Make the most of BST
Swap out the car for a bike, go out for an evening run or just light a candle, run yourself a bath and relax…
The clocks go forward on Sunday which means we’re finally coming out of the dark months and embracing the light. Hurrah! And while it might feel a bit harsh for a few days to have the alarm effectively going off an hour earlier, the extra hours of daylight more than make up for it. In fact, at this time of year you want to get up because the birds are singing, the sun is out (hopefully – please weather be kind this year) and you feel like you’ve got more juice in the tank. So how to make the most of the longer days? Read on, I’ve got a few ideas.
Switch to a fresh air commute
Whether it’s the school run or the work run, why not swap out the car, bus or train for a bike? It’s a great way to squeeze in a bit of extra exercise, the kids will think it’s a blast and there are some seriously stylish bikes out there to cut a dash on. Noah’s Ark near Stroud, which opened in 1983 well before cycling became a hip pursuit, is a good place to go for advice. It only stocks products it believes in and which are used by the staff, and it’s a bit of an outing in itself, housed as it is in a gorgeous former umbrella stick factory next to a canal and old railway viaduct. There’s a topnotch range of manufacturers to choose from, including Cannondale, which in the words of the North American brand, makes “the most kickass, cutting-edge frames in cycling” (be warned, you pay for this quality), and English heritage brand Pashley, which produces hand-built, sit-up-and-beg numbers with cute names like Guvnor and Princess.
Go for an evening run
New research has shown that the best time to exercise is in the evening, with 6pm being the ultimate sweet point as muscle strength peaks at this time and your lungs function more efficiently than in the morning. So, with the lighter evenings, this is the perfect time to take up running. Or, if you run on a treadmill in a gym, take it outdoors to reinvigorate your workout, as it’s more of a challenge to run with changing terrain and conditions. As well as boosting your health and being an excellent way to lose a few pounds or maintain a consistent weight (running is second only to cross-country skiing in terms of calories burned per minute), it’s also great for the mind, relieving stress, boosting confidence and helping to eliminate depression thanks to the rush of the mood-elevating hormone dopamine it releases. If you need a bit of a push or extra motivation, try joining a running club. Don’t think they’re all for experienced runners. Gloucester’s all-women Angels Running Club runs a Beginners Get Up and Run Course, which works in tandem with the NHS Couch to 5k plan. The next course starts on May 4, so you could save yourself for then if you feel you need a bit of hand holding. It’s only £30 for a 10-week course and it includes a year’s membership with the club.
Take up HIIT
If running isn’t your bag and you prefer a class or the one-to-one attentions of a personal trainer, you could do worse than commit to a new regime of high-intensity interval training (HIIT). For the uninitiated, HIIT is all about short bursts of intense exercise, followed by stretches of more moderate activities, and guess what? Not only will it whip your bod into shape, it’s also been shown to reverse the aging process. I’ll have a bit of that! Apparently HIIT is highly efficient in reversing age-related cell changes as it encourages the cells to make more proteins that help with energy production. In a study by the Mayo Clinic in America, a group of 18-30 year olds showed a 49 percent increase in mitochondrial capacity (which helps the body create energy) after 12 weeks of HIIT training, while a group of 65-80 year olds showed a 69 percent increase. Go the grannies! Check with your local gym to see if they do classes or can recommend a PT.
Detox your wardrobe
The longer days can throw an uncomfortable light on your wardrobe as you try and navigate your way into a new season. Suddenly your go-to winter pieces are redundant and you feel like you’ve lost your style groove. The answer? Take all your clothes out of your wardrobe and drawers, throw them all on the bed and prepare to be ruthless. Follow Japanese decluttering guru Marie Kondo’s advice and be guided by what sparks joy. That’s what you keep. Everything else? Down the charity shop. Alternatively, call in the professionals. Cheltenham-based personal stylist Helen Moore offers wardrobe detox sessions where every item of clothing you own comes under scrutiny and the unworn, unflattering and underwhelming gets ditched, while the keepers get new life breathed into them as Helen styles everything into current, flattering and wearable outfits. She’ll take pictures to make getting dressed easier and draw up a wish list of items and where to locate them for future shopping trips too.
Declutter your house
A wardrobe detox feels really good, but a whole house detox feels AMAZING! I actually did this last year and while it was hard work, it was sooo cathartic. Again, Marie Kondo is your go-to woman. She recommends tackling a spring clean by item rather than room. So, clothes come first, books next, anything nostalgic (old letters, photos) last. I literally took car loads to charity shops and with every trip I felt purged. For weeks I wandered around my house opening cupboards and drawers just to glory at how decluttered and organised they were. It was incredibly satisfying. And the benefits weren’t just surface; it also really helped me work out what I wanted from the year ahead. I actually set goals and a year on I’ve achieved most of them. It’s worth dipping into Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing before you get started (or just Google for the salient points), or, as with your wardrobe, you could engage the expertise of a decluttering expert, especially if you find throwing things away a struggle.
Reclaim some me time
Why not dedicate the extra hour to a moment of self-indulgence? Squirrel yourself away in your favourite coffee shop with a book (check out Muddy’s March reads here), go for lunch at a country pub followed by a walk (got a few ideas for those too) or simply treat yourself to a candlelit bath. I recently found the most delicious-smelling candle when I was passing through Cirencester’s Corn Hall Market the other Saturday. I wasn’t in browse mode, just marching through to get to my car before the parking ticket ran out, but the aroma of this candle stopped me in my tracks. Made by Warwickshire-based The Perfumed Workshop, it was a Lemon, Patchouli & Lemongrass soya wax aromatherapy candle. I had to buy it and have been luxuriating in it ever since. It comes with rosebuds to scatter in your bath and because it’s 100 percent natural, you can use the melted soya wax as a delicious and nourishing moisturiser. I’ve become so addicted to the scent, I now use it instead of perfume (and I’m getting lots of compliments!). Check out the online shop which also sells Dead Sea Bath Salts – Rose & Ylang Ylang, English Peppermint & Eucalyptus and Lavender & Rosemary – to complete your mini home spa experience.