Compression Wear, Does It Work? Budget Brand Lidl Reviewed

So at this time of year thoughts turn back to fitness and how to work off the excess blubber caused by the festive season. And one way to give yourself a short sharp shock is to try on some skin tight lycra fitness wear....eeek!

woman wearing compression clothes

Rewind a few years and imagine people working out in a gym, or a group of joggers on the street (me included) doubt we'd all be wearing big and baggy jogging bottoms and T-shirts, billowing around us like huge tents.

Why so much fabric? Well, 'to let air circulate' ....with the added advantage of hiding all your wobbly bits.

Fast forward a few years and we're all supposed to be wearing skin tight leggings and tops made from hi-tech fabric, that do miraculous things like 'wick away moisture'....well if these garments can 'wick away' the rivers of sweat I produce during a HIIT session then they are indeed miraculous!

In addition to 'wicking away moisture' compression garments are supposed to help prevent muscle soreness and fatigue, both during and after a workout. The reasoning behind that claim is increased pressure over the muscles triggers a higher blood flow, carrying more oxygen to the muscles and removing waste products and lactic acid.

Anything that helps prevent the thigh burn of a hill sprint has got to be a good thing!

Never one to shy away from an excuse to buy clothing, I thought I'd test the theory. I checked out various leading brands including Skins and Under Armour.

Good grief! £40 for a top, £65 for a pair of leggings?!

I work out 5 times a week, unless I'm going to do laundry every day I need more than one set of workout clothes, and those prices are way beyond my budget. A decent sports bra is a worthwhile investment, but I can't justify spending that amount of money on numerous items of workout gear.

Then I spotted that budget supermarket Lidl were selling their own brand, Crivit Sports compression gear, as a special offer. I hot footed it down there and bought a couple of vest tops at £10 each,

Lidle compression vest

and couple of pairs of capri pant leggings at £7 each.

Lidl compression leggings

At that price they're worth a try!

So what are the specific claims made by Lidl? Well it all sounds very scientific and similar to the claims made by the major brands;

  • Skin Climate - Optimal body temperature in any weather.
  • Skin Fit - Accurately adapts to the body for a perfect fit.
  • Skin Muscle - Reduced muscle vibration and concentration of the muscles.
  • Skin Dry - Moisture control quickly transports perspiration away from the skin, keeping it comfortably dry.
  • Bio Push - High compression ensures improved circulation.

I've worn the compression gear a good few times now, both for high intensity bodyweight workouts and also for cardio work and running, and how have they fared?

Well I'm a woman of extremes,  I really feel the cold...but when I workout I rapidly get hot and overheat. For such thin fabric they keep me warm at the start of a workout, and make me feel cool when I'm sweating. They do indeed 'wick away moisture'...I just love that phrase!

The clothes are tight but not restrictive, and I like the support they give especially to the old jiggly bits. A great advantage is they stay put, they don't ride up and you don't have to keep pulling and adjusting them.

The only negative I've found is the seam running right up the middle of the....'ahem' .... pants, not so much a problem for me because my workouts are quick, but maybe a long distance runner wearing them for hours might experience some ...'errr'...chafing?! The more expensive brands don't have this seam and are made out  of a single piece of fabric for the front and back.

Both the top and pants have been through the wash numerous times (and tumble drier eek!)...yes I know you shouldn't dry 'sophisticated' fabrics but they occasionally sneak in there amongst the other bits of laundry. I've found they wash really well and have kept their shape.

There is an art to getting in and out of compression clothing, for the leggings treat them like tights and 'roll' them on and up your legs. The top....well just do your best contortionist impression and think of it as a free Yoga workout!

But have the compression garments enhanced my performance and lived up to the scientific claims?

Well that's too hard to quantify. Maybe at elite pro level where every nano second counts, then the slight advantage they might give you is worth it. I doubt they make much difference to someone at my level who just wants to tone up and get fit.

But for comfort, flexibility and being able to keep me both warm and cool I'm a fan, especially at bargain prices. One thing's for sure, I'm glad I didn't buy the expensive brands!

woman working out in compression clothes

Manuscript Christmas Vase From a Recycled Tin Can!

Christmas wouldn't be complete without music and I adore it all, from beautiful carols sung by a choir at midnight mass, to pop songs at the work's party. And cooking Christmas dinner is not possible without Mariah Carey warbling "All I Want for Christmas" in the background, I swear it adds some extra flavour to the turkey!

So in keeping with the musical theme, I made a little Christmas vase decorated with music manuscript.

This is a quick and easy last minute Christmas project using recycled materials. Make more than one, and dot them around the house to add some colour and freshness during the winter months.

Read on for the tutorial...

Twinkle Tulle Christmas Wreath Tutorial

Surely Pinterest was made for Christmas? I've spent so much time recently drooling over festive crafts and in particular Christmas tulle wreaths like the ones seen here, here and here

So I was inspired to make Wag Doll's Twinkle Tulle Christmas Wreath, a frou-frou of frothy tulle ....

tulle christmas wreath

with magical fairy lights to welcome you home on a cold winter's night!

fairy light christmas wreath

Read on for the tutorial...

Boudoir Tulle Christmas Tree - Tutorial

I know it's only mid November and far too early to be blogging about Christmas, but last year I posted my Twinkle Toes Sequin Stocking Tutorial in December, which didn't allow much time for people to source fabric and get sewing.

So this year I'm posting my festive goodies early, mainly because I couldn't wait to share this tutorial with you... The Boudoir Tulle Christmas Tree!

tulle christmas tree

Frothy, decadent and totally glamorous, the tulle tree can adorn your dressing table while you get ready for Christmas parties, or be your table centre piece on Christmas day.

Read on for the tutorial...

MAC Brush Review, Plus How To Store Make-up Brushes.

