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How to sleep
As the weather gets colder and the nights draw in, it’s easy to fall into bad habits when it comes to our sleeping pattern.

However, Neil Robinson, Chief Sleep Officer at Sealy UK, says it’s vital we stick to our schedules so we don’t fall into the trap of poor, disrupted sleeping, which can leave us feeling groggy and exhausted.

These are his top sleep tips:

Stick to your sleeping pattern. Try and maintain a consistent routine of when you go to bed and when you get up. This will enable your body to gradually adjust to the changing of the seasons and the onset of winter.

Banish technology from the bedroom. If getting to sleep is a struggle, it may be tempting to flick through your phone later into the evening. But try and refrain from using technology for at least an hour before bedtime as the blue light emitted by phones and other devices, combined with the evenings being darker during the winter months, can disrupt your body’s natural circadian rhythm, making it harder to get to sleep.

Invest in the latest sleep tech. We live in an age where we’ve been able to develop fantastic technology to aid our adjustment to seasonal change, so do your research into the best sun lamps and alarm clocks on the market and make the leap. By simulating the sun rising and setting, light simulation lamps and alarm clocks can help keep your circadian rhythm and body clock right on track, whatever the time of year.

Avoid falling into the nap trap. It might be tempting when your body clock is out of sync, but avoid napping for quick energy boosts wherever possible. Napping can be detrimental to the quality of your sleep through the night, with some studies even showing a link between extended naps and type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. If you can’t avoid it, make sure your nap is short, ideally only 10–20 minutes, to avoid disrupting your sleep.

Image published via Pixabay

Make your bedroom a haven. It’s obvious, but making sure you have the right tools for sleeping is absolutely key. To make bedtime more luxury, invest in new bedding and ensure your duvet is the right tog rating for colder winter nights too. Having the right bed and mattress is absolutely key, and a change of seasons is the perfect excuse to look at upgrading.

Embrace your mornings. Starting out your day with a positive mind-set and thinking about what you have to look forward to will always help you get up first thing, but doing small additional things such as planning outfits the night before for peace of mind, putting your alarm clock out of reach so that you physically have to get out of bed, and setting your central heating timer to make sure you’re not waking up to a chilly room will make getting into the winter sleep routine a whole lot easier.

Image published via Pixabay

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Fitness

Meet the vegan body-builder

Alexander Kosztowny is building mass without harm.

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Alexander Kosztowny (image supplied)
Alexander Kosztowny (image supplied)

I caught up with aspiring bodybuilder Alexander Kosztowny to talk fitness, food, and life as a vegan body-builder.

Were you into sports at school?

No. Growing up, I was a heavy-set kid, and not very active at all. In school, I was very academic, and focused mainly on my studies rather than athletics. I didn’t dread gym class, and always worked hard and enjoyed certain sports like tennis and volleyball, but the lack of variety of activities in gym class limited my view on the variety of types of activities out there. If I’d tried a weight lifting class, or yoga, or karate, my attitude may have changed earlier in life. My sister was always active, but I come from a family who are not very big on physical activity or sports. Of course, like most, I wish I’d started earlier, but better late than never.

Can you remember what your first experience of a gym was?

I lost a lot of weight in high school with the onset of puberty, and with the gaining knowledge of nutrition, portion control, and cardiovascular activity. When I went to college, I found myself putting a lot of the weight back on, and knew I had to prevent that. I joined a gym, and hired a personal trainer for the first time to help me get back on track.

I absolutely fell in love with pumping iron. I was able to coordinate working out into being a part of my schedule, as opposed to limiting it only to ‘when I have time’ and having a trainer not only motivated me and taught me technique, but also kept me accountable for my actions. He helped me with adding strength while paying attention to form, and meal planning, The excess weight fell off, and I became addicted.

Now I’m in the gym every day, pushing my body and transforming both my health, my appearance, and my outlook.

When did you decide to get serious about your fitness and bodybuilding?

About four years ago. But I’ve only been super-serious for about a year, and I’ve only been extremely strict in terms of diet for about six months. I’m still a beginner.

What’s your aspiration as a bodybuilder?

To get huge. That’s it.

As someone who’s plant-based, I’d also like to show others what’s possible on a non-traditional diet. That there are other forms of nutrition and protein, and you can build muscle, look great, and have tons of energy without harm.

What’s the difference between your body as it is now and the way that you want your body to look?

I’d still call my self thick or chubby-muscular. The interesting thing about bodybuilding is that there never really is an end goal. You just lift and grow bigger and you’re never quite big or strong enough. I’m just trying to push myself as far as I possibly can. It’s exciting to see the changes you can make that way.

What’s your work-out regime like?

I’m in the gym six or seven times a week. This seems excessive to some people, and I know others who only go three or four times a week, and that works for them. For me, the gym is therapeutic and a stress reliever, as well as a hobby.

I usually spend about one hour doing weight lifting — machines and free weights — and then I wrap up with about 35 minutes of cardio. I focus on one body part per day. It’s a traditional bodybuilding split, so muscles have a chance to rest. This routine works for me — I know some people have luck doing high-intensity, full body workouts, but I like the focus of working each muscle group in isolation.

Do you have a work-out buddy?

Not currently, but I’ve always enjoyed it when I do. It really is vital for really heavy spotting, and the dependability is nice if they’re as motivated as you. If anyone is in Los Angeles and wants to train with me, hit me up!

How important is controlling your diet?

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Controlling diet is extremely important. It makes or breaks your progress in the gym. if you lift but don’t eat right, you won’t get anywhere. I’ve seen this happen both for myself and others. When I finally got on the right meal plan, the results happened in no time at all — abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym.

I eat about five times a day, and I’m plant-based, just like Tom Brady. My diet consists of lots of legumes, lentils, tofu, peas, broccoli, peanut butter, protein shakes, and other natural, nutrient-rich foods that contain protein without resorting to animal products.

Besides the ethical and environmental sides of going vegan, I find I have more energy, need less time to recover, and am less sore, as well as having clearer skin. I count my macros — calories, carbs, proteins, and fats — and eat the same foods every day to stay on track. I’ve pretty much eliminated bread, gluten, alcohol, refined sugars, and beverages besides water from my diet, except for special occasions. I’m super-strict, but do let myself enjoy food.

Are your friends and family supportive of your bodybuilding aspirations?

For the most part. They’re always impressed at my progress and dedication, but I need a lot of willpower when I have a family who loves to cook, bake, and tempt me with treats. That’s why having a partner or workout buddy who is on a similar plan is helpful, if you’re lucky enough to find one. It keeps you on track.

Are you competing?

Nope, and no plans to either. But that may change as I grow bigger.

What are some of your priorities for the months ahead?

I’m currently in the best shape I’ve ever been in, so I want to just keep on progressing. It’s a slow process, and takes a lot of time, so you have to be patient.

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