Focus and Motivation During the Holidays

Focused During Holidays PictureBy: Gerhard de Bruin

The festival tidal wave of Christmas and New Year’s is looming ahead.  Yes, it’s only November, but it’s never too soon to begin planning for the mental onslaught they bring.  The holidays usually bring a host of undesirable consequences – less time training, weight gain, lack of discipline, and diminishing focus.  The typical person develops an iron-willed mantra:

The holidays are a time to relax and let loose.  I’ll get back on track come January.

From parties and family commitments to travelling and tempting meals – it’s no wonder that our clothes start to feel tight during the holidays.  Sadly, most people also lose the motivation to train hard, but it’s important to stay focused on your goals, so when New Year’s hits, you’re already ahead of everyone else.

Follow these strategies on how to stay on track during the holidays.  You must do whatever it takes to avoid going downhill with your training and nutritional goals.  Godspeed, soldier!  You’re going to need it!

1.  Prioritise and Plan

Devise your training schedule at least one month in advance.  Consistency and good time management techniques will bring you victory!  The holidays are an ideal time to stay loyal with your training and diet principles.  Sit down with your coach and outline your goals for the upcoming new year.  Discuss last year’s training and race results – and turn your past shortcomings into future strengths.  Don’t allow travelling to get in the way of exercising either.  If visiting family and friends will steer your training programme off path, create a way to use those travel days as recovery days.  You can afterwards intensify your workout plan to make up for those days.

Handle your time wisely!  Don’t try to be superman/superwoman.  Trying to perform too many tasks at once only brings stress and discouragement.  Wake up early and be realistic with what you can actually achieve within a time frame.  Simply following these tips alone will prevent burnout and loss of focus.

2.  Find Some Training Buddies

While solitary training allows you to press the mute button on the world, exercising with others can simplify your life and make training more enjoyable.  Working out with friends also gives you accountability.  It’s already tough waking up at ungodly hours to train, but you’ll be less likely to skip training knowing you’ve got a pal waiting for you.

Plus, working out with a friend or groups of buddies encourages a more positive mental outlook.  Believe it or not, social interaction and exercise play a pivotal role in the subconscious mind.  Researchers discovered this process called “social facilitation” with cyclists – they cycled faster when racing against someone else versus riding solo.  “The same holds true with runners.  When you run with others, you tend to give more effort,” says Cinda Kamphoff, Ph.D., a sports psychologist.  “You get caught up in the pace, and you might not recognise how fast you’re going.”

3.  Make Sleep a Priority

Lack of high-quality sleep negatively affects your training routine – not to mention your focus.  Sleeping more than seven hours a night helps  you stick to a solid exercise pattern and amps motivation.  Studies reveal that people who sleep more end up losing weight and reaching their goals.

Fatigue and sleep deprivation can easily drain motivation to exercise and even stops you from pushing yourself harder – therefore causing muscle loss and weight gain.  Your appetite grows when you sleep less.  You can’t properly hear the brain telling you to stop eating when you’re exhausted – instead, the signals to eat get louder.

The hormone that suppresses your appetite (leptin) is reduced, and the hormone that increases your appetite (ghrelin) becomes more active (Taheri et al., 2004).  “Hence, you can have a hard time differentiating between being hungry or tired.  In either case, cookies and chocolate can be very tempting,” states Nancy Clark, a board certified specialist in sports dietetics.

I often find myself feeling real tired and hungry at the end of a long training day.  I have to remind myself to get into bed, or else I’ll struggle to keep my weight and motivation in check.

4.  Join a Training Camp

Still need a push to reach your athletic objectives?  Many swear by enrolling in a great training camp.  Working alongside an elite coach might sound too extreme for some, but it’s definitely worth the expense if you require extra motivation, discipline, and are dead serious about taking your athletic performance to the next level.

Training camps during the holidays make a perfect active getaway, especially if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere during December, January, and February.  Warmer climates and professional guidance will fire up your fitness resolutions and encourage you to make better decisions.

In January, DBT Training Camp offers high-altitude training in beautiful Golden Gate, South Africa.  The camp takes care of everything for you, enabling you to gain better focus and best of all, you’ll come out of the camp with an insane amount of motivation to kick start the racing season.

5.  Set Mind-Blowing, yet Realistic Goals

Practice patience to achieve your dreams.  Impatience sets you up for disappointment and hopelessness.  Focus on  your progress rather than solely focusing on your sky-high goals.  That way you’ll discover whether or not your regimen is leading you closer or further away from you goals.

Pinpoint your goals on a regular basis, and understand the series of actions that you’re undertaking to achieve those goals.  The whole process of getting there is imperative, but having an awareness of the “bigger picture” assists you in staying motivated and focused during the fight to achieve your personal goals.

Keep a journal depicting your progress and track your athletic metrics every couple of weeks during the holiday season to remain inspired.

Source:  Taheri, S., L. Lin, D. Austin, T. Young, and E. Mignot. 2004. Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin, elevated ghrelin, and increased body max index. PLoS Med 1 (3): E62.

