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Reach Your Goals with a Food Diary

If you aim to change your eating habits, a food diary is a very powerful tool. Writing down exactly what you eat, how much and when will give you a good idea of your eating habits. A food diary is useful on many levels:

–    It makes you accountable, so you think twice before popping that chocolate in your mouth.
–    It highlights existing habits i.e. snacking in the evening.
–    Including writing down everything you drink can also help you drink more water (one of the most basic aspects of good health is hydration).
–    It can help track peaks and troughs in energy levels, especially if you are a caffeine / chocolate fiend.

A food diary is a time commitment and you need to ensure it is updated regularly and thoroughly for it to be meaningful. Remember to write down absolutely everything (this includes if you have a bite of someone’s sandwich, or finish off your children’s food). Weighing some of your basic foods is also a useful exercise (also to ensure your portions are actually standard size). Knowing the quantity that you eat is crucial if you use an online tool like the very fine (and free)  An online food diary will also show you the nutritional content of your food. The quality of information you receive online is only as accurate what you input, so it’s useful to keep labels of food for the nutritional content. Even better, eat food with no labels!

Fruit and Veg

There are a number of limiting factors with a food diary. It is common for people to forget about snacks (indeed, I once met a person who snacked at midnight, but did not recall until I picked up on it through conversation). Or, the situation where a packet of biscuits is opened and the amount consumed underestimated. I have found that many people feel guilty about situations like this and find writing it down almost an impossible task. If you make yourself accountable, is it likely that you will be more mindful of how much of the packet is consumed. We all like treats, and a food diary will show you if you’re indulging in treats as a regular habit, or indeed as a treat.

Eating can be wrapped up in emotional issues, so if you feel unsure about a food diary, just try it for a day. Carry it around with you so you remember to write in it. Remember it is natural to slip up, and that you can still enjoy going out for dinner and occasional indulgences. A food diary should highlight that your average day-to-day habits are healthy. Check you’re getting your five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, that you are prioritising wholegrain over white carbs and that you are drinking enough water and you will be well on the way to good health.

New Year, New Beginnings

The New Year is traditionally a time of renewal and resolutions. For the first few weeks of every January many folk set to their resolutions with the vim and vigour of the, well, newly resolved. However by the end of the month, this often wears off as the novelty wears thin, or in the case of exercise, the newly resolved don’t get as thin as they hope.

It takes regularity and consistency to succeed on any exercise and nutrition programme. Many people start the New Year by literally throwing themselves into exercise after an indulgent and sedentary festive season. This sharp increase in exercise can result in injury, over training or simply exhausting the individual. Far more sensible and affective is a measured planned programme with both short term and long term goals. If your resolution is to trim down, the first thing to consider is how much. What size do you want to be? Do you have an old pair of jeans that you’d like to fit into? If your goal is to improve your running, search the internet and enter yourself into a race so you that have a set date to work towards.

When you’ve set your goal, look at your diary and work out how much time you have each week to dedicate to your goal. I would suggest a minimum of three one hour sessions, but you can be canny and break your workouts into smaller bits. Book regular times in your diary for fitness, in the same way you’d block time off for an important meeting. Time is a resource that many of us are short on, so some careful time planning can reap dividends in the long run.

Start small and build up as your fitness improves and it will help you avoid injury. This is one of the simplest concepts that new exercisers neglect. Doing punishingly hard sessions to start with is like trying to build a house by starting with the roof. Start with the foundations of fitness and you will have a strong and supportive structure on which to build your programme. The foundations are steady state cardio and strength exercises that challenge your current body shape. I find many individuals returning to fitness after an extended break start by running as fast as they remember running in the past. Quite often, this is too fast to start with. By exercising regularly, and building up slowly, they will return to form, but it does require consistency and practise.

So here’s how to create your own personalised fitness programme:

