgian was sold by then Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, who was seen as surplus to requirements by the Stamford Bridge club. With the former West Bromwich Albion loanee having gone from strength to strength since his move to Merseyside, Lukaku looks set to link up with his former boss at Old Trafford, with club legend Wayne Rooney looking set to move in the opposite direction.

The former Everton forward has been consistently linked with a move away from United having seen first-team opportunities limited under Mourinho, despite being club captain. Since his move to the Red Devils in 2004 the striker has scored a remarkable 253 goals in all competitions, overtaking Bobby Charlton’s long-standing record of 249.

In spite of reaching a record goalscoring milestone, Rooney has faced a heavy amount of criticism in recent times, perhaps rather harshly, with many fans calling for him to leave the club. The United striker looks increasingly likely to call time on his career at the Theatre of Dreams at the ripe age of 31, seeking first-team football elsewhere. Linked with several moves including in China and the USA, the United forward has stated his desire to once again play for the team where he began to make a name for himself, catching the eye of Sir Alex Ferguson.

Sky Sports reported earlier today that Rooney is willing to take a pay-cut in order to join his former club, with the forward’s current wage demands in the region of £300,000 per week. Everton are said to be the only club Rooney is willing to join if he were to stay in the Premier League, and he has been said to form part of any deal to bring Lukaku in the opposite direction.

The Red Devils look set to continue their summer spending after the acquisition of Swedish defender Victor Lindelof from Benfica. Jose Mourinho presented a list of targets to the club’s Chief Executive Ed Woodward at the end of last season and one of his biggest priorities is bolstering his attacking options. United suffered a frustrating number of home draws which saw them obtain a sixth place finish in the league, although the season ended with a League Cup and Europa League win for the Portuguese boss, achieving his goal of gaining entry to Europe’s elite cup competition the UEFA Champion’s League in the 2017-18 season.

United have been in the market for a new striker after releasing Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the end of the 16-17 season having been ruled out with a long-term injury. The Old Trafford club took the decision to not renew his contract despite a remarkable season, scoring 17 goals in 28 appearances.

Many thought the striker, who turned 35 in October, would struggle with the demands of the Premier League, but he certainly proved his doubters wrong, despite cruelly ending his season early. The former PSG attacker sustained serious ligament damage whilst playing the Europa League against Anderlecht on the 20th April, and was forced to remain on the sidelines for the rest of the campaign.

United were said to be close to sealing the signature of Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata, who had often played second fiddle to Karim Benzema throughout last season since returning to the Bernabeu from Juventus. The current European champions are standing their ground in their valuation of the striker, however, United are said to be unwilling to meet the Spanish club’s demands having seen more than one offer declined. United seem to have changed tactics and go for a striker who is a proven goalscorer in the Premier League, and that could prove to be a wise decision.

With nothing yet set in stone, it remains to be seen whether Lukaku will don the currently vacant number 9 shirt at Old Trafford come next season. The powerful forward certainly has big boots to fill with the recent departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, however, has all the right attributes to be a success at Old Trafford should a move materialise.

Summer Dieting – 8 Essential Tips

Summer is upon us once more, as people attempt to gain the body of their dreams, or at least give it their best shot. Between the months of June and September, holiday bookings reach their peak level, particularly throughout the school holidays, and this generally sees prices soar far beyond off season prices. Despite this, many people choose to jet off to destinations around the world, and in an attempt to prepare for their holiday, many people choose to go on a diet to lose some weight to fit into their summer wardrobe. The following blog post shares some tips that will be useful for those wishing to learn more about what it takes to become confident in hitting their fitness goals, and achieving the body they desire.

1. Abs are Made in the Kitchen

A rather cliché term, but one that actually makes a lot of sense. As much as some people will try to tell you otherwise, dieting is the most important aspect when it comes to achieving your goals. Regular exercise including cardio and strength training will certainly help in the process, but it is generally common knowledge that you cannot out train a poor diet. One of the biggest mistakes people make regularly is that they believe once they have completed their workout, it now justifies them being able to visit a fast food restaurant, or indulge in some of their favourite treats. This essentially defeats the object of working out in the first place, so bear that in mind. A balanced diet coupled with regular exercise is what is needed in order to effecitively meet your goals.