I've heard it said that 'once you have a set of matching are indeed a grown up woman!'.

Well in Wag Doll's world I'll stick to my 'eclectic' range of plates and aim for a full set of MAC make-up brushes instead, that's when I know I'm all woman!

3 MAC make-up brushes

I love make-up'd never guess! I think of it as an artistic expression of the mood I'm feeling that day, and it's such a confidence builder.

The 15 minutes spent applying it in the morning is my quiet time before I 'face' the world...almost like meditation. It's essential when filming my youtube fitness videos, the director uses studio lighting which bleaches out skin and features, I'd disappear if I didn't wear make-up.

As any good artist (or painter and decorator!) will tell you, good quality brushes will greatly improve the finished result and the same applies to make-up brushes.

I've recently added 3 new MAC brushes to my collection and here's a quick review, plus how I store them.

MAC 213 Brush

MAC 213 brush

The MAC 213 is a fluffy brush, with a thick bundle of natural fibres in a dense rounded shape for applying eye shadow colour. I use it mainly for applying light colours to the lid and for blending mid range colours over the outer third of the eye lid.
It hasn't shed a single hair and has retained it's shape well after washing. I'm not a fan of huge fluffy eye shadow brushes, yes they can apply colour all over the eye area very quickly, but they're too messy for my liking. The 213 is a great mid sized eye shadow brush, to apply colour quickly but with some precision too. I love it!

MAC 219 Brush 

MAC 219 brush

The 219 is a precision shading eye shadow brush, with natural fibres tapered into a fairly firm point. Initially I planned to use it to blend eyeliner into eyeshadow for a smokey eye look, and it's great for that. But this brush has hidden talents and is actually a versatile addition to your collection.
I've been using it to apply light shadow at the inner corner of the eye, and also to apply highlighter at the brow bone. It's brilliant at creating a cut crease look on the eye too. The 219 can also be used to contour down the sides of the nose. This brush washes well, and despite using very dark shadow with it, the light fibres haven't become stained.

MAC 212 Brush

MAC 212 brush

Mac's 212 flat definer brush is made of stiff synthetic fibres, and can be used with powder, liquid or cream products. The brush is primarily an eyeliner brush with firm but flexible bristles. I find it's too wide to line the curve of the upper eyelid for my liking, I prefer a precision liner brush for that. But the 212 works really well to line the bottom lash line with powder, you can wiggle the brush back and forth and also push the shadow into the lash line. You can use it to extend liner shadow past the outer corner of the lower lid for a wide eyed winged look.
I'm also loving the 212 brush to shape and fill in my eyebrows using a dark brown eyeshadow. It's a bit more time consuming than the eyebrow pencil I normally use, but creates a much neater yet natural look.

I'm really pleased with all 3 of my new brushes and you can definitely tell the difference in quality against my other brushes. The MAC's retain their shape and haven't shed any hairs, the handles are long yet lightweight and they all wash really well.

I'm going to do a blog post in the future on how I wash and dry my make-up brushes, as it's important to look after the tools of your trade well!

How I Store My Make-up Brushes.

So how do I store my brushes? Well I always wanted a professional make-up brush roll but they're very expensive.

I'd seem numerous patterns and tutorials online to make a crayon/pencil roll for children, so I just adapted one of those for my brush collection and made my own.

faux leather make-up brush roll

make-up brush roll

Can you spot my new MAC brushes in their home? They make me happy :-)

make-up brushes in roll

A roll is the best way to store your brushes, it's much easier to see them and select one, they roll up neatly for storage and the bristles are protected.

I used to store my brushes loose in a make-up bag but spent a ridiculous amount of time scrabbling around trying to locate a specific brush, and the bristles were always squashed out of shape.

I know some people store brushes upright in a glass, but I don't like the thought of them being exposed all day long to dust, flies and germs. *urgh*! It's important to keep your brushes clean, you don't want them introducing bacteria to your face.

The brush roll is washable and has stood the test of time since I made it a year ago. Here's the link to my tutorial if you want to make one for yourself, it would make a great Christmas present for someone too!

MAC make-up brush roll

Ghostly Poached Pears: A Healthy Halloween Recipe

Woooo's Halloween!

Treats at Halloween don't have to be unhealthy and loaded with sugar, here's a spook'tacular natural dessert recipe for poached pear ghosts.

Read on for the recipe, if you dare....!

Push Ups Part 2 - Advanced Variations

A couple of days ago I wrote about why I love push-ups (or press-ups as they're also known) and how to do them if you are a beginner, in my blog post & video 'Push-ups part 1'.

So once you've mastered the push-up try some advanced variations, which will help give you an amazing lean and toned beach-body look!

These exercises will challenge you and work extra muscle groups, so here are my top 7 advanced push-ups.

  • Close Grip Push-up - placing your hands closer together straight under your chest puts more emphasis on your triceps (goodbye bingo wings!).  Lower yourself down as far as you can while keeping your elbows close to your body. The closer your hands are together the harder the exercise, the ultimate aim being a 'Diamond press up' where your index fingers and thumbs touch in a diamond shape.
  • Spiderman Push-up - named because you look like Spiderman crawling up a wall! Get into the standard push-up position, lower yourself down bringing your right knee up sideways to touch your right elbow, push back up and repeat on the left side. This push-up targets your chest, shoulders and also your obliques to trim that waist. 
  • Balance Push-up - do a standard push-up, but as you return to the plank position extend your left arm and right leg out for a brief count. Repeat extending the opposite arm & leg.. This push-up really targets your whole body as your core, legs and shoulders have to work extra hard to keep you from falling over...wobble wobble!
  • Rotational Push-up - complete a standard push-up, and from the plank position twist your torso and raise your left hand to point to the ceiling, so your body looks like a 'T' shape, hold for a count and repeat on the other side. The rotation targets your core for an intense ab workout.
  • Decline Push-up - by placing your feet on a box or stepper you shift the emphasis of the move to target your upper chest and the front of your shoulder muscles (anterior deltoids). Ladies (and gents) this is the one to do if you want that nice little definition line between your shoulders and arms. 
  • One Hand Elevated Push-up - Place one hand on a stepper or box and lower yourself into the push-up, complete a set of reps before walking with your hands over the box and completing your set with the opposite side. This push-up allows you to descend deeper into the move on the elevated side working your chest and shoulders.
  • Incline Walking Push-up - Similar to one handed elevated push-up above, start with one hand on a box or stepper, complete a push-up and walk with your hands over the box to complete your next push-up on the other side, continue walking back and forth. The increased amount of 'hand walking' in this move really targets the shoulders and chest, plus your core gets a great workout as you try and balance your body.

