• 10 Ways To Battle Depression On A Budget

    10 ways to battle depression on a budget

    Living and dealing with depression can be very lonely and it can often feel like there are limited options for help. Therapy and counselling can be expensive, so we've put together 10 ways you can battle depression from the comfort of your own home without spending lots of money.

    1. Meditate.

    Find 10 or 20 minutes each day where you can sit quietly by yourself and meditate. There are lots of guided meditation apps or videos you can follow which can help immensely. Removing yourself from negative situations and thoughts and replacing them with positive feelings will improve your mindset and can be your 10 minute island of calm each day. For ideas on how to fit meditation into your work day, read our article.

    Meditate relax yoga

    2. Learn how to talk to yourself.

    Challenge your negative thoughts and give yourself affirmations. This can feel awkward at first, but with practice, it really starts to make a difference. Remember that a lot of the time, the way you talk to or about yourself is not how you would talk about a friend of family member. Remember that you are your own best friend, and only think about yourself in a way you would think about a good friend. 

    3. Vigorous exercise.

    The famed "runner's high" is a real thing and it feels amazing. If you are having a particularly bad day or you have not left the house or even your bed in a while, drag yourself out for a run. It will feel awful at first and getting up to go will be tough, but once you get going you'll instantly feel better due to the endorphins.

    If you can't manage a run, a brisk walk is just as good, especially if it's uphill. If you are limited on time, try our 5 minute punch bag workout to let some stress and anger out, or our 10 minute tabata workout to just exhaust yourself and take your mind off the negative thoughts or help you feel something at all. We also have a 20 minute home workout you can easily do at home if you don't fancy going outside.

    Running vigorous exercise

    4. Journal.

    A lot of the time, you'll find once you articulate your negative thoughts, they don't seem so bad. We've all had that moment when we vent to a friend and find ourselves saying "hmm it doesn't sound as bad when you say it out loud." Don't let your negative feelings manifest in your head, get them out onto a piece of paper. Write about how you're feeling, what's happened to you today, what your goals are, what you'd love to achieve. It will rationalise your thoughts and can be very useful to look back on.

    journal writing thoughts diary

    5. Feel your feelings.

    It can be easy to get stuck in your head and learning how/when to cry/feel angry is very healing. Find music or a film that makes you cry and let the feelings flow out, it's extremely therapeutic and cathartic. 

    6. Find a hobby

    Picking up a hobby and finding something to focus your attention on can be a great distraction and give you something to focus on now and to set goals for the future. Try taking up a new sport or perhaps teach yourself to play a musical instrument. There are lots of resources online to help and it will give you a focus for each day.

    We have a beginner's guide to skipping if you'd like an active hobby, or for something more adventurous you could try gym rings. Sundried ambassador Emma's main hobby is hula hooping which can be great fun, or perhaps something slow like yoga might be more your thing. Anything to take your mind off the negative thoughts and give you a distraction can help dramatically. 

    Hula hooping hoop hobby fun sport

    7. Face your fears

    But in small, manageable doses. It can easy easy to retract into yourself and stop doing everyday activities when your depression is particularly bad. Going to the shops or even just going out into a busy place can be all it takes to raise your heart rate for the day and give you a sense of achievement once you've done it. 

    busy crowd shopping subway

    8. Surround yourself with positivity

    Supportive people and inspirational music can make a big difference to your mindset. Don't allow negative thoughts to take over and instead fill your world with warmth and happiness. If you can, try getting a pet, as stroking a cat or dog is proven to alleviate the symptoms of depression and improve your mental health. If that's not possible, watching videos of pets online can be just as good.

    9. Avoid mindless/compulsive activities

    We've all heard of 'eating your feelings' and sometimes it can be all too tempting to watch endless hours of mindless TV while eating junk food. However, this will definitely make you feel worse in the long run as the additives and chemicals in the food will affect your hormones. As hard as it can be, try to stick to a healthy diet and limit TV to a couple of episodes at a time before you move onto something else, like your new hobby.

    10. Take a Vitamin D supplement

    In the winter especially, the effects of depression can be heightened. With very limited sunlight it's possible for those metaphorical dark days to become real ones, so boost your energy levels and mood with a Vitamin D supplement. It's proven that taking a Vitamin D supplement can improve your mental health, so research one that suits your needs and your budget and take it daily.

    sunshine vitamin d happy

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • What Are The Performance Differences Between Training At High Altitude vs Sea Level?

