Seven Creative Ways to Fit Exercise into Your Day

We all want to exercise more. Unfortunately when you have a job which involves sitting in front of a desk, this can be challenging. Here I’m going to give you a few simple ways to exercise which will fit easily into your day.

To show the time of 10pm
Get up just 15 minutes earlier to fit some exercise into your day
Get up earlier

Okay, I know, we’re starting with a difficult one, but according to Laura Vanderkam ‘before the rest of the world is eating breakfast the most successful people have already scored daily victories that are advancing them towards the lives that they want’. One of the things they use this time for is to nurture themselves such as by doing exercise. It doesn’t have to be a whole lot earlier. Even just fifteen minutes would give you time to get your heart rate up. You could do a quick exercise routine from YouTube or take a short walk around the block. If you want some help with getting out of bed a little earlier check out this post.

Leave the car at home when you can

I know that this isn’t always possible, but if you think hard I’m sure that there are times when you could walk instead of drive. If it’s too far to walk how about cycling? You don’t have to do this every time, but if the weather’s good think twice before you reach for that car key.

Use these more often
Take the stairs when you can

Unless you live in a bungalow or are posh enough to have a lift in your house, we all use the stairs every day, but when we’re out and about and a lift presents itself, we are usually inclined to get into it. Lifts are often in front of us, whereas the stairs are frequently tucked away. Go and find them and walk up them. If you get tired on the way, stop and catch your breath. The more often you use them the easier it will get.

Do your own housework

It’s rare than I find someone that enjoys household chores, but if you think of them as your own personal gym, you might start to feel different about them. Cleaning can be very physical, particularly lugging a vacuum cleaner around or get up and down a ladder to clean windows.

Don’t just sit in front of the TV, trying doing some exercise instead
Exercise whilst watching TV

We all seem to be able to find time to watch TV of an evening. I know that sometimes this is about being too tired to do anything else. Whilst I would advocate trying to watch a little less TV, when you do watch it how about a bit of multi-tasking and doing a little exercise such as some yoga, Pilates or even just some stretching. If you have a theraband or some weights why not leave them out near the TV so you’ll be reminded to do a bit of exercise next time you switch on the set.

Dig your garden

Gardening it a bit like housework outside, although often a lot more strenuous, particularly digging. There’s also raking and just generally bending and walking up and down the garden. I find that it’s much easier to do my 10,000 steps a day on weekends when I’m out in the garden.

Do a few lunges whilst making a cup of tea
a few lunges whilst cooking dinner

A few lunges or shoulder stretches with a theraband need only take five minutes. If you’re making a cup of tea or just keeping an eye on things whilst dinner’s cooking, why not do a short burst of exercise before your evening meal.

Hopefully that’s give you a few ideas to add some more movement to your day, something which we all need to do a bit more of.

Want to learn more about life coaching and how to design your life? Why not check out ‘Grow You’, Natalie Bacon’s life coaching programme (affiliate link).

Seven Simple Habits to Help You Get Up Early

Want to regularly get up early? To be the type of person who leaps out of bed at 6am and plunges themselves into their morning routine? I’ve talked about the importance of having a morning routine and many successful people cite the hours before everyone else gets up as the most important in their day. How can you embrace this lifestyle? Here’s seven habits to help you transform from a night owl into an early bird.

To show the time of 10pm
If you want to get up at 6am you need to be in bed by 10pm
Go to bed early

Count back 8 hours from when you want to get up and make sure your head is on the pillow by that time. If you want to be out of bed at 6am then by 10pm you need to be in bed, trying to sleep. I’m always amazed when I see Whatsapp messages from friends after 11pm. No wonder they struggle to get up in the morning. My understanding is that humans benefit from 7-9 hours sleep every night and therefore if you want to get up early, you need to go to bed early. Simple as that. Natalie Bacon has a post here about healthy sleep habits if you want to read a bit more about this.

Make sure your bedroom is dark

Worried that in the summer, if you’re going to bed early, your bedroom may not be dark enough for you to fall asleep? Or that in the height of summer you’ll wake up when the sun rises?  Some modern curtains are very thin and don’t block out light. To avoid both of these problems purchase some curtains with blackout lining or if that’s not an option wear an eye mask.  

A television in a bedroom
Get rid of that TV in your bedroom
Don’t have a TV in your bedroom

Love your box sets or Netflix before bed? The trouble is that watching some of those thrillers before bed will keep your mind racing and stop you from sleeping. There is also some concern that looking at a screen before bed can give you insomnia. Try to have some time before you go to sleep when you’re not looking at a screen.