So there are 7 of my favourite push-up variations to keep challenging yourself and improving your strength. If you work at these exercises they really will help build lean and toned muscles. 

I have great fun filming my fitness videos and hope you enjoy watching them, be sure to watch right until the end of this one for a couple of out-takes. I might be fairly good at press-ups but I'm a wimp with a clapperboard! And the Video Director is under the impression I'm much stronger than I really am! 

Push Ups Part 1 - How To Do A Push Up

Push-ups, or press-ups as they're also known, are one of the first exercises I wanted to learn when I began The Wag Doll Protocol fitness regime 7 months ago.

For years I did 'girlie' kneeling push-ups on my knees, under the impression that the average woman isn't strong enough to do regular full push-ups. Wrong!

Your body will adapt if you challenge it, your strength will improve if you practice and you will progress. The perfect push-up is within reach with consistant and determined effort!

Check out my video to see how I do regular push-ups, and for some hints and tips.

So to recap from the video, my top tips for learning to do your first push-up are:
  • Plank - practice holding the plank position with arms fully extended under your shoulders, body in a straight line, core nice and tight. This will increase your shoulder and ab strength. Plank is also the correct starting position for the full push-up, so if you perfect this move you are well on the way to having perfect technique when you move onto push-ups
  • Negative Kneeling Push-ups - Practice doing push-ups on your knees, focusing on the negative aspect of the move, which means lowering your chest to the floor very slowly, then push back up at normal speed. This will build up your chest strength, needed to do full push-ups.

  • Go for it! - When you attempt to do your first push-up then put every ounce of effort you possess into the move! You really have to give it your all. Get into plank position, lower yourself down, don't pause and push, push, push with all your might! If you can't do the move, then simply go back to practising the plank and kneeling negatives, if you can...then congratulations, you've done your first push up!

  • Practice - When you can do 1 push-up, it's simply a matter of building the numbers up, and to do that you just have to practice. Not once a week at the gym, but every day. The beauty of press-ups is that they can be done anywhere, so do them at home while waiting for the kettle to boil, during the adverts on TV or challenge yourself to do them everytime you walk into a certain room!

  • Check your form - As you build up the numbers of push-ups, be sure to keep in mind correct technique at all times. Push-ups done incorrectly can injure your shoulders, elbows and lower back. Don't get carried away with numbers while letting your form slide.

  • For regular push ups your hands should be under your shoulders, slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Hands at 45 degree angle. As you lower yourself down keep your elbows at a 45 degree angle to your body. Aim to get your chest a few inches from the floor, keep your head in line with your spine and do not extend your head forward like a pigeon!

woman in push-up position

Being able to do 3 sets of 15 push-ups is a great indication of upper body strength, and at that point you can start to incorporate some advanced variations to keep challenging yourself. I'll be showing some of the variations I do in my follow post "Push-ups part 2 - Advanced Variations" so be sure to join me!

Blog Upgrade Tips. How To Add "You Might Also Like..." on Blogger

I've been blogging for just over a year now and thought it was about time I upgraded Wag Doll with a few nifty extras, which I'm going to share with you as I make the changes.

One thing I've always admired on other blogs are the suggested 'You may also like" images at the bottom of a blog post. These help to keep your older content in the public eye, and suggest to your lovely visitors some other posts they might find useful, encouraging them to stay around.

Read on for my easy step-by-step guide on how to add this useful feature to your blog posts...

Clean Eating Dilemma, British Chocolate Week!

So this week it's Chocolate Week in the UK.... yes seriously, the chocolate industry has a whole week to encourage us to eat more chocolate. I really don't think they need to bother, it's Chocolate Week every week and most of us don't need much encouragement in the choccie department! It's rich and decadent and eating it releases feel-good hormones making us crave more.

But seeing as I covered British Egg Week in my I 'Heart' Eggs' post, then I thought I'd give a quick mention that you can still get your chocolate fix while following a healthy diet.

Be under no doubt, chocolate combined with sugar, flour and artificial fats is not good for you. So traditional chocolate bars, cakes and sweets have no place on my Eating Clean plan and I avoid them, they mess up your blood sugar levels leading to fat storage and weight gain.

But research has shown that organic dark chocolate does have some amazing health benefits. It contains flavanols which act as a blood thinning agent, lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation. In fact similar flavanoids are found in of my other favourite treats. Aah a brew and some dark choccie, who would have thought they were so good for you?!

Buy the best quality dark chocolate you can, organic if possible and ideally at least 80% dark chocolate, and eat just a small amount. Luckily chocolate combines so well with nuts, coconut, dried fruit, and fruits such as blueberries and cherries that you can add these to make a more substantial healthy treat.

As most of us have grown up eating milk chocolate loaded with fat and sugar, then high quality dark chocolate can be an acquired taste, your palate has to adjust to the intensity of flavour. Build up from 60% to the higher strength chocolate. My favourite has to be Green and Blacks Organic 85% Organic Dark Chocolate, but I can only eat a couple of squares and I'm done, I challenge anyone to eat more than that in one go!

