Inspiring in fitness - Damien Coates

One of my favourite things about working in the fitness industry is meeting so many inspiring people and Damien Coates at The Lean Body Project is one of them. Both Damien and Lianne worked together to create a fitness facility in Manchester that brings people together to get the results they want but also make friends along the way. I did an interview with owner Damien and here is what he had to say....

So, can you tell us a bit about The Lean Body Project?  
LBP is a body transformation facility, meaning we specialise in programs that are specific to helping people achieve their body goals 

Why did you decide to open your own gym? 
We actually put off opening our own facility for quite a long time because we didn’t want to be faced with all the overheads and outgoings for bills and equipment etc, so we worked along side other trainers in other gyms but after a number of different set backs and disagreements with previous facility owners as we grew and started having more success we decided that the best solution was for us to open our own facility that way we could finally create the facility that we believe that people really want to go to and be part of

What makes you different from other gyms in the area? 
We specialise in results not training, we provide the whole package, and guide the client from where they currently are and take them on a journey to where they want to be. We educate, motivate and inspire them to be the best version of themselves. Our clients often tell us that LBP is their 'happy place’ its the best part of their day and no matter how much of a bad day they might have had they always feel much better when they leave. LBP is like one big family, like a club. People originally come to us for the results but more often than not stay for the experience, the friendships and the camaraderie as well as the ongoing support and accountability. We see our clients as friends and not cash cows, we genuinely care about whats going on in their lives and we support each other as much as we can. We attend social events together, birthday and Christmas parties and of course we even do some fitness related obstacle courses as well.

How would someone go about setting up their own gym? 
I would seriously sit down and crunch all the numbers. For us personally we didn’t want to borrow money from the banks so we worked hard to build up a client base and over time. Do your research, get a solid business plan, and prepare for many headaches and sleepless nights!

What are your plans for the future? 
 LBP is just getting started, we are currently about half way towards where we set out to be and already the goalposts have been moved. We have some pretty big ideas for the future, expanding the current facility, launching a number of different online programs and maybe even another book (or two) who knows where things might be in another 12 months time. Exciting times!

Want to know a bit more about The Lean Body Project or just have some questions about health and fitness? Check out their website here or look out for The Lean Body Project on social media. 


Jaffa Bar Recipe

I spend a lot of my time trying to find healthier substitutes to chocolate bars, sad I know but I love chocolate so I need to find sneaky ways to fit it in on a daily basis without adding unnecessary calories, fat and sugar. When I find/make these recipes, I make sure that they are made of 'real' ingredients, I stay away from refined and processed foods because they are the things you should limit in your diet. At least if i'm going to treat myself to something chocolatey I know that all of the ingredients are good, so here is a recipe I found for a Jaffa Bar...

You will need

75 grams of roughly chopped almonds
75 grams of roughly chopped cashew nuts
60 grams of roughly chopped hazelnuts
30 grams of sunflower seeds (or another seed)
Zest of 1 orange
160g of peanut butter (or a different nut butter)
1 ½ tbsp of cacao powder
5 tbsp of agave nectar (or honey)
1 tbsp of olive oil
1 tbsp of cacao nibs ( or 1 square of dark chocolate)


-Heat the oven to 180 degree and line a baking tray (around 20cm) with non-stick paper or butter.
- Mix all of the ingredients (except the cacao nibs) in a bowl until thoroughly stirred.
-Pour the mixture into the tray and press down firmly until the surface is even and then sprinkle the cacao nibs over the top.
-Bake for 15-20 minutes and then cool. Cut into 24 pieces and keep in an air tight container.

Benefits of Meditation

A lot of people think that meditation is specifically a religious thing where people sit silently in a room and pray together, but it doesn't have to be religious at all. Of course, some religions such as Buddhism practice meditation but the practice is open to anyone that wants to try it. Meditation is a state of being in complete calmness, but still being conscious and aware of your surroundings without letting them distract you. Instead of focusing on the things happening in the outside world, you simply let them pass by without them affecting you. But what's the point in this? Well here are some reasons why meditation can be beneficial for your health and well-being...