Keep your phone in another room

Use your phone as an alarm clock and are constantly distracted by all the notifications? Replace it with something else. Don’t have a landline and worried you won’t be contactable in an emergency? Perhaps have your phone in your room, but not on your bedside cabinet or just outside the room with the volume turned up. Ideally, it should be downstairs and either switched off or charging.

Have different tog duvets for different times of year

How many times have we been on holiday in the summer to find the bed has a really thick duvet on it? You need to be comfortable. If you’re too hot or too cold you won’t sleep well. Use different thickness duvets for different times of year. Your partner’s always too hot and you’re always too cold? Try a thinner duvet and have a blanket on your side of the bed.

Toothbrushes to show morning routine
Just brushing your teeth tells your brain it’s time for bed
Tell your MIND that it’s time to go to sleep

Create a bed time routine. This can be as simple as brushing your teeth, washing your face and reading a couple of pages of a book. Here’s another post from Natalie Bacon, this time about morning and evening routines.

Use a sunrise lamp

Hate waking up a dark room, having to reach out your hand to the lamp and feeling blinded when you turn it on? Want to be woken up gently by ‘the sun’, no matter what time of year it is? Buy a sunrise lamp. I bought mine from John Lewis a few years ago and I think that it was about £50, so they aren’t cheap, but I wouldn’t be without it now. I think that I’ve forgotten what it’s like not to have one.

That’s it. Hopefully some great practical tips to turn you into that early bird. Why not start today and have an early night? You won’t regret it.

Prefer to listen to a podcast? Check out episode 40 of Mamafurfur’s podcast, The Prosperity Project about her morning routine for prosperity.

Want to learn more about life coaching and how to design your life? Why not check out ‘Grow You’, Natalie Bacon’s life coaching programme (affiliate link).

Simple and Healthy Meals for the Freezer

Bowls of rice and vegetables
Make healthy meals that you can freeze and eat later in the month when you need something quickly

I have mentioned several times that in a bid to save money, we often eat out of the freezer. For Mr Simple and I this means making healthy meals for the freezer and keeping them for those evenings when you are short on time. As a rule, we tend to eat these in the second half of the month. They are particularly useful if I am going to be home late or if Mr Simple has to cook. This often happens on a Tuesday when I have a Pilates class. It isn’t that he can’t cook, in fact he is a better cook than I am, but he is reluctant to spend too much time on meal preparation when he’s got a lot of DIY to do.

I find that there are many benefits to eating this way and it takes a lot of the stress out of meal planning and preparation. I believe that there are several benefits to eating this way.

Cheap

Many of our healthy meals for the freezer are made with inexpensive ingredients such as vegetables and beans. We mainly used tinned beans e.g. chick peas, kidneys beans, but you can use dried as well. The dried versions are cheaper, but they take more preparation. You need to soak them overnight and boil them for over an hour. Another frugal ingredient is lentils, which sometimes need soaking, but a lot less than the dried beans. I find pouring on boiling water instead of cold water when soaking speeds up the process. Red split lentils don’t need any soaking at all and are especially good at thickening stews and curries. During autumn and winter you can use root vegetables which are very cheap, such as carrots and potatoes.

Carrots – cheap, good for you and they last in the fridge for ages

Easy to make

You don’t need to possess amazing culinary skills to make many of these meals. It just takes a bit of peeling and chopping and opening a tin or a packet. Food such as curry or vegetable stew can be made in one pot. Then you can make some rice on the side. You can make it even easier and have some crusty bread with it instead. Keeping it simple means that there won’t be a lot of washing up afterwards.

Healthy

It’s easy to get in your five a day as the meals are heavy on vegetables. The beans provide that much-needed protein. To make it even healthier stick to accompaniments of brown rice, quinoa or mashed sweet potato.

Time saving

Once you’ve cooked, and eaten what you want, the rest can go in the freezer. The next time you want to eat it you just have to remember to take your dinner out of the freezer in the morning or the night before. Then you can have your evening meal ready quickly. Just heat up your defrosted food and add a grain or other carb of your choice.

Make courgette and feta cakes – they freeze really well and are delicious

Below are some examples of the healthy meals for the freezer that we eat regularly, along with where to go for examples of recipes. Hopefully they will give you some ideas if you want to save time and money on what you eat.

Veggie chilli

This is a staple in our household. Usually it is made by Mr Simple. He would say that I am too tame with the chilli and he likes it a bit hotter than I do. We have several of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s books and the recipe comes from one of those. . Instead of the usual kidney beans he uses pinto beans, but I am sure you can use whatever you have in stock.

Black bean curry

I currently have the ‘Curry Guy Veg’ out of the library and he has a recipe for black-eyed bean curry. I used black beans instead. He doesn’t appear to have a website, but here is a similar recipe for you to try.