Both Tesco and Aldi also do great tasting 85% dark chocolate which are a cheaper alternative to Green & Blacks.

Check out cocoa powder too. It's low in calories and fat and can be used in recipes or to make drinks. Cocoa powder also has great health benefits too.

Here's one of my favourite eating clean recipes so far, and one of my most popular. Falsetesers - A Clean Eating Chocolate Dessert. Surely something that looks and tastes so good must be bad for you!

So have you tried high percentage dark chocolate and do you recommend any particular brands for me to try? Or do you prefer milk chocolate, and would you consider swapping to plain for the health benefits? Comment and let me know.

I 'Heart' Eggs! Tutorial: How To Make Heart Shaped Boiled Eggs

I love eggs!

And this week is British Egg Week so it's a good time to explain why eggs are an essential part of my 'Eating Clean & Looking Lean' regime.

heart shaped boiled egg

I'll also show you how to make these ridiculously cute heart shaped boiled eggs....go on, show some egg love!


Video: Girls Can Do Fight Training Too!

Yep, girls can do fight training!

Whether you plan on competing or not, fight training is great exercise for both body and mind.

For the last 3 weeks I've been lucky enough to have some private training sessions with a hugely experienced  fight trainer. Normally I work out doing my own routines based on HIIT (high intensity interval training) and bodyweight exercises but I'm always willing to try something new, so recently Wag Doll's been doing boxing and MMA style training. Check out my video!

Now I'm warning you, this isn't a girly workout video, it's a low down and dirty training session. I was utterly exhausted and it shows! I love my more artistic videos like Insane Abs and Extreme Hill Sprints, but this is raw footage of a real training session and it ain't pretty!

I've had 5  x 1hour PT sessions so far, and my improvement from a complete beginner has been dramatic.

I'm a big advocate of training yourself, researching and devising your own workouts. I've fully embraced the home workout revolution that's been taking place, but this is one kind of training where you really do need an experienced teacher.

Youtube won't allow me to post an hour long video....Booooo! I'm afraid I can only show you the highlights of my training session (or lowlights if you include my dance moves!).

For those who want a bit more info on what this training session involved, here's the breakdown;

Cardio warm-up - 10 minutes of HIIT work; high knees, running on the spot, squat jumps, jumping jacks. Get your body warmed up and your heart rate & lungs working.

Fight Conditioning - 25 minutes. This is the hardcore work that physically pushes you to the limit. It enables you to move an opponent around the ring and is designed to increase strength, explosive power and endurance. 3 sets of each exercise; decline push-ups, tyre lifts, sprawls, weighted squats, mountain climbers, squat thrusts, shoulder push and the dreaded Power Push. Check out the size of Ed my trainer, I had to try and push him across the felt like trying to move a ten ton truck!

Padwork - 20 minutes. Boxing padwork and shadow boxing. Using the rope line to develop the bob and weave technique followed by padwork punch combinations. Resistance band padwork develops leg and core strength and makes you fast. My hands were flying when I took the resistance band and gloves off, I nearly toppled over LOL! Sneaked a few pull-ups in at that point too.

Stretches & cool-down - 5 mins. It's so important to cool down and stretch out, particularly as these sessions works muscles that I've never worked before.

I'm really enjoying the fighter training and am planning to expand from just boxing techniques to martial arts too.

I've been involved in the boxing and martial arts world for many years, attending shows for filming and doing photography. I've watched fighters train hard, visited numerous gyms and attended more shows than I can count, but I've never been tempted to join in before now. As my fitness levels have increased doing the Wag Doll Protocol, I've wanted to expand the type of training I'm doing and learn some new things.

Fitness training develops your body and your thirst for knowledge too!

And that's the over-riding thing I've learnt from the fighter training, it's a brain workout as much as a body workout. I'm physically and mentally tired after a session which means the old grey cells have been given a kick up the backside. It's important that a training regime stretches your mind as well as your muscles.

Giveaway Winners Announced!

Hey all, just a quick post to announce the winners of the Blog Birthday Giveaway!

Rafflecopter has picked the winners at random from all entries, and the winners are.....drum roll.......

Christopher Humphreys wins Dotty the sock monkey!

Awww, I'm always a bit tearful when one of my sock monkeys leaves home!

Caroline Duncan Wheeler wins the Gymboss Interval Timer!

Obviously a new one, this one's mine and I'm not parting with it :-)

Congratulations Christopher and Caroline! I've emailed you both and will be sending out the prizes as soon as I get a reply.

Thanks to everyone who entered and all my lovely followers on the blog, Twitter and Youtube. I'm planning on doing more giveaways in the future so keep an eye out!

Xtreme Hill Sprints Video!

Hi everyone, can't wait to share with you my latest fitness video 'Xtreme Hill Sprints!'

Back in May when I started the Wag Doll Protocol fitness regime, I did a post 'Killer Hill Workout' explaining how I love to get outdoors when the weather is nice and do some hill running as part of my cardio routine.

Four months later and I've continued to include hill sprints in my workouts on a regular basis. Luckily I have a couple of great hills, including this one, near where I live. I tend to workout for 15 to 20 minutes doing the sprints, running as fast as I can up the hill, jogging or walking back down.

A steep hill like this will really target your heartrate and get the blood pumping through your body, working your lungs to maximum capacity, then jog or walk back down to allow you to recover slightly, before doing it all over again! Hill sprints are a great high intensity interval workout (HIIT) and really compliment the style of training I do.

I'm not a long distance runner as I don't have the patience or time to devote hours towards training, my workouts, whether at home, in the gym or outside, are half an hour long and done!

So as my workouts are short, I need exercises that are multi-functional, working more than one area of the body. Hill running also works the lower body, shaping up your legs as you use explosive power up the hill, and your arms as you use them to help drive you up the hill.

