Spring into action 

Red Lentil and Vegetable Dahl

For this dahl, you will need the following (serves 4)
• 1 tbsp olive oil
• 1 medium red onion, sliced
• 2 cloves of garlic
• 1 tsp fresh ginger
• 1 tsp turmeric
• 1tsp cumin seeds
• 1 small red chilli
• 2 mixed peppers, sliced
• 1 courgette, sliced
• Handful of baby spinach
• 1 can coconut milk
• 1 tin tomatoes
• 1 cup dried lentils
• Salt and black pepper
• Handful of fresh chopped coriander


Words by:
Ian Eassom
Featured in:
March 2024

Personal trainer (and former chef) Ian Eassom shares his tips on easy but effective exercises you can do indoors to help boost endorphins.

Can you believe it’s March already? The days are getting longer but it’s still pretty cold out there, so this month we are looking at four exercises you can do in the comfort of your own home or workplace, or in fact anywhere without needing equipment or loads of space. 

The long winter months can all too easily have a negative effect on our mental health and general well-being if we let it, making us feel sluggish at times.

Jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, dancing, even gardening, are all great for our mental and physical health, getting those endorphins flowing.

I always encourage anyone to be outdoors whenever possible, but being realistic, if we have an indoor routine to do we can’t use the weather as an excuse to not do it, so here goes!

The good old squat
Benefits: The squat is one of the best exercises you can do to gain strength, working all of your lower body, as well as strengthening the abs and lower back. There are so many variations, but the biggest benefit of the squat is that it strengthens the tendons, ligaments and bones, as well as building muscle around the knee – so it’s protecting the knees and helping to repair and prevent further injuries.

How to perform: Stand with your feet hip distance apart, facing forward. Bend your knees, sticking your bottom out while keeping your back/core straight and keeping your knees behind your toes, allow your heels to take the weight, return to the start position and repeat as desired.

Lunge (or step out) and twist
Benefits: For this one you will need to be well warmed up, and if you have trouble with your knees, go into a walking stride or avoid altogether. Depending on your ailments, this exercise can be heavy on the knees, but it’s another great one for building up muscle around them along with helping to gain firm legs and bottom. The twist is an additional extra benefit, working the core and improving balance.

How to perform: Start in the standing position and taking a step forward, lunge as deep as you feel able (depending on your fitness levels and the intensity you are working on), while at the same time bring in your back knee towards the ground.

Hold that lunge position for a moment, bring the arms out in front of you, twist to the side in the same direction as your front leg (so if you lunge forward with the left leg, twist to the left) before going back to the starting position, and alternate left to right.

Half-kneeling windmill 
Benefits: This is great for targeting the obliques, abs and shoulders, working the rotator cuffs for a greater range of motion (also a great warm-up before a round of golf!).

How to perform: In a half-kneeling position and keeping the core tightly clenched and tummy tucked in, rotate your arms from left to right working from floor to ceiling, twisting the core as you raise yourself up and down (for added intensity, a dumbbell or kettlebell can be used).

Take your time with this, working on a good full range of motion to improve flexibility and relieve tension in the upper body.

Wall/kneeling or full-on press-up 
Benefits: Press-ups are a great exercise to improve core stability, working the whole of the body and improving overall strength and stamina.

The great thing about press-ups is that you can do them against the wall or the floor kneeling, or full-on, with the options of going for a narrow or wide press depending on which part of your upper body and arm you wish to target. You can add more intensity by doing a press-up on a slam ball, putting in a clap as you spring up, or just taking them nice and slow, keeping the depth to the max.

Intensity can be varied on each one, as I have mentioned before in previous issues, and you can start with low reps doing one set of five, to a more advanced level doing maybe 4 sets of 12 reps, adding weights and other exercises into the routine like squats, jump squats, or weighted shoulder sets, even adding sit-ups, Russian twists and kick-outs etc.

How to perform: For a basic all-out press-up, get into the plank position, palms flat on the floor (although if you struggle with flexibility or have problems with your wrists when doing floor exercises, you can hold onto a pair of dumbbells or clench your fist, pressing down on your knuckles).

Keeping your elbows aligned with the shoulders, engage the core, keep the back nice and straight with your tummy tucked in and bend the elbows to about 90 degrees in a controlled motion, then push yourself back into the current position before going into another rep.

For beginners, performing these either kneeling or leaning with your hands pressed against the wall is a good start; the further your feet are away from the wall, the more intense the press-up becomes.

Well, after that workout I will probably work up such a sweat. You will want to venture outdoors, or if not just turn your heating down a notch – which goes to show it pays to exercise!

TOP TIPS
These exercises are a great starting point for general wellbeing and the benefits are amazing. Here are eight reasons to do them: 

  • Become more flexible
  • Adds strength
  • Improves your core, which will help with prevention of back problems
  • Improves bone density
  • Will leave you feeling energised
  • Works away tension, so you feel more relaxed 
  • Exercise or just stretching (January’s issue) will help you sleep better too 
  • Helps slow down the aging process, keeping you more active in your later years 

Red Lentil and Vegetable Dahl
Although it’s Easter this month, I wanted to share my vegan-friendly red lentil and vegetable dahl. With its turmeric, garlic and ginger, it’s very warming, protein-rich and anti-inflammatory, plus pulses are great for our gut health (after all that chocolate!).
Dahl is very versatile as it can be served on its own, on a bed of rice, or with a naan.
For an Easter theme with added protein, add whole boiled eggs to it a couple of minutes before serving and the combination tastes perfect.

METHOD:

  • Fry the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli on medium heat for a few minutes before adding the lentils, turmeric, tinned chopped tomatoes and a couple of cups of water or stock.
  • Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until the lentils start to soften, then add peppers, courgettes and coconut milk. Add more liquid if needed and simmer for a further 10-15 minutes until tender, testing the consistency along the way. Stir in the baby spinach until wilted – it is now ready to serve. Add a generous sprinkling of coriander in the pan or on the dish before eating.
    A happy, healthy Easter to you all and I’ll be back in May with some more healthy suggestions!


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