  1. Get out your 2015 diary and write in goal dates (races, weddings or events you want to look good for).
  2. Work backwards to count how many weeks you have. I usually work with a timeframe of 6 – 24 weeks.
  3. Remember to mark down holidays, busy work periods or any other planned disruptions to your routine.
  4. Write in which days you plan to do your workouts (around 3 – 5 per week). Use the weekend for longer workouts and remember you can also workout before work, or even at lunch time.
  5. Schedule rest days. You will probably need more when you’re starting out, so give yourself a day off between exercise sessions to recover. This is when your body rebuilds new body tissue, so rest days (and good sleep) are crucial.
  6. Nutrition is as important as exercise, so eat well. Lots of vegetables, fruits, pulses, nuts and seeds, good quality lean meat and organic dairy will get you off to a good start. Good hydration is also essential. Small changes to your diet can make big changes to the quality of training.
  7. Remember to cross train, using different forms of cardio to work the entire body; swimming is ideal cross-training for running (as is cycling). Yoga can help keep you supple and Pilates assist your core strength, so are good ‘add ons’.
  8. Theoretically your mileage / intensity shouldn’t increase more than 15% per week. Start with your goal mileage and work backwards datewise to where you are now.
  9. Have a contingency plan for chaotic weeks. A good training programme will have a ‘buffer’ margin so if you fall behind on one week it doesn’t derail the programme’s progression.
  10. Remember that each workout will get your closer to your goal. Every workout is essential. Imagine your goal clearly in your head every time you work out and have a fit and fabulous 2015.

Edinburgh based Personal Trainer Tracy Griffen runs a wee fitness studio in Leith and is the author of the Healthy Living Yearbook – help make 2015 your healthiest year yet. You can follow Tracy on Twitter @tracygriffen, Find her on Facebook/griffenfitness or visit her website

Have a happy and healthy Christmas!

Christmas can be a wonderful time of giving and sharing. What kind of gifts do you give? We all know that it’s good to be fit and healthy, but have you ever thought about whether the presents you give reflect this?

I received many sweets and treats from my family when I was ten years old, but the gift that I relished was from an eccentric Grandpa. He gave me a children’s reference book on sports and fitness. Admittedly not the most typical gift for a wee girl, but it captured my imagination, and I read it over and over again. It encouraged me to go outdoors and run around, and careerwise I’m now a Personal Trainer. It’s easy to buy someone a box of sweets, but do they really need (or appreciate) them? Here’s some ideas of alternative Christmas presents, and remember that simple gifts are usually the ones that are appreciated in the long term.

Children are easy to buy for, try Spacehoppers, skipping ropes, bats and balls, hula hoops and skittles (they can never have enough sports equipment to play with). An unexpected winner with a young nephew a couple of years ago was an inexpensive inflatable football goal and ball. A kite is a fun gift, and Edinburgh is certainly windy enough! If the budget allows, a bike or scooter will bring a smile to their face. For older children, sports books and equipment that encourage participation are great. The excuse that “the children aren’t sporty and would rather a computer game” doesn’t wash. Firstly, children can only use active toys if they have them in the first place, and also, it is adult’s responsibility to set a good example.

Adults may seem trickier, and some folk may worry about offending partners by giving them fitness gifts. My guitar-playing husband appreciated his Powerball ergonomic arm trainer that was a fun way to strengthen grip and arm strength. A Swiss ball or wobble board is a fun gift, as is an adult sized hula hoop, which is also a brilliant tummy workout. Lastly, Griffen Fitness offers gift vouchers – give the gift of fitness. Simply email me through my website to easily purchase a voucher via BACS or Paypal. I will email you a voucher for your lovely one (or yourself!)…

For foodies, try my Healthy Living Yearbook only £9,99 with free UK delivery, or a good food hamper (Real Foods do lovely hampers or make your own). Last winter we took Pukka herbal teas and fancy oatcakes as gifts when visiting friends. Detox teas are particularly appreciated over the festive season!

So use your imagination for some inspirational present-giving, and have a happy and healthy festive season.

Coco the pug

Coco the fitness pug wishes you all a very merry pugmas!

Healing Hands of Holyrood Holistic – now in Leith!

Ever since I’ve opened the Griffen Fitness studio, I have been hoping a massage therapist would book in and use my studio in the times I’m not Personal Training there. It’s an ideal location for massage, and I liked the idea of my fitness clients being able to get massage in the same studio they get their fitness inspiration. So I was overjoyed when an old acquaintance, Gabe Stewart, decided to run a pop-up massage clinic from the studio on Thursday and Friday evenings over the next month.

Upon entering, the studio is transformed into an idyllic relaxing haven, with the scent of essential oils and relaxing lighting. It was so lovely to enter my own studio and be thoroughly massaged and chilled out. Gabe ensures that massage pressure is to your personal preference and she focuses on trigger points, releasing muscle groups in turn. All the information on her style of massage (in fact a combination of various techniques) can be found on her website at

If you’d like to achieve Zen-like relaxation, or to relieve chronic pain conditions in the heart of Leith, give Gabe a call on 07563 557 310.
Clinics run 28/ 29 November, 4 / 5 December.