This type of high inensity exercise burns a ton of energy both during and after the workout, meaning inches and fat loss ...woohoo!

Don't forget to watch until the end of the video to see an out-take... bearing in mind I'd run up and down the hill numerous times for filming, including wearing the helmet camera, then the camera man decided to run with me.....

Now the plan was for me to do my workout and then talk to the camera, explaining what I'd done and showing how out of breath I was....only by the time I'd got my microphone on and the camera was rolling, I had recovered!

Just goes to show how much my fitness has improved over the last four months. Now I think that's the best advert for hill sprints you can get!

Sock Monkey Triplets, Dog Rescue and Giveaway

Hey peeps, just a quick reminder post about the blog giveaway I'm running until next Thursday, to celebrate my blogs first anniversary!

Don't forget to enter if you're in the UK and you could win an uber cute sock monkey, hand made with love by Wag Doll.

There's also a Gymboss fitness timer up for grabs to help you with your workouts. My Gymboss timer is one of the best fitness purchases I've ever made, unlike most bits of useless fitness kit it won't end up covered in dust in the corner of your bedroom ...and it's much too small to hang your clothes from!

Talking of sock monkeys, I made a couple of friends for Dotty, the giveaway prize. Here they all are together, just too much cuteness!

3 sock monkeys

Dotty is on the right, and he/she might be yours if you enter the giveaway!

Circles on the left has been sent to a friend as a prize in a charity raffle, to raise money for UK German Shepherd Rescue. This wonderful charity re-homes unwanted and neglected German Shepherd dogs across the UK, and while dogs are waiting for suitable homes they're fostered by a team of lovely volunteers.

The charity has special meaning for me at the moment as my mum's beloved German Shepherd dog Rebel sadly passed away this month.

We all miss him terribly and I can't believe he won't greet me at the gate any more. He brought so much love and laughter into our lives with his unique personality and quirky ways and was a much loved family member, sadly pets just don't live long enough.

So in honour of Rebel I'm hoping Circles will raise some much needed cash to help UK-GSR, please visit their website and see the wonderful work they do. If you live in the Bexhill area of the UK then you can show support by visiting the Pets At Home store over the weekend of 15th/16th September, where the team will be giving advice on the breed, recruiting volunteers and raising funds...Circles is one of the prizes, go girl (or boy)!

I'm planning on making more sock monkeys over the coming months, mainly because I can't stop buying funky socks..."Oooh these would make a great sock monkey!" so I might do a tutorial on how I make mine, let me know if you think that would be useful?

Wag Doll's Blog - 1st Birthday Giveaway!

Can you believe it?
My little baby blog is celebrating it's 1st birthday this weekend! It's a toddler now :-)

To celebrate this milestone, and to thank all my readers for their continued support I'm going to hold a giveaway.

Regular readers will know my blog covers my varied interests...some of you are fitness fanatics following me on The Wag Doll Protocol quest to improve fitness and tone up. Others are crafty types and join me in sewing and crafting. And then there are the foodie's who cook up a storm in the kitchen, with my 'Eating Clean and Looking Lean' recipes.

So with that in mind I'm awarding 2 prizes in the giveaway, a handmade sock monkey, lovingly made with my own fair hands,

Dotty has her own knitted scarf to keep her cosy and although I think of her as a 'she'...I think she might well be a 'he' if you prefer!

The other prize is a new Gymboss Interval Time in hot pink worth £16, just like the one I use in all my High Intensity Interval Workouts like Beach Body Skipping.

Obviously this one is mine, the prize will be a brand new one and I'm afraid a patch of my lawn is not included...sorry!

I will be running the giveaway on Rafflecopter. The 2 winners will be chosen at random from the Rafflecopter entries so be sure to enter via the form below.

There are 3 ways to enter the giveaway and each counts as one entry. Remember you must enter via Rafflecopter.

1 - Follow my blog on Google Friend Connect and comment below this post telling me which prize you want to win, one or the other, sorry you have to choose! (mandatory)
2 - Follow me on Twitter @Wag_Doll and tweet the following message: "I entered a fab giveaway by @Wag_Doll to win a handmade sock monkey or an interval timer! Check out" (optional)
3 - Subscribe to WagDoll on Youtube and comment on one of my videos (optional)

The giveaway is open to UK entrants only and ends in 2 weeks time, good luck everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Easy Vegetable Curry Recipe - Eating Clean & Looking Lean

Veggies play a huge part in The Wag Doll Protocol 'Eating Clean & Looking Lean' diet, but I confess I'm not a big fan of plain boiled vegetables. I need some spice in my life, so I tend to eat my vegetables stir fried, sauteed or baked with a variety of herbs and spices. This is my 'go to' vegetable recipe, a curry as spicy as you like!

I make a big batch, eat some, put some in the fridge for the next day and freeze the rest in portion sizes.

You can use this recipe as a dish on it's own or add some cooked chicken or turkey. I tend to eat it an accompaniment to roast chicken or baked spiced fish.

Read on for the recipe;

Loungerie Trio Part 3: Dressing Gown. New Look 6072 Review

It's here! The final instalment of my 'Loungerie Trio' series, The Dressing Gown.

navy jersey dressing gown

The previous blog posts for this series are the PJ Pants and Camisole Top, so be sure to check those out for a matching set of casual lingerie wear. Perfect for lounging around the house in the evening, yet still pretty enough to answer the door to visitors without scurrying off to get changed.

Read on for more photos, a review of the pattern and some modifications I made.

Insane Ab Workout Video!

Just a quick post to share with you Wag Doll's new video 'Insane Abs Workout - Stylised and Ripped!'

How much do I love this promo, I feel like I'm in a music video!

