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About Sam Charles

Sam started her UK lifestyle blog, Strawberry Squeeze in 2013. Often accompanied by her partner in crime, Petal (the mini lop), she is an digital influencer, blog coach and a GAIQ SEO consultant. Sam spends most her time booking spa getaways, sea kayaking or dining out with friends and family.

Our Introduction into Mountain Biking: Reasons You’ll Love It!

Last month we dipped our toes in the water with a bit of mountain biking, and oh boy was it fun! It’s always something I thought would be an amazing thrill but I wasn’t sure if I’d be too much of a baby and not enjoy it. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Honestly, it was a little bit scary… but so it was also so much fun.

We first thought about giving it a whirl earlier in the year when we visited Lanhydrock in Cornwall but we didn’t have the time when we were last there. Then, whilst we were in Switzerland earlier this year we noticed lots of people getting trains or cable cars to the top of mountains and biking there way down, which looked absolutely bonkers but also really exciting (especially when you’re slowly meandering along with a big bag!).

We bite the bullet, headed back to Lanhydrock and hired a couple of bikes. We were instantly throw into the deep end practicing jumps and tricky terrain in the ‘skills area’, then we went and worked up a sweat on the green, blue and red trails. By the end of it we were covered in mud and our cheeks hurt from laughing so much! It’s 100% something we’ll be doing again, and here’s just some of the reasons why:

Our Introduction into Mountain Biking: Reasons You'll Love It! | UK Lifestyle BlogKnockdown jacket in dark teal c/o West Beach*

Mental health benefits

Numerous studies show that cycling is good for your mental health. Getting out in the countryside takes you away from the stresses and strains of everyday life. If you choose a green route such as the Lodge trail, you’ll have 15 – 20 minutes to just think and sort through some of the things that are playing on your mind. Riding through nice scenery has a relaxing effect, which lasts for days after. I can totally vouch for this!

Adventure holidays galore!

Once you get your cycling legs sorted, you will be able to cycle long distances without aching. I remember this from when I used to ride regularly and when I used to run for 13 miles without stopping. People asked “how do you keep going?” well, you just do. Your legs go numb and your body drives you forward, it’s incredible.

You can go on crazy fun adventure holidays, which (believe me!) you won’t enjoy unless you’re fit enough for it. If you want to get to know a country, cycling is a great way to do it. I once met somebody that traveled across the world with his bike, inspirational! He told me all about these great cycling holidays that take you off the beaten track and let you see a side of a country that you would not normally see on a traditional holiday.

See more of your local area

It’s not just about going abroad! Going out on your bike on a regular basis gives you the option to get to know your local area better. There’s so many beautiful places in Cornwall that I haven’t explored, and jumping on a bike seems like a great way to do it! Don’t get me wrong, I love trotting through small villages and towns, but in all honesty, I’m more of a nature lover 🍃🐶 You’re far more likely to find me out on the cliffs or in the forest, than you are in a coffee shop or wandering busy shops.

**Psst** You don’t even need to go abroad to make a little trip out of it! We stayed in a cute little Airbnb just a short drive from our home and cooked up a well-deserved Waitrose steak, yum! 

Our Introduction into Mountain Biking: Reasons You'll Love It! | UK Lifestyle Blog

Winning a life (no, seriously!)

When you start cycling, the chances are that you will begin to set yourself goals. It starts small – you see how long it takes you to cycle your favourite route, then next thing you know you are shaving minutes then seconds off your time. Setting small goals and achieving them is a good habit to get into. In time, this habit spills over into other parts of your life helping you to be more productive. I read about this ALL the time in business books!

Your joints will thank you

I’ve become a little more health conscious these days. I still order Dominos and I don’t lift weights, but I’m certainly better than I used to be. I’m tee-total and I try and use the outdoors as my gym as much as I can by going surfing, hiking or anything else that tickles my fancy. There’s a million reasons why this is important to me, but one of them being *bare I say it* I’m beginning to feel old.