1. Relieve stress

This is one of the main reasons why people meditate or practice mindfulness, to relieve stress in their day to day lives. Right now, stop and think about how many times in the day you actually have alone to yourself, and of those times are you ever in a complete state of calm not thinking about anything? There is so much going on these days that it's hard for anyone to consciously take the time out to relax in this way. Here's the sciencey bit as to why it can help relieve stress; 18 studies using 846 participants over 11 years have been recorded that show when a stressful event occurs, the sympathetic nervous system known as 'fight or flight' is triggered and there is an increased production of the molecule NF-kB. This activates the genes to produces the proteins cytokines which create inflammation. As a result, there is an increased risk of inflammatory diseases, cancer and depression. However, in these studies, practising yoga and meditation has been found to decrease the production of NF-kB. All science! 

2. Improve brain function 

Another study showed that practising Hatha Yoga and meditating for 25 minutes each day could improve your cognitive ability. By just sitting and letting thoughts, actions and emotions pass by it is allowing your brain time to rest and improves your concentration greatly. Plus, it helps to reduce the processing of non-essential information, like what your best friend's neighbour had for dinner last night. 

3. Improves sleep 

Who has trouble getting to sleep at night? It happens to all of us at some point in our lives, we have a busy day coming up or something to think about and the brain races at 100mph when really all we need to do is rest. Meditating before you sleep is a way to push those thoughts aside and relax the brain, giving it the calm and space it needs to put you in a state ready for bed. Plus, if you're meditation it's less likely that you're scrolling on your phone or watching TV before you sleep which also don't help. 

4. Potential to decrease blood pressure

In a study of 996 people, they were told to practice positive silent mantras each day to help calm and relieve stress. Overall, this helped to reduce blood pressure by five points on average and was more beneficial to those who were older and already had a high blood pressure. It's a harmless and simple practice that could improve your health. 

5. Control emotions 

 Whether you get angry very easily or like a good old cry from time to time, meditation can help you to control those overwhelming emotions. A lot of exaggerated emotions are normally erratic and come without thinking, but what if before you lashed out at someone for getting the wrong order, you stop, think and breathe? Things probably wouldn't get so out of hand. Taking time out in the day to meditate allows you to reflect on these unnecessary emotions and encourages kindness and gratitude. 

So, now you know all of these amazing benefits to meditation but where do you start? One of the things I have found the best to aid me in meditation is the Stop, breath & think app. It allows you to think about how you feel physically and mentally and then chooses specific practices to help you relax and clear your mind. You can do just a few minutes to much longer periods of time so it is perfect for people on the go. Another great app is Headspace, it is another form of guided meditation that helps you to take small portions of your day to relax. If you prefer seeing someone and being part of a group, look for local meditation classes, a lot of yoga teacher also practice meditation and can offer classes. 


World Pasta Day @ Vapiano

Now those of you who know me well know that although I live a healthy lifestyle, I'm all about balance. I would never cut out a whole food group unless it was necessary (due to intolerence or allergy) because I don't believe that everyone is intolerant to gluten and dairy and in moderation they are fine. So, on the days when I like to give myself a treat, where better to fill up on pasta and delicious desserts than Vapiano? To celebrate world pasta day on the 25th of October, I've teamed up with Vapiano MCR to show you how Italian food can be made for everyone and to suit everyone's needs. 

So, my number one favourite thing about Vapiano is that it's all fresh and made in front of you, something that most restaurants cannot say ( as they slip the potatoes out of the freezer and into the fryer). We were able to see the chef making fresh pasta whilst another chef was preparing fresh pizza dough, ready to create a traditional Italian pizza in 10 minutes. But they don't just make one type of pasta, there are a variety of different types that you can choose for your meal, including spelt spaghetti, the possibilities really are endless. 