The Fit Festival hits Edinburgh

Finally, Edinburgh has it’s own fitness festival, and I’m excited to be a part of it. The Fit Festival kicks off this weekend, Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 October, at the newly-refurbished Assembly Rooms on George Street.

fitfestival_logo small

I’ll be presenting a masterclass (mistressclass?) on the Saturday, from 1.15pm – 2pm in the main talk room. With the simple title of ‘How to Have a Healthy Day’, I will share hints and tips on how you can easily optimise nutrition, boost your metabolism and effectively fit in exercise to your busy lifestyle. My talk will be peppered with useful time-saving (and money-saving) hints and tips, and the audience are encouraged to take notes and ask questions at the end.

Griffen Fitness will also have a stall, peddling signed copies of my Healthy Living Yearbook – do come and say hello and meet a wide variety of health and well-being professionals. It’s going to be a grand weekend!

Running Naked (foot naked, that is…)

Today, fellow adventurer Andy and I attended the annual Scottish Barefoot Running conference. If you’ve read my Healthy Living Yearbook, you’ll know that I am an enthusiast of many types of running. It’s good to have a melange of routes, paces, and even footwear.  We turned up at Bruntsfield Links this morning with the mission of road-testing Vibram 5 Fingers on a group run. Footworks, who were running the conference (no pun intended), arranged for sample pairs for us to try. And they were new, bonus!


My first impression when I put on the Vibram 5 Fingers was that they fitted like gloves. It was a weird sensation having my pinky toe partitioned off, especially when it usually sits so snugly with it’s neighboring digit. We tried the newest model, the Vibram Bikala Evo which were incredibly lightweight. In fact my feet did get a little chilly waiting for the start, but I’m the kind of person who wears wool socks eight months of the year. We set off around the Meadows and I wondered if attempting a five mile run with experienced ‘minimal’ runners was foolhardy, but thankfully it was at a relatively easy pace. My Archilles tendon felt a little tight above the left heel, but it soon stretched itself out. The feeling of running barefoot was uncanny, the extra protection appreciated. As we ran up the top of Salisbury Crags, the excellent grippiness of the very thin soles came in handy.


I’m usually a pussy running down rocky hills, but I felt an incredible sense of freedom running in funny ‘yeti shoes’. It was only when we were dodging the tourists running up the Royal Mile did I start to feel self conscious of my footwear. By the time we got to near the top of Castlehill I was starting to feel a slight rubbing, potential blister, on a toe. Not bad, considering the shoes were wet from running through soggy grass in Holyrood Park. And I was wearing no socks. As someone who gets blisters easily, running with no socks in Vibram 5 Fingers was astounding. We took a detour from Castle Hill to the steps coming down from Johnston Terrace – again, down with no foot pain. I loved legging it through the grassy Meadows up to the conference marquee in Bruntsfield Links. And guess what? The rubbing never became a blister…

After the run, we headed home to pick up Coco the fitness pug for the afternoon’s sessions. We returned to the marquee halfway through Balanced Runner and Feldenkrais practitioner Jae Gruenke’s talk on running form. It fab to hear other like minded coaches talk about running as a process to be enjoyed. It’s not always about PB’s (Personal Bests). Her practical drills were enlightening as well. Ultra-marathoner Donnie Campbell talked next, urging us to consider what actually running success is and means.

Andy and I had a really good day and would both consider investing in some Vibrams.
I just don’t know if I’m brave enough to wear them in public! Unless I’m running really fast!

Griffen Fitness Interviewed…

.Last week I was interviewed by Alan Runacres from WABBA (World Amateur Bodybuilding Association, who I qualified through) about my experiences as a Personal Trainer. Click here to see it on  YouTube and you might even spot wee pug Coco napping in the background at the beginning of the clip… Enjoy!

Links mentioned:

Griffen Fitness

Healthy Living Yearbook

WABBA Qualifications



Faster feet for a smoother ride

Running or cycling with a higher cadence will make it easier and you might even go faster without noticing. A good example of this is the chaps from the Tour de France whose legs pump away like the billy-o. By spinning your pedals faster on a lower gear, you rely less on sheer leg strength to push, and more on your body’s aerobic system (which generally tires less easily). A high cadence in a low gear therefore should also help improve your endurance. Aim for around 90 revolutions per minute – you can measure this manually or use an odometer with cadence function.