My body doesn’t feel as strong or as nimble as it used to be. Things hurt when I push my body in a way they never used to. Cycling improves your circulation as well as your respiratory health. This is great for your joints because it helps your body to carry the toxins out of your body instead of settling in your joints and causing stiffness and other problems. When I heard this, I was all over the prospect of cycling like a bad rash. Yes, please! 🙏

Catch more Zzz’s

The kind of exercise you get when you cycle helps you to unwind. This makes it easier for you to fall asleep and get a good night of sleep. Often cyclists sleep better than other people do. What more can I say!?

If you want to get started and begin, it is easy to do. There’s heaps of places you can hire a bike from, and if you decide you love it there’s lots of places to order cycles online that won’t break the bank.

2018-12-15T23:46:32+00:00 December 16, 2018|Health|

How to Physically Prepare for a Hiking Trip (+ 5 Epic Hike Ideas!)

Hiking can certainly be a lot of fun, especially if you love being outdoors and keeping active. However, it’s no secret that this adventurous hobby also requires a lot of preparation – and not just route planning.

While some trails can be tackled by beginners with little or no experience, others require a higher fitness level. Planning for these trips includes assessing your fitness level to ensure you’re in good shape before you set off.

We did a fair bit of hiking in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Slovenia and Italy our recent 2 month road-trip around Europe (and can you blame us?! Below is a photograph from one of our rest days when we were in Austria, just WOW! 😻). Planning on going hiking? Here are some tips on how to physically prepare for a hiking trip.

How to Physically Prepare for a Hiking Trip (+ 5 Epic Hike Ideas!) | UK Lifestyle Blog

1. Plansee, Austria. If you’re looking for untouched natural beauty, you’ll fall in love with Austria.

Plan before you set off!

Are you just starting out, and looking for something to “test the waters”? Maybe you’re a little more experienced, but looking to take things up a notch? Did you find your previous hiking trip a little too much, or perhaps a bit boring? 

Every hike is different, and the physical preparation will differ, too.

If you’re booking through an adventure travel company, you can always ask them what fitness level is required for the routes that interest you. They will often be able to help you assess if the trails of interest are suitable for you.

Know your fitness level ❤️

Assessing your fitness level before setting out on your first hike – or any hike, for that matter – is highly recommended. Not all days trekking will be the same, but that’s what makes it exciting!

If you regularly walk to work and back, play football on the weekends, and go to the gym three times per week, you’d be safe to class yourself as fit. More advanced trails are certainly on your radar, however, shouldn’t be underestimated.

Where a walk to the local chip shop is your primary form of exercise, you’ll need to better prepare your body!

How to Physically Prepare for a Hiking Trip (+ 5 Epic Hike Ideas!) | UK Lifestyle Blog

2. The Dolomites, Italy were truly epic! The Tre Cime di Lavaredo loop is perfect for beginners.

Get some training under your belt 

The obvious way to train for a hike is to get out and walk as much as you can. Anywhere you can reach on foot is an option – so ditch the car in favour of a walk to the local supermarket. In fact, carrying some shopping bags back from the shops will help you, too, as it is likely you’ll need to carry heavy bags with your belongings while hiking.

If hitting the gym, you’ll find that many treadmills feature an incline setting. For most people, these are simply a way of increasing intensity and adding “variety” to otherwise boring cardio workouts. For others, this setting offers a great tool to prepare for real-world hiking adventures.

Most treadmills max out at around 15% incline. This is pretty good, but if you’re looking to hike up demanding hills and mountains, you’ll likely want to try out a dedicated incline trainer.

An incline trainer is the same as a treadmill, however, is designed with a much steeper running deck. With incline percentages up to 40%, these are perfect for increasing the stamina needed for steep treks and mountain climbing. 

Although not cheap, you can easily save yourself some money by comparing gym equipment prices before you buy an incline trainer.

How to Physically Prepare for a Hiking Trip (+ 5 Epic Hike Ideas!) | UK Lifestyle Blog

3. Little further up… Glacier summit shot @ Gornergrat, Switzerland – Feeling on top of the world!

Keep hydrated on your hike

With so many variables to consider, it’s impossible to produce a definitive list of things to do while on your vigorous walk. That said, water and food are things we can accurately estimate.