    Lucy Charles Ironman Kona Sundried Running

    If you spend a lot of time training at high altitude in a mountainous region, would your performance be better racing at sea level? How do you train to race at high altitude? These questions and more will be answered as we explore the performance differences between training at high altitude vs sea level.

    How does altitude training work?

    Altitude training works because the air is thinner. As the air is thinner at high altitude, with every breath you take you are delivering less than usual amounts of oxygen to your muscles. Your muscles need oxygen to work optimally, so less oxygen means your body needs to work harder to get the same results. There have been many studies done to try to determine if altitude training works, and if so, how high an athlete would need to train, but research is ongoing.

    So what is considered 'high altitude'? There are many differing opinions, but the most common is that any altitude above sea level beyond 3000m (9840 feet) is considered “high” altitude, with 500-2000m being “low” altitude and 2000-3000m being “moderate” altitude. Anything above 5500m (think Mount Kilimanjaro) is considered “extreme” altitude!

    There are cities in South America, like La Paz in Bolivia, which are situated at this 'extreme altitude' where the air is much thinner than at sea level and the locals have adapted to the conditions. So, if an athlete were to train consistently in a city like La Paz, would they be faster when racing at sea level because of their better conditioned lungs and muscles? Well, in order to imitate the conditions found in such extreme altitudes, many athletes train with altitude masks. So, do they work?

    running high altitude mountains

    Do high altitude training masks work?

    Altitude training masks work by reducing the airflow to the lungs. In reality, they don't actually simulate high altitude because they do not reduce the atmospheric pressure, and instead simply reduce the oxygen intake in the same way running with a straw in your mouth would (definitely don't do this!) 

    It would take months or even years of training in a high altitude city like La Paz to notice the benefits of high altitude training. Unfortunately, training in a high altitude mask would not have these effects. There actually isn't any evidence whatsoever that training in an altitude mask benefits your athletic performance. However, actually training at high altitude can.

    bicycle riding cycling triathlon mountains training

    How long do the effects of high altitude training last?

    Experts have agreed that training at 2200m for 4 weeks is optimal altitude training. Once you finish your training, the effects of the reduced oxygen on your blood and muscular endurance can last up to 2 weeks. So, is it worth it? Well, if you're a serious athlete looking to push your own boundaries and are looking for any way to improve your training, finding a training camp in the Alps or other mountainous regions could be beneficial, but the effects will wear off eventually. 

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Is Standing Too Long Bad For You?

    is standing too long bad for you

    Many of us spend a lot of the day sitting down. But now many people are wondering is standing too long bad for you? If you have an office job, chances are your lifestyle is what's referred to as 'sedentary'. It's been found that men who sit six hours a day are 20 percent more likely to die than men who sit three hours a day. With these shocking facts in mind, a lot of people now opt to work using a standing desk. But is spending your 8 hours at work standing just as bad?

    What is the definition of prolonged standing?

    Prolonged standing is defined as standing for over 8 hours. Most people with office jobs will be at their desk for roughly that amount of time, while those in more manual jobs could be on their feet for even longer. Some of the more extreme risks associated with prolonged standing include chronic venous insufficiency, pain in the lower back and feet, and birth complications in pregnant women. However, all that said, this is what happens when you stand still for 8 hours. There are very few, if any, jobs which would require you to stand completely still for 8 hours at a time. If you have a manual job where you are walking around, making deliveries, or working with your hands, this would not apply to you because you will be constantly moving. Similarly, if you work in an office, you are likely to be walking around to different colleagues, making phone calls, cups of tea, or just moving around to print documents or go to meetings, so even if you use a standing desk, it is very unlikely you will be standing completely still for the entire 8 hour work day.

    How to stay comfortable while standing

    If you do opt to use a standing desk in your office job, there are things you can do to stay comfortable throughout the day.

    Keep your weight on the balls of your feet while keeping your knees slightly bent as this is less tiresome on your hips and knees. Over time, you learn to shift your weight along your legs using the balls of your feet. This helps blood flow and gives you some pretty strong calves in the mean time.