Original article can be found here

Exercise Gives you More than a Toned Body


By:  Renée Leonard – Stainton

Now, I’m no personal trainer, supermodel, or ripped athlete, but as a Naturopath, I’m constantly reminded about the importance of staying fit, and I know that exercise is absolutely vital for good health.  We all know this, yet excuses like lack of time, energy, equipment and motivation can be given.

Are these excuses valid?  How important is your health?

While the immediate effect of exercise is stress on the body, with regular exercise, the body adapts; it becomes stronger, functions more efficiently, and has greater endurance.

Your whole body benefits from exercise, largely as a result of improved cardiovascular and respiratory function.  Simply stated, exercise enhances the transport of oxygen and nutrients into cells.

At the same time, it enhances the transport of carbon dioxide and other waste products from the tissues of the body to the bloodstream, and ultimately to the eliminative organs.

At some stage, you’ve probably heard about most of the benefits of exercise that I’ve listed below, but I’ve compiled as many benefits on the different body systems that I can think of into one list – definitely the perfect mind/body remedy.

Musculoskeletal System

  • Increases muscle strength
  • Lessens chance of injury
  • Increases flexibility of muscles and range of motion
  • Produces stronger bones, ligaments and tendons
  • Enhances posture and physique

Heart and Blood Vessels

  • Lowers resting heart rate
  • Strengthens heart function
  • Increases blood supply to muscles
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Improves oxygen delivery throughout the body

Bodily Processes

  • Improves the way the body handles dietary fat
  • Helps lower blood cholesterol
  • Promotes lean body mass; burns fat
  • Prevents osteoporosis
  • Improves immune function
  • Aids digestion and elimination
  • Increases endurance and energy levels

Mental Processes

  • Helps reduce tension and anxiety
  • Improves mental outlook and self-esteem
  • Helps relieve moderate depression
  • Improves the ability to handle stress
  • Stimulates improved mental function
  • Induces relaxation and improves sleep
  • Increases self-esteem

Here are a few tips to creating an effective exercise routine:

  1. Recognise the importance of physical exercise maybe print out the list above and put it somewhere that will inspire/motivate you.
  2. Select an activity you enjoyso many to choose from!  Why not suit your mood and mix it up?  Pilates one day, boxing another?
  3. Exercise frequentlya minimum of 30 minutes at least three times a week is necessary to gain any significant cardiovascular benefits from exercise.  Make sure you do schedule at least one rest day a week though.
  4. Make it funif you can find enjoyment in exercise, you’re much more likely to exercise regularly.  I’m always texting my girlfriends to meet up for a ‘walk and talk’ – it’s by far a healthier habit than a coffee and catch/wine and cheese catch up, which still do happen of course, but at least we’re keeping it balanced!
  5. Vary your routinedoing the same thing every day becomes boring and drains motivation.

Imagine… if the benefits of exercise could be put in a pill, you would have the most powerful health-promoting medication available!  However, natural is always best of course, so your healthiest bet will be to just get-a-moving!  The better shape you’re in physically, the greater your odds of enjoying a healthier and longer life.

In fact, researchers have estimated that for every hour of exercise, there is a two-hour increase in lifespan.  Now that’s definitely a valuable return on investment!

Live well, live long, live naturally!

Renée is a Naturopath with a passion for green living.  
As the creator of the popular blog 'Renée Naturally', she 
shares healthy recipes, credible and well-being information
and sustainable living guidance. Renée also contributes to 
various international magazines, radio shows, and blogs
including Miranda Kerr's 'KORA Organics'. 


Weekly Fitness Food: Hummus


hummus vv

By:  Vivien Veil

Pronounced hoo-moos, this beloved Middle Eastern staple is all the rage in Western countries, especially those in the health movement.  This popular dip is low in fat and high in protein – making it an excellent addition to anyone’s diet.  Female fitness fans must embrace the power of the chickpea — aka garbanzo beans.  Chickpeas help balance hormones during that dreadful time of the month.   PMS can threaten to wreak havoc on a female’s athletic performance.

Now that is where the chickpea’s God-given talent comes into play.  Chickpeas possess plant hormones known as isoflavones, which mimic oestrogen in the body.  Isoflavones help ease symptoms of PMS and menopause.  So, grab yourself some hummus and wave goodbye to severe hot flushes.  The super colossal chickpea is here to save the day!

The chickpea’s rich B-vitamin content will support the functions of your nerves and muscles.  Their high carb status will give you the energy you need to exercise hard.

2010: Lebanon breaks Israel's hummus world record in the village of Fanar, east of Beirut.

2010: Lebanon breaks Israel’s hummus world record in the village of Fanar, east of Beirut.

A dispute over hummus’ origins has escalated among the Lebanese, Palestinian and Israeli people.  The hummus food fight began after Israel claimed the dish as their own in 2009.  Israeli writer Meir Shalev claims the Biblical Book of Ruth contains the first reference in print of hummus.

And Boaz said unto her, At mealtime come thou hither, and eat of the bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar.

