Thankfully, any day is a good day to start living a little healthier, and Edinburgh-based personal trainer Tracy Griffen‘s new book is a really good way to begin. It contains simple and not-at-all-intimidating advice for every season of the year as well as recipes and other interesting info.
The book has a local focus, with tips on surviving the dark Scottish winter nights as well as making the most of our all too brief spring and summer!
I asked Tracy some questions about her background as well as how healthy living can help our mental health and creativity.
Hi Tracy, first of all congratulations on publishing the Healthy Living Yearbook. It’s a great guide to living more healthily throughout the year and is full of actionable, clear advice. What inspired you to write it?
Thank you! The Healthy Living Yearbook was written to fill a gap in the market, That is, there were no books written specifically for people getting fit in the Scottish seasons.
The Yearbook follows the seasons month by month and gives practical and realistic hints for people who don’t necessarily want to go to a gym, or identify with traditional (often boring) fitness books.
It’s a fitness book to inspire folk who aren’t necessarily into fitness. It also has lots of easy recipes in it…
“When you exercise your body releases lots of ‘feelgood’ neurotransmitters, dopamine and endorphins amongst them. I am inspired to write when I ride my bike or go for a run around Edinburgh’s gorgeous scenery, I come back to my computer brimming with ideas.”
Have you always been super-fit and healthy? What first led to you becoming a personal trainer?
A timely question as I just heard Olivia Newton-John’s 80’s song ‘Let’s Get Physical’ on Radio 6 and was instantly transported to my childhood, growing up in rural South Australia, Yankalilla to be precise. My wee brother and I would go for long bike rides and hikes through neighbouring fields for entertainment.
I was running regularly by the time I was 12 years old, so it’s been something I’ve always done, however I have never really considered myself super-fit. It’s just something I do!
Jane Fonda was one of my childhood heroes, and I always wanted to bounce about for a living, but never really considered it a serious career until after I’d exhausted a number of other options.
I moved to Edinburgh in 1996 and when I worked in various offices I would gaze longingly out the window and wish I was outdoors instead. So in my late 20’s I got qualified and have been running Griffen Fitness since 2005.
I’ve not traditionally been the most healthy and fit person, but I’m trying to improve things and have found a major improvement in terms of my mood & mental health. How important do you think both exercise and food are to our mental wellbeing and do they also help with creativity?
I believe physical well-being and mental well-being are totally connected. There’s more and more scientific research on the effect of exercise on the brain.
When you exercise your body releases lots of ‘feelgood’ neurotransmitters, dopamine and endorphins amongst them. I am inspired to write when I ride my bike or go for a run around Edinburgh’s gorgeous scenery, I come back to my computer brimming with ideas.
A wonderful book to read on the subject is from a Japanese novelist, Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (Amazon affiliate link).
As for food, I am convinced if we eat as naturally as possible, the body will benefit as it’s not having to metabolise lots of processed rubbish. So, if you’re going to have cake, make it a really good homemade one! Appreciate the food you eat, and eat mindfully (i.e. slow down eating and appreciate the flavours) and you will benefit from the experience.
As well as a personal trainer you also have a lot of experience with cooking and nutrition. What’s your number one tip for someone who is currently neither eating well or exercising? Is there one simple thing they could do to begin improving their health? (Apart from buying your book of course!)
Always eat a good breakfast and morning tea. Eating more low GI (slow burning) food earlier in the day will mean you’re less inclined to reach for junk food later in the day. Start the day well fuelled and you will have energy for exercising and feel great.
There always seems to be new advice coming out regarding dieting and health. How can someone who isn’t an expert know how to discern between good and bad advice?
There’s a lot of nonsense out there. If you read advice in a magazine, have a flick through and see if the editorial is actually linked to an advertisement. The diet industry is massive and much of it is lead by advertisers.
Eat raw natural food with no labels, cook from scratch when you can, hydrate well, and learn a handful of easy tasty recipes. Griffen Fitness offers a nutritional service of deciphering nutritional labels, as when you know what to look for, it’s easy to make up your own mind about what to eat.
Exercise is the same, there’s always some fad – at the moment it’s HIIT (high intensity interval training), which is basically just interval training jazzed up. Find exercise you love doing, and do more of it!
You were very supportive when I announced I was quitting booze for a year, as you have already set yourself that challenge and completed it. Have your (alcohol) drinking habits changed now that the challenge is over?
The year was very interesting as it highlighted to me just how much of Scottish socialising revolves around ethanol. Very strange when you think about it that way. Bars and restaurants are improving with their non-alcohol selection, but like anything it’s driven by consumer demand. So the more people who ask for non-alcoholic options at restaurants etc, the more interesting options will be made available.
Finally, you’ve hinted on Twitter that there might be some exciting news to come regarding the book – can you spill the beans yet or is that still top secret?
Having spent the last 14 months publishing and distributing the Healthy Living Yearbook entirely under my own steam, it seems I now have a publishing deal. It’s all a bit exciting and you can find out more as I find out more, by following me at @tracygriffen (I also tweet lots of tasty eating ideas and fun exercise stuff).
The Healthy Living Yearbook is available now via Tracy’s website and at independent bookstores throughout Scotland (see her website for the full list).
Tracy also shares her experience of giving up alcohol for a year in an article for local magazine The Leither – something I discovered we have in common via the wonders of Twitter!
And finally, if you’re local you might be interested in Tracy’s interactive workshop at Pulp Fiction bookshop:
‘Guerilla Marketing for Creative Types’
7pm Thursday 21 March
tickets £8 from http://marketing-your-work.eventbrite.co.uk/ or the bookshop.