Another plus is that they cater for everyone. Although there is a menu to inspire you, you can pick and choose what toppings and sauces you want, creating a dish that is suited perfectly to your tastebuds. All of the pasta is made without egg, meaning that it is suitable for vegans and the risotto is gluten free for anyone with intolerance or allergy, (or just if you like risotto). There is also the option to add extra meats and cheeses to your dishes. I added chicken and mozzarella to my Arrabbiata and Simon added extra chicken to his Salame Ricotta Con Rucola, you can tell who is the more exciting one in our relationship.... 

My favourite time to visit Vapiano is lunch because it's so bright and spacious so it still feels fresh even when you're indoors. However there is a great buzz about in the evenings too and although it can get pretty busy, you aren't usually left waiting too long because it's quick and fresh, it's the healthier alternative to fast food. 

So, just so you can see how delicious everything is, here is what Simon and I ate... 


Homemade Tomato Soup 
Bruschetta Mozzarella 


Arrabbiata (extra chicken and mozzarella) 
Salame Ricotta Con Rucola (extra chicken) 


Cioccolata Bianca.... my God. 


Yoga Vs Pilates - What's The Difference?

Both Yoga and Pilates have seen a rise in popularity over the past few years but a lot of people don't know what the differences are between the two. Both forms of exercises can be extremely beneficial for the mind, body and soul, but depending on your specific goals, one may be better than the other...

Origins of Pilates

Pilates was created by Joseph Pilates, born in Monchengladbach, Germany in 1883 and suffered from many ailments as a child such as asthma. However, as an adult, he became much fitter, taking part in sports such as gymnastics, boxing and later became a self defence teacher at Scotland Yard in England. During WW1, Joseph was forced to remain in England and it is during this time that he developed his form of exercise and rigged hospital beds which were used as apparatus (what we know as reformer Pilates now) for the exercise. It is believed that during the outbreak of Influenza in 1918, thousands died but all of his patients survived. 

Origins of Yoga 

Yoga is much harder to trace back because it is such as ancient practice, but it is known by most to have begun in India around 5000 years ago as there is evidence of it in Ancient Hindu texts known as the Vedas. Yoga can be split into 5 categories: 
Verdic Yoga 
Preclassical Yoga 
Classical Yoga 
Post Classical Yoga 
Modern Yoga 
Much of the practice up until post classical Yoga was focused on spirituality and healing the mind, then the focus shifted to the importance of Yoga for the body and how it can heal us physically and help prolong life. Today, there are a variety of different practices of yoga, from Vinyasa to Hatha, however each have the principles of healing the mind body and soul. 

What's the difference? 

So now you know a little about Pilates and Yoga, it's time to see which one will benefit you the most (it could be both!) Well first off, if you're looking for a class that is more aimed towards building strength and muscle/toning, Pilates will suit you better. During the Pilates class you use bodyweight of light weights and high reps to help build muscle in the body, specifically focusing on core strength. Yoga on the other hand is usually more about balance, endurance and spirituality. Although there are a variety of types of Yoga, there is usually always a spiritual and calming element to the class unlike pilates which is more structured and focused on the body. During yoga classes you may also be practising different breathing techniques, whereas although breathing is important in Pilates, it is not practised as much. 

No matter what, it is most likely that both Yoga and Pilates will bring you health benefits. They are both forms of exercise that will help to tone, strengthen but more importantly, relax. There is nothing better than a Pilates/Yoga session after a stressful day.


Nakd Style Energy Balls

Sunday means a day of relaxing and experimenting with delicious new recipes, most of which include chocolate, and last weeks wasn't any different! Since Nakd bars became a thing and my mum discovered them she's been begging me to try and make my own so she doesn't have to spend her money on healthy treats and i've finally been able to crack it. The best thing about this recipe is that it's made with all natural ingredients, technically it's gluten free, dairy free and vegan, only issue is if you have a nut allergy. Another great thing is that there are very few ingredients, a lot of healthy recipes include a mile long list of over expensive health foods, this one is simple and cheap. 