Before setting off, you’ll no doubt have map of the route you’re taking. You should work out how many miles you’ll walk and calculate how long this will take.

Regarding hydration, a good rule of thumb is to drink a litre of water for every two hours walking. If it’s a hot day, with lots of uphill climbing, this should be the minimum you shoot for.

Remember, the more water you carry, the heavier your bag will be. For this reason, it’s important to accurately estimate how much water to take, to ensure an optimal fitness level.

How to Physically Prepare for a Hiking Trip (+ 5 Epic Hike Ideas!) | UK Lifestyle Blog

4. Views of Matterhorn from Riffelsee, Switzerland (Yes, that’s the Toblerone mountain!!) 🐻

Re-assess your fitness level after the hike

No matter how well you initially assessed your fitness level, or how much you physically prepared your body, you will now know the reality of how fit you are. Did you smash it? Was it a walk in the park (excuse the pun) or maybe it was more physically demanding than you imagined?

Those who found their most recent hiking trip difficult might add weight training to their preparation for next time. If you found it less demanding, you can aim for something a little tougher while having a “feel” for what areas you might need to address to ensure you’re at the right fitness level to tackle it.

How to Physically Prepare for a Hiking Trip (+ 5 Epic Hike Ideas!) | UK Lifestyle Blog

5. One of the most jaw-dropping hikes I’ve ever done, the Pragser Wildsee loop in the Italian Alps

Last but not least…

Physical preparation is an important part of hiking. When booking or planning a hike, ask experienced hikers and tour company advisors about the required fitness level.

Once you’ve shortlisted suitable trails, pick exercises to help you reach the right level: walk to the local shops if you’re a beginner; train on an incline trainer if you’re more experienced; and lift weights if you feel your strength needs improvement.

In addition to preparing you for the hike, these exercises and training methods will also keep your body in great shape for everyday life, too.

2018-12-14T23:57:43+00:00 December 15, 2018|Travel|

Chic Country Charm: Décor Inspiration for Your Home Office

Perhaps you run your own business and need a well-designed and designated space that feels separate from the rest of your home. Or maybe you have the desire to create an area just for you, where you can work on your side project or indulge in your favourite hobby. No matter the reason, there are many ways to style a functional yet sophisticated home office, filled with chic and comfortable country charm.

Chic Country Charm: Décor Inspiration for Your Home Office | UK Lifestyle Blog

Invest in Statement Pieces

For a country inspired office, the key to achieving this look is in selecting statement pieces. From an extravagant accessory to a large item of furniture, a statement piece will act as a focal point within a room and help to pull the overarching theme together.

In your office, make sure your statement items are timeless and fit with the surrounding space. If you have an entire room, this could mean finding the perfect desk. Alternatively, if your office is within another area, such as the dining room, consider storage that complements the interior, such as an oak country style sideboard.

Aim for a Lived-In Look

How would you describe a country home? Words like warm, welcoming, cosy, charming and comfortable may come to mind. As such, when designing a country-inspired office, forgo perfectly finished and polished pieces in favour of items with a raw, authentic feel. These will give that lived-in, rural style while also being sophisticated and chic for years to come.

Consider Finishing Touches

When trying to achieve any look within a home, the finishing touches are vital. For example, if trying to create a boutique hotel bedroom, upscale lighting and luxury fabrics are essential. When creating an office with a country design, the accessories can help to define the space, too.

In a charming country home, accessories are often abundant, with books, ornaments and items adorning every surface. So, when finalising your office, think about how you can emulate this. You could choose a vintage desk lamp, display wild flowers or select a raw wooden letter holder.

Make it Feel Inviting

Lastly, while an office must be practical above all, with space to complete tasks, an ergonomic chair and adequate storage. However, to achieve country style, your workspace must also be inviting. There are many ways to achieve this, including lazily draping a woven throw over your chair or enhancing the ambience by placing lighting at different levels.

Whether you have the space to dedicate an entire room to your office, or you are repurposing an unloved alcove, consider these tips to create a workable, charming and country-styled home office.

2018-12-14T18:38:58+00:00 December 14, 2018|Home Decor, Post|
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