2. Don’t see it as a diet, More a ‘Lifestyle Change’

The word diet itself has somewhat negative connotations, but for the purposes of this blog post I will use the term to explain essential tips in order to reach your goals. Some refer to dieting instead as a ‘lifestyle change’, and this turns it into something much more positive. Diets often leave many feeling unhappy and lacking in energy, and so called ‘crash diets’ are not sustainable in the long run, as although it is possible to lose a considerable amount of weight in a short period, many people get fed up and end up falling of track quite quickly and easily. Weight loss is something that takes time and commitment to happen, and if you make the right choices you will remain happy as well as hit your goals. Certain diets make some foods off limits, and sometimes temptation will strike. You do not necessarily have to go cold turkey on what are generally known as ‘bad foods’ in your quest to tone up and lose fat, what is important is knowing when to say no, and as difficult as it may be, paying attention to portion sizes. This is where the majority of people go wrong, as they end up eating far more than they realise which then leads to falling off track in some cases gaining weight. One tip which will be very useful is to experiment, try new foods that you might not have necessarily considered in the past, you may end up discovering your new favourite fruit or vegetable! Adding in additional vegetables into your diet can be a sure fire way to bulk up your meals and leave you feeling satisfied, and less tempted to reach into the treats drawer. If you really have a sweet tooth, a good option would be to incorporate more fruit in your diet, although you might want to keep an eye on your sugar intake, despite the sugars found in fresh fruit being natural. Another tip would be to find healthy foods that you enjoy eating, and so you can keep your calories down and it feels less like a diet knowing you can eat something that is good for you but also something you can look forward to eating.

3. Track Calories

One of the easiest and quickest ways to fall off track when dieting is not tracking calories. This can potentially be a big mistake as simply by guessing you could easily go over your calorie count for the day, so controlling of portion sizes, keeping a record of any food/drink you consume and weighing your food is definitely the way forward. Invest in a set of scales so you know exactly how much you are eating, and this makes it far easier when tracking calories. You could use a notepad and write down your food for the day, or you could use an app such as the popular MyFitnessPal, available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. At first it can seem quite tedious however once you get the hang of it it really isn’t so bad, particularly if you eat the same foods frequently, and it is easy to add new ones by simply scanning the barcode.

4. Remain in a calorie deficit

If it is your goal to lose weight/fat it is important to factor in that in order to do so, you need to burn more calories than you consume, Whether this be exercising more, or eating less. This is another reason why it is important to track your calories, so you know you haven’t gone over your calorie count for the day. Use an online calculator to work out what your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) is, this is essentially the number of calories your body needs to maintain your current weight. If you wish to lose weight you need to eat less than this per day, and more than this to gain weight. However, what you also need to factor in is how active you are, and take this into account when working out the total amount of calories you need to hit your goal. This is called the TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) formula. I recommend using http://tdeecalculator.net as here you can work out both your BMR and TDEE in one simple calculation. When in a deficit, try not to start with too large a deficit at first, start off with 100-200 calories, and once you hit a plateau cut down your calories further by 50-100. Do not cut your calories too much otherwise you will sacrifice your muscle mass, and did it difficult to build or maintain muscle. To enable you to keep as much muscle mass as possible, keep your protein intake high, typically 0.8-1.0g of protein per pound of body weight.

5. Don’t drink your calories, Keep water intake high. 

It is no secret that keeping your water intake high is really good for the body. Especially when the sun is shining, where is is even more important to stay hydrated. When consuming water, particularly before a meal this can help you feel full, and you are less likely to overindulge when eating meals, so are far more likely to reach your goal and stay on track. Another way to suppress your appetite can be to use caffeine. As well as giving you a boost when it’s needed, caffeine can be consumed to suppress the feeling of hunger, so instead of reaching for a snack, try a cup of coffee or perhaps a tea depending on your preference, as this can often lead to the feeling of hunger going away. Additionally, it is important to consider the amount of calories that are in drinks such as alcohol, fizzy drinks and fruit juices. If you do not track them you can easily go over your calorie count. If you really wish to satisfy your sweet tooth then stick to diet options, and when drinking try to stick to diet mixers with spirits such as Vodka and gin as they contain far less calories and carbs than beer and cider for example.

