Where does the time go?! It doesn’t seem five minutes since I was building gingerbread houses this time last year, but don’t worry, this time I have a much more straightforward recipe for you, which can be eaten any time – Christmas or not. It’s vegan, but you can make it with eggs if you prefer, and I’ve provided both options for you. What’s more, it’s healthy too, and there is no building involved!
Did you think I’d forgotten the exercises? Well fear not, here’s a Christmas themed workout for you to do while your cake is baking, and then you have it to look forward to when you’re done.
Let’s start with a festive take on a classic…
North Star (Jump)
A great way to kickstart your workout! Bend your legs at the knees and then launch yourself upwards, as far as you can, opening your arms and legs out into the classic star shape. Don’t forget to bend your knees as you return to cushion your landing, and continue downwards to place your palms on the floor either side of your feet.
Great preparation for a long night of present carrying! Hold a dumbbell in each hand in line with your shoulders, with your palms facing inwards. If you don’t have dumbbells, something reasonably weighty that you can comfortably hold will do, such as full tins, or even two small festive logs! Simply lift your arms above your head, straightening them, but being careful not to let them lock (which means going past that comfortable straight position). Lower them carefully and then repeat 10 times.
Channel your inner grumpy Rudolph for this one. Starting on all fours, this gets its name from one of our four-legged friends delivering a hearty back kick to anyone they don’t like the look of. Hold your back nice and parallel to the floor, core engaged and facing the floor (don’t strain your neck), the only part of you that should move is your leg, rotating at the hip to kick back and squeeze your bum muscles. Repeat this 10 times for each leg. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can go full angry reindeer and kick both legs back, which will lift you completely off the floor. Try to keep this as controlled as possible, although you will move a lot more!
You should be nicely warmed up by now, and that better not be due to a sneaky sherry! Time for something to challenge your whole body and general fitness levels. Kettlebells are great for this, as they give you a bit of weight and momentum for your exercises. If you don’t have a kettlebell, you can use a small canvas bag with some potatoes as a substitute (so no excuses!).
Squat down as far as you can, whilst keeping your balance and without letting your bum touch the floor. Holding the handle firmly, stand swiftly upwards, keeping your back straight and posture steady, and using that momentum, lift the kettlebell in front of you, so that your arms are straight in front, holding the weight. As the weight loses momentum, allow it to guide you back downwards into the starting position. Once again, repeat this 10 times.
You may remember this one under its other name, the side plank with leg lift. Yes, that’s right, the dreaded plank! I know, it’s mean of me to slip this one in, disguised in Christmas stockings, so I’ve left it until last, but remember you’ve got some cake coming! It’s a deceptively simple exercise, but it really does work your core, and is good for your shoulder, arm and leg muscles too. The side plank position is a tricky one to get into at first. You need to form a rigid shape, with your right hand on the floor, arm straight, holding your legs, pelvis and torso (and importantly your hips) in line with your body, as though someone has leant a statue of you on the ground! Keeping your right foot on the floor, lift both your left arm and left leg upwards, to form a sideways angelic shape (hence the name). Try to hold it for as long as you can and don’t let those hips drop throughout! Don’t forget to repeat the exercise facing the other way on your left arm and foot.
That’s it! You can relax and look forward to a lovely slice of this month’s recipe.
Cranberry and Walnut Courgette Bread – Method
• Preheat the oven to 175°C and grease two standard loaf tins. Roughly shred the courgette and dry on kitchen towel to remove excess moisture. Mix the two flours, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a bowl, and set aside. In a fresh bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, olive oil, almond milk and vanilla extract together. Fold in the dry ingredients, but be careful to not overmix it (you want to leave a bit of air in the mix to keep it light). Spoon the mixture into the loaf tins, working it into the corners. Bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes and then allow to cool. Dust with icing sugar to give it that festive look, and garnish with a sprig of holly.
• Vegan option: Whisk the flaxseeds and water together and set aside for 10 minutes to thicken. Add to the wet ingredients in place of the eggs. Add the apple cider vinegar to the wet ingredients and the extra baking powder to the dry ingredients; this will help the loaf rise. This version is very moist, so be careful not to underbake it.
And there we have it, another year reaches its festive season. Regular readers will know that this year has been a particularly challenging one for me, so I would like to wish you an extra special, happy, healthy Christmas, from me and my faithful assistant Harvey. See you in 2022!
Ian Eassom is a Lincoln-based mobile personal trainer. Ian can offer private online one-to-one sessions, with bespoke exercise and diet plans to suit you. Ian can also offer individual training sessions in your own garden or public space, subject to and in adherence with the latest Covid guidance. Don’t forget there’s a special offer for Lincolnshire Life readers! For the latest information, visit www.ianeassom.co.uk