    Try to alternating between sitting and standing at your desk if you can. We spend a lot of our lives sitting down - driving, on the sofa, at a restaurant, in bed - so try to prioritise standing when you can, but you don't need to spend the entire working day on your feet.

    For some exercise ideas you can do subtly at your desk throughout the day, read our article on working out at work. If you'd prefer to get a quick but efficient workout done in your lunch break, try our lunch time HIIT workout which you can do within 30 minutes.

    workout at work prevent health risks prolonged standing sundried

    Do you burn calories when you stand?

    You burn twice as many calories when you stand than when you sit. We burn one calorie a minute sitting, two calories standing, four walking.  Research has found that, on average, obese people sit for two hours and 15 minutes a day longer than lean people. With this in mind, it could be inferred that standing is healthier for you than sitting. However, standing puts more pressure on your joints and your back, so it is actually a combination of both sitting and standing that is best for your health.

    If you find that your back aches when you stand for too long, try this back exercise which will strengthen your muscles and strengthen your core with this flat stomach abs workout for best results to prevent aching when you stand.

    How many hours a day are you supposed to stand?

    Experts have found that you should try to stand for at least 2 hours per day, but up to 4 hours per day could be optimal. This might seem like a lot, but there are lots of ways you can fit standing into your day. 

    For some people, getting a standing desk is not an option, and some people feel like if they are not sitting at their desk it looks like they're not doing work. Try parking your car further away from the office so that you have to walk a little further each morning and evening if you drive. Walk around when you take phone calls and if there are toilets on each level of the building, go out of your way to use the ones furthest from your desk.

    A few small habits each day could be the difference between a healthy lifestyle and suffering from unnecessary health complications. For more information on the dangers of sitting too long, read our article on reasons to workout at work.

    Standing too long can be bad for you, but so can sitting for too long. The key is to mix it up throughout the day and move as much as possible.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • Popular Fitness Terms Explained

    dumbbells weights gym

    If you’re a keen Instagrammer you may well see all number of crazy fitness terms thrown about, especially in lists of endless hashtags. You may also be trying to find articles of weight loss or muscle building and struggle to understand half of what is being said! That’s why we're here to explain a few of the more common fitness terms which you may not have come across before, and which may help you to reach your fitness and nutrition goals once you understand what they mean!

    Endomorph

    Endomorph refers to a specific body type. There are three basic body types: endomorph, ectomorph, and mesomorph. These three terms describe different body types and their distinguishing features. Someone who is an endomorph will generally store more body fat and will have a thick or stocky build. Endomorphs have a low tolerance to carbohydrates and will easily gain weight and muscle but struggle to lose body fat. Other characteristics include wide joints and hips as well as shorter limbs. Endomorphs make great bodybuilders or powerlifters due to their short levers and blocky stature.

    muscles back strength

    Ectomorph

    An ectomorph is the opposite of an endomorph. People with this body type are characterised by a smaller frame and physique and a lower body fat percentage. These people will struggle to gain muscle mass or even fat and will have a higher metabolism. Characteristics include narrow hips, small joints, and long limbs. These people are well suited to endurance sports such as marathon running due to their long legs and light body weight.

    Mesomorph

    A mesomorph is essentially a balance between an ectomorph and an endomorph. People with this body type will have a typical ‘hour glass’ figure and will find it easy to both gain and lose weight. You can also be a combination of mesomorph and one of the other body types, as many people do not fit into one single category. Your training should be based upon what works best for you and your body type as you cannot change your genetics! For most people, it is clear which body type they fit into just by looking at them.

    Macros

    This is a very common term in the fitness industry. It is short for macronutrients, which are simply the building blocks of our diet. There are three macronutrients: protein, fat, and carbohydrates, and these are the only sources of calories for humans (although alcohol is sometimes considered ‘the fourth macro’). Fat is the most calorie-dense macro, providing 9 calories per gram, with carbs and protein both providing 4 calories per gram. This means that a 500 calorie meal made of fatty foods will be smaller than a 500 calorie meal made of carbs and protein. However, each of the three macros are just as important as the next and none of them should ever be cut out of your diet completely. You can adjust the ratio of macros that you consume according to your training and physique goals.