Doing this video was an eye opener in all that goes into filming, I was slightly confused when the guys at Loftcon Studios explained the vision they had for my abs the dark? How will anyone see anything?!

They told me to have faith, and through the mysterious dark art of editing they worked their magic...and boy did they work their magic, please wait while I pick my jaw off the floor! The video is stylish and artistic, and more that I could have hoped for when I said I wanted something different. These guys are seriously creative and talented.

So here's a quick rundown of the core exercises I'm doing in the video,

Oblique bends with dumbell
Bicycle abs
Dumbbell raise sit ups
Side plank with twist
Mason twist with dumbbell

and a little bit of fun showing my biceps :-) Not a core exercise as such, but fun at the end of the film shoot.

There are endless exercises for your core, so don't get bored just doing hundreds of sit-ups, vary your workouts to keep your interest up and to keep working the different areas of your core. You can see from my selection above that I've included a number of oblique exercises, (the side area of your midsection) to trim the waist. I want toned abs but I still want a feminine shape with a defined waist, these exercises will give you that.

Wag Doll

I aim to include some ab work in every training session I do, whether at home or in the gym, doing cardio, HIIT or weights. Your core is the one area of the body that doesn't need a rest day to improve, so work them every day if you want!

I've had a lot of queries recently about how long it's taken for me to reach this level, and I've now been working out for four months. At the start of The Wag Doll Protocol regime I had a muffin top bulge over the top of my jeans, but by following a healthy diet (I'm doing my clean eating regime) and including regular ab work in my fitness plan I've reduced my waist and hips by inches, and can finally reveal the abs that were hiding a layer of blubber for years.....I'm so happy to see them and this video allows them to say hi to to world!

Hope you enjoyed the video and subscribe to me on youtube as there are more to come!

Beach Body Skipping Video, The Ultimate Guide to Jumping Rope!

I'm very excited to share my latest Wag Doll Protocol fitness video with you; 'Beach Body Skipping - Fast Intense Fat Blaster!' a collaboration with a great team of people I've been working with.

Skipping is an awesome workout on so many levels.

You can use it as a stand alone cardio session, it's a great conditioning exercise which gets the heart rate pumping and the lungs working. Let's get scientific, skipping will improve your VO2 max level, which basically means your fitness level and stamina will improve...and fast!

Add in some high intensity sections such as high knees, jumping on one foot, fast paced skipping and butt kicks, and you will continue to burn calories long after the session has finished and you've hung up your jump rope. This workout blasts fat and is a great weight-loss exercise.

I also use skipping as a quick warm up in preparation for my HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) sessions or weighted workouts. If I'm warming up for a HIIT workout I typically skip for 10 minutes, I reduce this to a 5 minute warm-up for a weighted workout, where I want to reserve more energy for weights training. You can always do a second set of skipping after the weights session if you want to incorporate more cardio.

But it doesn't end there, skipping isn't just a cardio workout, it targets and tones thighs, calves and abs and is an amazing exercise for lean triceps, biceps and shoulders. Wave goodbye to those bingo wings!

It's no coincidence that boxers and martial artists use skipping as an integral part of their workout, it also helps with co-ordination, agility and fast footwork too.

So what do you need to get started?

Well, obviously a skipping rope or jump rope. There are numerous types; leather, rope or plastic, with or without handles, foam covered handles, handles with ball bearings for a smooth rope turn and even weighted handles for those who want to progress to a harder workout. Prices vary from a couple of pounds upto £15. Surely this must be one of the most cost effective pieces of fitness equipment you can buy, and easy to store too.

jump rope on grass

This is the rope I use and you can buy similar here. Try to hang your rope up when you're not using it so it doesn't get tangled and form kinks.

Ropes vary in length between 8 and 10 feet and it's a matter of preference how long you like the rope to be. The measurement I use is to place the rope under my foot, and the tips of the handles reach the top of my shoulders.

Footwear is an important consideration for skipping, a cross-fit style of trainer is best as you need a good cushion under the ball of the foot.

And lastly you need a workout space, skipping really is the ultimate portable workout, as long as you have enough room to turn the can skip. At home, at the gym, or like me, workout in your garden. You can even take your jump rope on holiday.

A sprung wooden floor such as a dance studio is the best surface for skipping, but a matted gym area is great too. You can actually skip on carpet in your home if your ceiling is high enough, but it does create some 'drag' on the rope and may leave a bald patch, so you might want to avoid that! A good tip is to get a piece of wood 3feet x 4feet and lay that down on your lawn, this creates a wonderful skipping area which is cushioned. You can skip on concrete, but limit these sessions to avoid shin splints and joint damage and always wear good trainers.

An interval timer or an app on your phone is a great addition to your skipping kit, allowing you to incorporate changes in pace & different moves.

gymboss interval timer pink

This is my beloved gymboss timer and it's vital for my HIIT workouts too. You can buy it here.

If you're new to skipping then here's a couple of tips to help you get started;
  • Gradually build up your skipping sessions and incorporate rest intervals. 
  • Practice makes perfect, so don't be too down-hearted if you can't co ordinate your feet and hands immediately.
  • Keep your shoulders back and an upright posture, engaging your core. Land lightly on the balls of your feet with a slight bend to the knees.
This sounds like a lot to consider but will become second nature to you as you progess. And add some music, it really does motivate you to get the most from your workouts!

I hope you enjoyed the video and this post, and it inspires you to incorporate skipping into your workout, it's such a great low cost and effective exercise which gets results fast.
I had a lot of fun making the video, and trying to speak after that skipping session is proof what a great workout it is!

Loungerie Trio Part 2: Camisole Top. McCalls M5989

Welcome back lovelies, for the second instalment of my lingerie lounge wear trio, the camisole top.

navy camisole lingerie top

Modelled here by my good self and not Anne my dress form, you can tell it's me because I've got a head and Anne does not. Although from the massive boo-boo I made it's possible I don't have a brain...more on that later!