– Ruth 2:14

Shalev asserts that most translations swapped the original word of chometz to vinegar.  According to Shalev, the letters chet, mem, and zadek are the same letters that make up the words for chamootz (which signifies vinegar) and chimtza (hummus).  “In biblical Hebrew there were no vowels, so words were more confusing.  If Boaz served his workers pita dipped in vinegar instead of something more substantial like hummus, they wouldn’t have been very happy,” states Shalev.

The president of the Lebanese Industrialists’ Association, Fadi Abboud, charges Israel of “stealing” Lebanon’s cuisine by marketing dishes such as hummus as its own.  Israeli co-author of Not on Hummus Alone, Yehuda Litani, agrees that hummus’ origin is Arab. “The Israelis took hummus as if it’s their own.  In the 1960s is when Israel adopted it as their own national food.  We adopted it, but it’s really not ours.  This national war is stupid.  Hummus originated from the Arabs.”

Photo:  Chef Kate Mcaloon

Hummus places in Israel and Palestine are like Starbucks in the states.

– Yehuda Litani

Traditional hummus, which means chickpeas in Arabic and modern Hebrew, contains chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and salt.  The classic recipe can be adapted to include other ingredients, such as black beans, sun-dried tomatoes, sweet potatoes, spinach, artichokes, and caramelised onions.  In fact, hummus has been so Westernised that shops often sell dozens of flavour options.

Whoever speaks English can’t make good hummus.

– Yehuda Litani

After many years of eating hummus, I must admit that it is one of my all-time favourite dishes.  I absolutely love Middle Eastern cuisine.  While I have strayed from the original hummus recipe, nothing beats old fashioned hummus – especially when eaten at an authentic Israeli or Arab restaurant.  It is no wonder the Israelis eat hummus for breakfast.  It is just that delicious.

Here is a tried and tested hummus recipe from my kitchen to yours.  Yehudi Litani may not agree with it, but this modernised hummus recipe tastes simply divine.

hummus vivien

Caramelised Onion Hummus

Serves:  4


  • 1 cup dried organic chickpeas
  • 6 tbsp raw sesame tahini
  • Juice of 1 lemon, or more to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed, or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Cold pressed extra-virgin olive oil, for garnish and frying onions
  • 1 medium brown onion, sliced
  • Smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Fresh coriander or parsley, chopped for garnish
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate soda (baking soda)
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • [Optional] Organic pine nuts, toasted, for garnish
  • [Optional] 3 tablespoons jalapeño pepper slices (for the HOT HOT HOT spice lovers)


*Hummus tastes more delicious when prepared on the day you want to serve it.  So, boil the chickpeas and prepare on the day.  Refrigerated hummus cannot compare to fresh hummus.

  1. Put the dry chickpeas in a medium sized bowl and cover with cold water.  Fill the bowl with enough water to completely cover them up.  Stir in 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate soda and soak overnight.  Note: Soaking the chickpeas in bicarbonate soda will make them very tender.
  2. Drain the chickpeas and rinse them off thoroughly.  Then place them in a large pot with enough cold water to cover.  Add the remainder 1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate soda.
  3. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat.  Simmer the chickpeas partially covered for roughly 1-2 hours, or until they are tender (the time depends on your chickpeas).  Note: You will know they are ready once their skin starts coming off.  Add more warm water if the chickpeas start to dry out.
  4. Drain the chickpeas, but don’t throw out the chickpea water.  Save it in a bowl. Set aside some chickpeas and place them on a plate. You will want to use these for garnish.
  5. Heat a frying fan with roughly 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Slice the medium brown onion and cook over medium heat until they are golden brown or caramelised.  Once ready, set aside.
  6. Tahini Time:  Mix the tahini with half of the lemon juice and half of the garlic.  Then pour in some of the reserved chickpea water and quickly stir to form a loose paste.
  7. Get out your processor and add the tahini mixture and the chickpeas.  Process until the hummus is smooth.  Then, add the cumin, caramelised onion, cayenne pepper, sea salt, and black pepper to taste.  If it is too thick, add more reserved chickpea liquid.  You can add a bit of olive oil, too.  The goal is to create a soft paste.
  8. Get a spoon and taste your hummus.  Does it need more flavour?  Simply add more sea salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, lemon juice or garlic.  Remember it is your dish, so play around with the flavours.
  9. To serve, spoon out the hummus onto a large plate or bowl.  Make a depression in the centre with the back of a spoon.  Drizzle olive oil over the hummus, top with the reserved whole cooked chickpeas, and sprinkle the smoked paprika and chopped coriander on top.

Serve with warm pita chips, rice cakes, brown rice, quinoa, sweet potato wedges, or sliced raw vegetables.  You can also use this delicious hummus as a sandwich spread with lots of salad and guacamole.

Hummus contains 20 amino acids – including huge doses of tryptophan, phenylalanine, and tyrosine.  These combat the blues and mood swings.  Additionally, hummus’ omega 3’s help fight anxiety and depression. 


Vitamin C, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, 
E, K, iron, beta-carotene, 
folic acid, calcium, copper, 
iodine, magnesium, manganese, 
phosphorus, potassium, selenium, 
and zinc