    IIFYM

    This term stands for If It Fits Your Macros which is a trend in the fitness industry claiming that so long as you stick to your calorie and macro goals, you can eat whatever you want and still see results. However, this is something that is subject to a lot of criticism and certainly would not work for everyone. People who glorify this lifestyle may find that their micronutrient intake (vitamins and minerals) may suffer and other factors such as fibre, sodium, and sugar are not taken into account either.

    BCAAs

    BCAA stands for Branch Chain Amino Acid and these are the building blocks of protein. There are 9 essential amino acids and 11 non-essential amino acids. Essential amino acids cannot be made by the body and as a result must come from food. Non-essential amino acids can be made by the body and so it is not as important to consume them in your diet. Eggs are considered the ‘perfect’ protein source as they contain all 20 amino acids and are high in protein and fat which allows your body to absorb them well. Other sources of all essential amino acids are whole foods such as quinoa and hummus. You will often hear about people taking BCAAs as a dietary supplement, which just means they are increasing their intake of essential amino acids to better aid muscle repair and growth as well as promoting healthy circulation and blood pressure.

    HIIT

    HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval Training and is a very popular form of training at the moment. It consists of short bursts of intense activity such as sprints, burpees, or mountain climbers. It promises to burn fat more effectively than low intensity exercise and to increase your metabolism in such a way that you will continue to burn fat long after you’ve stopped exercising. It is popularly used by people who want to burn fat fast and improve their cardiovascular fitness and explosive power.

    LISS

    LISS stands for Low Intensity Steady State and is essentially the opposite of HIIT training. This type of training consists of longer duration workouts at a much lower intensity, such as uphill walking. This type of training is sometimes favoured by bodybuilders as it is less likely to tap into the body’s muscle stores. It is also good for endurance athletes such as those who compete in half marathons and marathons.

    Fasted Cardio

    Fasted cardio is simply a cardiovascular workout such as running which is completed on an empty stomach. It is usually done in the morning before breakfast and promises to burn fat more effectively than if you train after a day of eating. However, it has never been scientifically proven that fasted cardio is more beneficial than non-fasted cardio, and different people will see different results. It does work for some people, but is not as effective for others.

    Posted by Alexandra Parren
  • What Is Clean Eating?

    Clean Eating Diet

    What is a clean diet?

    Clean eating is one of those phrases that is being thrown about a lot at the moment, but what does it actually mean?

    Clean eating is a very simple concept and involves eating wholesome foods that haven't been processed. That means eating whole foods like fruit and vegetables instead of foods that have been made in a factory like chocolate and biscuits. A simple way to test if a food is 'clean' is to ask yourself if it occurs in nature. If it does, it's clean! Eat plenty of it. If the food is more of an 'edible food-like substance' and does not occur naturally, you should avoid it. That's it!

    What are the benefits of clean eating?

    The following are the benefits of clean eating as compared to a diet including refined sugar, hydrogenated fats, and chemicals.

     

    1. Reduced risk of developing Type II diabetes
    2. Reduced risk of heart disease and other vital organ diseases
    3. Clearer skin
    4. Healthier hair
    5. Better breath
    6. Longer life expectancy
    7. Improved mobility
    8. More balanced hormones
    9. Less mood swings
    10. Stronger immune system

    How do I eat clean to lose weight?

    Eating clean doesn't put restrictions on how much you can eat, but done sensibly, it can help you lose weight. More than that, it can actually help boost your immune system and build muscle more efficiently.

    Clean foods tend to be more nutrient-rich and less calorie-dense than processed foods, which means you can eat a larger volume of food yet consume less calories which will inevitably lead to weight loss. This will also mean you feel more satisfied after you eat.

    Ever get that feeling of guilt after you eat junk food? Or that feeling of greasiness and bloating after a big pizza? Eating clean won't leave you feeling like that but you will still feel satisfied!

     

    When you go shopping it can be easy to get lured into the bargains of fattier foods. Supermarkets tend to put deals on unhealthy food which will encourage you to buy more. Write a shopping list before you go and stick to it no matter what. 

    Which foods should I avoid?

    As a general rule, if a food falls into one (or more) of the following categories, you should try to avoid it.

    • If the food comes in a packet 
    • If the expiration date is longer than 2 weeks
    • If you can't pronounce the ingredients
    • If you wouldn't be able to recreate it in your own kitchen (or garden)
    • If it does not occur in nature
    • If you wouldn't feed it to a small child
    Posted by Alexandra Parren