I'm also wearing the yoga style pyjama pants I described in part 1 of the trio here.

Read on for more pictures and a review of the pattern...

"Falsetesers" A Clean Eating Chocolate Dessert - Eating Clean & Looking Lean

Chocolate balls...indeed!

chocolate dinner dessert

Here's a recipe for a super easy all natural dessert, which looks good enough to serve at a dinner party.

Inspired by Nia Shank's Brownie Balls recipe, I changed a couple of ingredients and got busy in the kitchen. Be sure to check out Nia's website, she has a wealth of fitness knowledge and has some really great clean eating recipes.

I originally called them Chocolate Balls .....but then thought better of it! While struggling to come up with a suitably non-pornographic name a friend of mine Danny 'The Cheesecake Assassin' Mitchell, MMA fighter extraordinaire and lover of all things sweet, suggested Falsetesers... yes! A clean eating alternative to Maltesers....I like it, thanks Danny!

Read on the for recipe:

Loungerie Trio Part 1: The PJ Pants. McCalls M5989 With Modifications

Hey lovelies.

So I finally got round to doing a sewing blog post, yippee!

You all know I've been busy working out and eating clean as part of the The Wag Doll Protocol regime, but I am still sewing, and here's the first part in a trio of items I've made recently, pyjama pants.

pyjama yoga pants

I explained in this post that I normally go straight to the gym after work. I then get home around 7.30pm, shower and start dinner & relax. But what to wear? 8pm is too late to bother getting dressed again, but too early for me to get the pyjamas on while I'm cooking dinner. I wanted to make something casual, something I could wear to cook, have dinner, potter about & relax but could still answer the door. Enter the loungerie trio, more lounge wear than lingerie!

Read on for a description and pattern review...

The Wag Doll Protocol: 2 Month Update...The Moment of Truth!

How time flies when you're having fun...or working flat out!

It's 2 months since I began 'The Wag Doll Protocol, Eating Clean & Looking Lean' regime, in preparation for a project I'm involved in.

I described the Eating Clean side of the regime here and that's been going really well, I've stuck to the principles of my diet pretty much consistently. I did have a a major fall from grace with a girlie weekend away, but that was planned for and well worth it! There has also been much experimentation in the kitchen, some of which I've blogged about and some recipes still to write up.

For the 'Looking Lean' fitness side of the equation, I've been doing a 30 minute high intensity workout 4 or 5 times a week. But there's only one way to see if the regime is working...cue the dreaded fit test, tape measure and scales to see what, if any, progress I've made.....eeek.

Read on for the results..and gratuitous close ups of my flesh with a tape measure!

Sausage and Sweet Potato Bake Recipe - Eating Clean & Looking Lean

I spent a lot of time agonising over what to call this recipe, inspired by Nia Shanks' Easy Eggs Casserole, it's a low carb/low GI variation of a quiche (without the pastry obviously!). In our house it's known as the 'Nouveau Riche Quiche' but that doesn't really explain what's in the dish, so keeping it simple I'm calling it a Sausage and Sweet Potato Bake.

low carb quiche and salad

Read on for the recipe...

Eating Clean & Looking Lean: Are Gyms Making Us Fit or Fat?

The "Eating Clean" side of The Wag Doll Protocol has been going well for me over the 2 months since I began the regime. My version of clean eating, which I described here, isn't so strict that I won't indulge, but these are planned events such as a weekend away and meals out, and I can adjust my diet accordingly.

But this weekend it all went belly up...big belly up!

I was at an event all day on Saturday from 10.30am until 11pm, and was appalled at the complete lack of healthy food options. Where was I?....a sports centre filming a martial arts event for goodness sake!

teenagers kickboxing

Lovely cafe area selling a tempting array of choca mocha lattes, cheese toasties, muffins and alcohol (!) for the adults, chocolate bars, fizzy drinks and crisps for the kids.....seriously, are they trying to make us fat or fit in these places?

To read more, click through below...

The Wag Doll Protocol: Video of Shoulder Sculpt Workout Using A Tyre!!

Hope everyone is having a good week, here in the UK we've just celebrated the Queen's Diamond Jubilee with 2 days public holiday, a whole 4 days off to spend some quality time with friends and family.

In between wearing my Jubilee inspired shoes I managed a couple of cheeky workouts. I didn't have time to get to the gym but luckily I have a small space in our very cluttered garage that I can use for exercise.

The area in the garage is matted and over the years we've amassed a treadmill, stepper, wall bar, boxing bag and some weights. But really all you need is some space and a pair of trainers, that's the beauty of bodyweight exercises, you use your own weight to provide resistance and can workout anywhere.

For this routine I did 10 minutes cardio warm-up on the treadmill, I always run at an incline for extra leg workout. I then did 10x1 minute lower body and ab HIT bodyweight exercises.

Now at this point I thought I'd finished...but Mr Wag Doll had other ideas and offered to put me through a weighted shoulder workout. How could I refuse an offer like that?!

I did sets of various weighted exercises targeting the shoulders and finished off with a great exercise to really work the deltoid muscles using a tyre. Here's a video of me doing the last 2 sets of the shoulder press using a tyre.

You can see from the video how effective this exercise is at shaping the shoulders, it really targets and shapes the delts, particularly as I didn't count reps, just worked until I couldn't do any you can see!

Now I'm used to being at the gym and hearing the grunts and groans that people make when exercising, sometimes you've just got to give it all you've got and the only way to do that is to make some noise people!....but my sister did make me laugh when she watched the video, saying she dreads to think what the neighbours thought, with me groaning and Mr Wag Doll 's encouragement! Might have to think about soundproofing....