For runners, a higher cadence means taking more, and possibly smaller steps. This is turn means a smoother ride and you’re not bouncing around so much. If you think of taking long strides and bouncing along the pavement, you can imagine how much extra reverberations travel up the legs. Smaller and more frequent steps keep the bouncing to a minimum and conserves energy. You may even find yourself running faster without realising. You can either use faster paced music, or download a metronome app to your smartphone and run at 85 – 90 bpm. It will feel fast to begin with but focus on maintaining a consistent speed with your feet landing to the beat. Enjoy!

Fundamentally good skincare from Elemental Herbology

elemental herbology

I truly believe that fitness is both an internal and external philosophy. You don’t need to be totally glammed up to look fresh and healthy, but clean skin is a good indication that your insides are also fit and healthy. After all, your skin is the largest organ of your body!

My skincare regime used to involve the simplest ingredients I could find – pure aloe vera gel,  argan oil, a simple cleaner, apricot exfolliant, and SPF 50 (as I work outdoors so much). However as I’ve got older I have found that my skin has changed and the good ol’ reliable (and cheap) products I’d been using weren’t cutting the mustard, so to speak.  

So I recently leapt at the chance to try an uber-natural brand of skincare ‘Elemental Herbology‘. There’s a full range of skincare products that all smell gorgeous – just like going to a day spa. If you’ve been running around all day, there’s nothing quite as relaxing as giving yourself a mini-facial and soaking in a warm bath, and I try to recreate a spa experience in my bathroom at least once a week.

For a full week I replaced my usual skincare routine with Elemental Herbology products, and my skin certainly looked and felt smoother and calmer. Rather than list all the products I tried, I’ll highlight may favourite. The Purify and Soothe cleanser balm calmed my skin, whereas normal cleansers irritate it. The slightly oily balm is a wonderful treat at the end of a hard day, and I’m sure would dissolve any make-up (not that I wear it). Around a decade ago there was a fashion for foaming cleansers and I’m so happy that the current skincare trend is for something less drying, and the Harmonising Cleanser Oil fits the bill perfectly. Plus it smells divine in the shower. Finally the Cell Food serum is one of their hero products and according to their website:

“This anti-ageing ‘power house’ of proteins, vitamins and anti-oxidants is an essential addition to any skincare regime. An intensive dose of antioxidants and reparative nutrients helps stimulate collagen and elastin production to restore vitality and radiance and helps reduce the prevalence of dark spots, fine lines and wrinkles.” Now I’m in my forties, I guess I need to start thinking about wrinkle avoidance!

I was completely impressed with the range and have already registered with the website to receive 20% off my first order. Usually I’m a harsh critic of skincare products, so it’s refreshing to try a cruelty-free range of natural products that work so well with my skin. Sadly I still  need to apply my regular SPF 50, which doesn’t smell or feel nearly as good as Elemental Herbology. But the rest of my skincare routine has been elementally transformed…

A Different Kind of Training

Spring is a wonderful time to train for summer fitness goals. Usually at this time of year, lengthening days means my personal fitness training ramps up the mileage. Long bike coastal rides and steady hill runs comprise a majority of my outdoor workouts. Not so this year. Thankfully, it’s not because I’m injured.

No, it’s because I’m the proud owner of Coco, the fitness pug puppy. I have been running Griffen Fitness for nine years now, working primarily by myself and with my fitness clients. I enjoy being my own boss, although sometimes miss office banter and company when I’m doing my admin and in between PT sessions. As I said to my accountant, getting a wee pooch is easier than taking on an employee!  I had an idea that I wanted a fitness studio dog. One that would happily sit in on a PT session without getting in the way. The plan was to spend lots of quality time with her when she was a puppy, so that she will be a well-balanced adult dog. It’s a good thing that we’d thought about it a bit, as it is rather distracting having a puppy in the office / studio. It works well as we live upstairs from the studio, so she spends some time in the kitchen, some in the studio, and some outdoors either in the park or travelling around Edinburgh in a pannier basket.


So the time I would ordinarily been spending clocking up the mileage, instead I’m spending training a puppy. We’re hoping to take her to Pedal on Parliament this Saturday, so have been training her in crowds (including Leith Walk) and on a bike (pannier basket from Leith Cycle Co).

You’ll hear more of the Adventures of Coco the fitness pug in future blog posts, but in the meantime, here’s some YouTube clips of her.