14 Pitted Dates 
100g of Almonds 
10g of Cacoa Powder 
1 Tsp of Vanilla Essence 

How to 

1. Throw everything in a food processor until it forms into a ball, if it seems a bit dry you still may be able to mould it all together (as I did), if not, maybe add some peanut butter. 
2. Using your hands, roll the mixture into balls 
3. Keep refrigerated 


The Ideal Fit Clothing Range

Ideal Fit are best known for their range of supplements specifically designed for women. From pre-workout to whey protein, there are a variety of flavours for you to try; but now they've brought out a clothing range and it really is the perfect fit. I spent the day in the studio with Ideal Fit trying out their latest range and other exciting items that you'll see soon, this is what I thought...


So far, they've brought out full length leggings and training shorts, both super comfy and great for training. The pants for starters were fab because they fitted my leg length perfectly and most pants are usually too short and end up being 3/4 on me, they were also high waisted which means they don't fall down whilst you're working out. This means they are totally squat proof and also make your bum look great. As for style, the mesh layer on the calves makes them a bit different from your average leggings so they are the type of leggings that you can wear in the gym and out. 


Sports bras are soooo important, both for comfort and support, and this bra covers both of these points. The bra is well fitted and keeps everything in place, but is also designed so that you can wear it with or without a gym top without feeling like you're revealing too much, 10 out of 10 for me. 


The Ideal Fit tops are designed with a racerback so they fit well, are comfortable and don't chafe around the armpits. They also absorb sweat well and have a seamless fit so that there are no lumps and bumps. The good thing is that all of the clothing matches really well so that you can mix and match your items to spice things up day to day. 

If you're looking for some new gym clothes then make sure you head over to to see what's on offer, and look out for more items coming soon. 


Hiking: A Sport For All

Hiking is one of my favourite things to do on the weekend, it helps me get out in the fresh air and exercise whilst being in a beautiful environment. Of course I love going to the gym but sometimes a change of scenery and different types of exercise can be good for the mind, body and soul.

Be prepared...

The first thing you need to think about when you're going hiking is safety. There is nothing more important than being prepared, therefore you must make sure you bring as many thing as you need to be prepared for the worst. Whether you're just going for a day hike or camping out, you need to be fully equipped. Some things to consider bringing are: 
. Water 
. Food (as much as you need for the time you are out) 
. Lots of layers 
. Spare clothes 
. Hiking poles 
. Hiking boots 
. Map 
. Phone & Charger 

If you're new to hiking, I would never suggest you go alone, no matter how easy the terrain is. If you get lost things can get pretty scary if you're on your own. It would be even better if you can go with someone that has experience of hiking and knows what they're doing, that way they can plan the route and guide you properly. 

Push yourself to your limits...

The great thing about hiking is that there are so many ways to adapt it to your fitness level. If you're a beginner or getting into fitness, you can always start with an easier hike, not too steep and not too long, but you'll still feel the benefits. If you want to challenge yourself, choosing steeper and more intense climbs can challenge your cardiovascular health and your leg strength. The length of your hike can also determine the difficulty, if you've done it a few times then an overnight hike might be fun and push you that little bit further. Other ideas include mountain biking and integrating rock climbing into the hike so that get to use other muscles. 

The benefits...

Hiking like all sports comes with a variety of health benefits, one of them being your cardiovascular health. Any exercise that you over a long period is good for your cardiovascular health and the great thing about hiking is that it is for all ages. If you're an older adult it may be more difficult to take part in more intense exercise, but hiking can be a great way to still help your heart stay healthy without putting too much pressure on your joints and bones. In terms of fitness, hiking is also extremely beneficial for building strength in your legs and again, good for any age. 

But it's not just all about your physical health, hiking can also help you mentally feel better. Being out in the fresh air clears your head and gives you time to think, a lot of people spend a lot of time indoors these days and working in stressful environments can leave you feeling down. Spending time in a beautiful environment and doing some exercise can be one of the best ways to relieve stress and get rid of symptoms of depression and anxiety.