I got the tyre free from my local garage, so a big shout out to CY Autos! Most garages will be only too happy to donate a tyre for you to use, give it a wash and off you go.

The tyre shoulder press works so well because the weight is unstable, you have to control the tyre using your core as well as your upper body. Also, because you have to get your head through the centre, you aren't able to slump forward using chest muscles instead of shoulders. Throughout the exercise my core is tight and I'm mindful that my lower back isn't arching, which is good practice for pretty much all exercises.

If you're new to weights or upping the intensity of a weighted workout it's always good to have an experienced trainer to guide you, and also 'spot' you, that is watch your form and be ready to assist if the weight is too much and you can't complete the movement.

I hope that inspired you to have a go and think outside the box when it comes to weights. I'd just like to add as a final note that the filming was totally unplanned...I'd have had a spray tan and good tidy up if I'd have known!

Jubilee Weekend, Shoes Fit For A Queen!

It's Jubilee Weekend here in the UK, to celebrate Queen Elizabeth the 2nd's Diamond Jubilee. The nation will be celebrating with street parties, processions and concerts. You can't move for Union Jack flags, bunting and memorabilia, and we have two days public holiday to make a 4 day weekend..... yippee!

I often like to embrace my inner (drag) Queen with too much make-up and this is my homage to her Majesty...

Jubilee Weekend Shoes fit for a Queen! Just pure impractical gorgeous'ness. The shoes are actually Miss Wag Dollette's...but luckily we are the same shoe size and I've got my eye on them! If you want your own pair you can get them at Schuh, style Colette £60, online here.

In between the festivities I'm hoping to do some sewing and Wag Doll Protocol workouts (and no, I won't be wearing these for either activity!).

Happy Jubilee Weeekend everyone!

The Wag Doll Protocol: Killer Hill Workout Video

Hey lovelies, well the weather has been glorious here in the UK for the last few days. In fact, it's been so hot that I took my workout outside and made a quick video. You get to see (and hear) the Wag behind the Doll so to speak!

I usually go to the gym in the evenings after work, but it seems such a shame to miss out on the precious sunshine (and vitamin D) by sweating away indoors when the weather is gorgeous, so I took my workout to the local park.

I live in Yorkshire which is very hilly, tailor made for a good cardio & leg routine. Just jogging up and down the hill carrying a bottle of water was a full bodytone workout, and it's totally free :-) I classed up and down the hill as 1 set and completed 11 sets, it took me about 25 minutes.

Luckily the filming was done during the first couple of the end I was gasping like a fish and sweating buckets, especially as I wore long workout bottoms. My legs are so winter white at the moment I didn't want to get them out in public, I've now slapped some St Tropez on so next time I won't scare the local wildlife. Always fake it, never bake it!

I'm hoping to do some more video's and photos for The Wag Doll Protocol, it's nice to mix it up with some of the more detailed wordy posts I've been doing. So let me know if this is something you'd like to see. Now I think I'd better go shopping for some shorts.....

The Wag Doll Protocol: Fitness Regime Update. The Brainless Motivation Technique

So how is my fitness regime going? It's been 5 weeks since I started the the Eat Clean & Look Lean programme and it's time for an update. I'll be doing this regularly to say what's working, what I've struggled with, what progress I've made and what I've learnt.

Let's start with what I've struggled with....myself, to put it bluntly!

One of the main things I've learnt since starting The Wag Doll Protocol is that a fitness regime is mind over body. My body is a complete wimp and will do whatever it's told, my brain has a mind of it's own....obviously, and sometimes doesn't want to play, and that's when I struggle.

So I've stopped giving my brain a choice, I don't decide to work out, I don't even think "I've got to do it"...I just don't think at all.

I immediately get changed into my gym gear as soon as I get home from work, before any distractions kick in, and I make a start. I've been doing this for almost 3 weeks now and it's starting to become an ingrained routine. I'm calling it the Brainless Motivation Technique!

I'd love to hear how you motivate yourself to work out, when you have a million and one other things calling your name?

So down to workout routines, those of you who follow me on Twitter will know I tweet a basic summary of my workout most days. But 140 characters isn't much space to explain what I'm doing so here's a bit more detail.

Click here to read more

Toasted Oat and Nut Muesli with Dried Fruit Recipe - Eating Clean & Looking Lean.

The Wag Doll Protocol. Eating Clean & Looking Lean: Easy Breakfast Recipe.

homemade muesli

Normally when I'm eating clean I have porridge for breakfast, oats cooked with half semi-skimmed milk and half water. It's warming for winter mornings and keeps you full until lunchtime.

But as the weather gets warmer and for those mornings I don't have time to cook porridge, I wanted to find an alternative. Lets not beat about the bush here, most store bought breakfast cereals are the devils food! They are extremely high in quick release carbs, most have added sugar, salt and additives and the ridiculously small 30g serving they recommend would have me fainting from hunger before I'd even got my coat off at work.

There are some healthier choices in the muesli and granola supermarket aisle, but it seems the healthier the cereal...the higher the price. So I looked into making my own version "Wag Doll's Toasted Oat and Nut Muesli with Dried Fruit."

Read on for the recipe;

Girls Cotton Dress with Shirring & Ruffles - Easy Tutorial. Get ready for Summer!

If you live in the UK you'll wonder why on earth I'm posting a tutorial for a summer dress. Forget April showers, we've had torrential downpours! But we're now into May and it's officially summer, so get prepared for the sunshine by making your little angel a shirred summer dress.

The idea for this project came from my niece, when I asked if she'd like a dress for her doll, she replied she'd like one for herself, thank you very much....nobody's fool this girl!

So I came up with this idea, which uses very simple pattern pieces and some nifty techniques to jazz it up. Shirring and gathering look great on light-weight cottons and are surprisingly easy to do.

Read on for a (photo heavy) tutorial...

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