Courgette and feta cakes

These are something slightly different as they are a bit fiddly to make, but delicious and they freeze really well. It is a Delia Smith recipe and they are a good way to use up a glut of courgettes.

Veggie burgers

I find that most, if not all, vegetarian burger recipes freeze well. This month I found we had four different types in the freezer so got them all out and Mr Simple and I had them with polenta chips and a salad.

So there we go, I hope you feel inspired to start filling your freezer with healthy and delicious meals which will save you time and money. After a long day driving to work and back, sometimes in the dark, it is good to come home to something warm and comforting which you haven’t had to spend a lot of time cooking.

How do you use your freezer? I’d love to me know about any meals you regularly make for the freezer.

Rich Habit Number Four

I will devote 30 minutes to exercise every day. I will eat healthy food every day.

In the week that the Lancet published a study saying that in 2017 there were 11 million deaths attributable to dietary risk factors it seems pertinent to focus on this habit for my series on Tom Corley’s book ‘Rich Habits Poor Habits’.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away

According to Tom Corley successful people have a system or routine for weight management i.e. they monitor the amount of food that they eat every day and they engage in a daily exercise regime. In contrast, unsuccessful people have no consistent day to day control over their health. They are always in search of the latest quick fix diet.

Tom Corley found that rich people have an internal motivation to be able to manage their weight and eating, whereas unsuccessful people required an external motivator and when this disappeared they fell back into bad habits.

Be Well Enough to Enjoy ‘Retirement’

Avoid too many of these and use nature’s larder to keep you healthy

If, by the time you reach FIRE, you aren’t well enough to enjoy it, then one has to ask what was the point of all that hard work getting there. The Lancet study found that cardiovascular disease was the leading cause of diet-related deaths, followed by cancers deaths and type 2 diabetes. The findings showed that a suboptimal diet is responsible for more deaths than any other risks globally, including tobacco smoking, highlighting the urgent need for improving the human diet. Their assessment showed that the leading dietary risk factors for mortality are diets high in sodium, low in whole grains, low in fruit, low in nuts and seeds, low in vegetables, and low in omega-3 fatty acids.

Schedule Exercise and Make it Easy

In our busy lives fitting in 30 minutes of exercise every day can be hard and I must say I struggle with this. For me it is probably just three times a week. I find that doing exercise shortly after I get up is the best time. By the end of the day I am just too tired to feel like jogging.

I used the NHS ‘Couch to 5K’ programme in order to start jogging. It is a great and free resource which trains you to run 5k even if, at the moment, you feel that you couldn’t run to the end of your garden. If you have ever wanted to start jogging I would strongly encourage you to check it out.

Now, going out for a jog on a bright summer’s morning, with the sun warming your skin and the birds singing in the trees is a wonderful thing. It may not be so great in January when it is cold, wet and dark. During the first winter after I learnt to jog I have to admit that I gave up. I just wasn’t determined enough to drag myself out of bed when it was miserable.

My Tesco treadmill – cheap, but it does the job

When spring came around I had to go back to the beginning of the programme and build up my fitness again. In the autumn as the mornings started getting dark and cold I decided that I wasn’t going to make the same mistake. I know myself well enough to realise that I didn’t have the determination to go out on those awful mornings and so I bought a treadmill. I didn’t spend a fortune, as I was worried that it may just collect dust, but it didn’t and I now use it several times a week. When the weather is better I will go outside, but the great thing about jogging on the treadmill is that I can watch all those finance YouTube videos whilst I am jogging – getting exercise and educating myself at the same time.

Apart from a good pair of trainers, jogging is a fairly frugal pursuit. You don’t have to join an expensive gym and wherever you live I am sure that there is somewhere nice to run. If you don’t fancy jogging maybe try walking. Download an interesting FIRE podcast to your phone and take a stroll a few times a week.

Eat Well and Cheaply

Roast veggies ready for weekday lunches

I have written about diet before in my series about ‘The Longevity Plan’ by Dr John Day. Therefore I thought that I would just suggest a way of getting more of those much-needed vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids into your diet. An oft-quoted frugal activity is to take your lunch to work every day instead of buying it. As a believer in reducing the amount of carbohydrates I eat, instead of a sandwich, I take some vegetables and fish in my lunch box. Every Sunday I roast and steam some veggies. Simple and cheap things like carrots and broccoli, are great and at the moment I also include courgettes and peppers. Obviously it takes time to do this; chopping the veg is the most time-consuming thing and then shove them in the oven with some olive oil and herbs.