5. Cardio

One thing that often gets forgotten about is cardio. If your goal is fat loss then cardio is effective in allowing you to reach your goals and burn additional calories. It is not necessary to spend hour after hour on the treadmill running at a steady state. For some this may be a preferred option and there is no harm in doing it, but particularly for those who are short on time then HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is a great option. Short bursts of intense cardio at full effort followed by a short period of rest/low intensity over a period of about 10-20 minutes and you can get just as much benefit from doing this, and studies have proven the benefit of HIIT, which produces an ‘afterburn’ effect, meaning that the body will continue burning calories for up to 24 hours after completing a HIIT session. You can do this anywhere and don’t need to use of a gym in order to take part in any cardio activities. You could go for a run in your local park instead, for a bike ride, or even from the comfort of your own home doing exercises that involve no equipment. Again several YouTube videos can be found online to mix up your workout routine and it really doesn’t take long, so throw your excuses out the window and get active!

6. Meal Prep

Head on down to your local store, purchase some reusable food containers and you will be well on your way to achieving your goals. Ensure that the containers you purchase are suitable for use in the microwave, as well as freezing, depending on how far in advance you intend to prepare your meals. Meal prep is essentially preparing your meals for a certain number of days in advance. This works well because although you have to spent a certain amount of time by bulk cooking foods, this is most certainly save time in the long run, and you will be less tempted to choose fast food for convenience or perhaps you had a long, stressful day at work and don’t feel like cooking. You can choose to place your meals in the fridge and they typically should be fine for 3-4 days. If your planning more in advance then you can freeze your meals and just defrost them overnight. Either way, you know that a healthy, well balanced meal will be ready for you having done meal prep, and once you get used to it it won’t seem so much like a chore.

7. You don’t need to live in the gym

For some, the idea of joining a gym can be a daunting prospect for a number of reasons. Perhaps it is all new to you, and you’re terrified of embarrassing yourself as you may not have a clue what you are doing in terms of using equipment. What you have to realise is no matter how intimidating it may seem, no one is there to judge you, and even the largest, most muscular people in the gym had to start somewhere, and maybe one day in the past felt the same way you do. Don’t be afraid to try out new exercises, and stick to a weight you are comfortable with, or at least a lighter one until your form is perfected. This is when you can move onto heavier weights. Building muscle and fat loss isn’t something that happens overnight, and it will take hard work and dedication, but when it comes to sticking to a workout plan it is definitely quality over quantity, and consistency is key.

If the gym isn’t for you, or perhaps you don’t have time to go to the gym due to work commitments or having kids to look after, there are several videos available on online sources such as YouTube, and here you will find millions of videos to watch for workouts you can perform easily at home. Often no equipment is required, and many workouts can be performed in 30 minutes or less, so if you really are stripped for time this is a great option. With dedication and consistency you can achieve great results from the comfort of your own home.

8. Have a plan, and stick to it.

The key to sticking to a habit is effective planning. This goes for both your workout regime as well as planning and tracking what you eat. Before you go for a workout whether this be at home or in the gym don’t wander round aimlessly thinking of what machine to go on next, that goes for both cardio and strength training. Figure out a plan that suits your lifestyle and stick to it, at first it can be hard particularly if you’re new to exercising but stick with it and you will eventually get used to it, then you can build upon this by upping the time spent working out, or lift heavier weights. When it comes to dieting, ensure you track your calories having worked out your BMR and TDEE, prepare your meals and weigh out your food. One of the most important aspects however is remaining consistent, no one said it will be easy but hard work and dedication really does pay off. You will feel more confident, healthier and you will be proud of yourself for sticking to your goals, overcoming any obstacles in your way.