A good source of omega – 3

In the morning I fill my lunchbox with a few of the veg, adding some lettuce, avocado and a tin of fish – mackerel is my favourite. So cheap – 70p a tin in Tesco’s at the moment. Tomorrow I will also be taking some butterbeans that I have soaked and cooked and mixed with nettle pesto. I found a recipe in a book by Dan Stevens of River Cottage fame. It was a bit fiddly washing the leaves with rubber gloves on and then blanching them, but after that it was fairly easy. When you’re out on that walk of an evening maybe you could pick some nettles and make yourself a tasty and cheap pesto sauce to go with some pasta.

So do you have rich habits or poor habits when it comes to eating and exercise? What poor habits would you like to change? Have you tried walking or jogging as exercise? How did you get on?

How Ten Minutes Quiet a Day Could Make You Richer

Find ten minutes in your day to sit quietly

You may remember that last month I had some money left over and I bought four books, with the promise that I may review some of them. One of the books was Rich Habits Poor Habits by Tom Corley and Michael Yardney. I first came across Tom Corley on the Afford Anything podcast. He undertook a study looking at the differences between rich people and poor people. This involved observing and documenting the daily activities of 233 wealthy people and 128 poor people. The book, which summarises his findings, outlines 30 habits of successful people.

Tom Corley’s tenth habit of rich people says that successful people are masters of their words and emotions. They do not fall prey to anger, jealousy, excitability, sadness or other petty emotions. They understand that negative emotions cause them to make bad decisions that result in bad consequences. They replace these bad emotions with positive emotions. When faced with a difficult situation they think, evaluate the situation and then react. On the other hand, unsuccessful people let their emotions rule their behaviour. They easily become depressed and feel as if they have no control over their lives. They react before thinking. 

The tenth habit reminded me of Brooke Castillo’s teaching. If you have been reading my blog from the beginning you will know that one of the things that I enjoy doing is listening to podcasts. As well as those about financial independence I have also started listening to personal development podcasts, including Brooke Castillo’s ‘The Life Coach School’. One of the very first episodes talked about the impact of our thoughts on our feelings. Her theory, which is not her creation apparently, but which she has taken from elsewhere, is the following:

  • Circumstances are neutral
  • Your thoughts about the circumstances create your:
  • Feelings, which determine your:
  • Actions, which influence your:
  • Results

A somewhat silly example, which shows how reacting before thinking can cost you money, is that one of my colleagues told me that when a bolt on his wheel snapped as he was trying to change the tyre he threw the spanner in anger and smashed one of the car windows. Obviously this meant that he had to pay to get it mended. His inability to control his frustration caused him to act rashly which led to even more expense than a snapped bolt.

I was then reminded of some of the teachings of the late Stephen Covey who wrote ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’. This was one of the first self-help books that I read. It is a book that requires in-depth consideration and repeated reading. There is so much to learn from his teachings.

His first ‘habit’ is to ‘Be Proactive’. He says that between stimulus and response is our greatest power – the freedom to choose. According to Covey, it’s not what happens to us that matters most, but it is how we respond to what we experience in life. He believes that highly proactive people do not blame circumstances, conditions or conditioning for their behaviour. Their behaviour is a product of their own conscious choice based on values, rather than a product of their conditions, based on feelings.

Each of these authors leads me to the same conclusion, which is that in order to be more successful and happy in life we need to gain control of our emotions rather than just have a ‘stimulus-response’ reaction.

One of the ways in which you could achieve this is, I believe, through the practice of meditation. In my experience it is not the act of meditation itself, but the impact that it has upon the rest of your life. I believe that it creates a calmness and increases your ability not to follow your gut reaction in circumstances which face you each day. This can help on a financial level as you don’t automatically resort to buying yourself something when you have a bad day.

By reframing what has happened and controlling your emotions you can take charge of your life instead of being pulled this way and that by whatever happens to you. When I started meditating I used ‘Headspace’, but it eventually just became paying a subscription to listen to silence for ten minutes. I then read ‘Bliss More’ by Light Watkins, who I had heard interviewed by Dr Chatterjee and now I just set my phone timer and sit quietly for ten minutes. I don’t chant or do anything special. I try to take some deep breaths and concentrate on different parts of my body, attempting to relax. Often my mind wanders and thoughts about the day ahead interrupt my concentration, but according to Light Watkins that is completely normal.

It may feel a bit weird at first, just sitting with your eyes closed for ten minutes trying to focus on nothing, but what have you got to lose? It’s free and you might just feel the benefit. Maybe start with five minutes, or even two and then gradually increase the time.

So how about giving it a try? I would love to know how you get on and if you feel any benefit from it.

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