Monthly Check In: November 2012

Ho ho ho hello! It’s time for another monthly plan update plus the lowdown on the mighty December challenge!

Wow, I got quite a lot done in November. Not sure if it was the structure imposed by the challenges, or the fear of looking like a twit in public if I didn’t come through?!

Challenge #1 – Three Times A Lady Blogging Lady
I wrote 7 posts here, 2 on Pussycat and 1 on Up & Running for a total of 10. That does not average out to the targeted three per week. D’oh! But still, it’s a step up from my usual one-or-twice-a-month slackarse efforts of late and now I am feeling the writing love. Now let’s say a fond farewell to this low-res sexy Lionel…

Once, twice, three times a blogging lady!

Challenge #2 – The Great DVD Dust-Off
I’m going to carry on with this one. Decluttering is good for the soul. Coming up: Bob vs Jillian Smackdown!

And now for the December Challenge…
I’m blogging every day this month! Julia and I were chatting about how easy it is for things to go tits up in December with all the festive shenanigans. Also, my 2012 lard-busting results have been lacklustre (one measly pound off in November) so I want to finish strongly and not start 2013 with extra extra pounds. So for both our amusement and accountability we created…

The Christmas HAM Plan

(HAM = Happy And Mindful)

We set ourselves three simple habits to work on. Inspired by the Amsterdam experience my list includes sticking to three mindful meals and a minimum standards agreement on exercise, plus blogging the gory details each and every day. We each set out our HAM Plan habits here.

Five days in and the HAM rocks – it’s that structured mindfulness thing again. It’s also fun pretending to be one of those food blogger types for a wee while, even though I find it hard not to picture disapproving readers tsk-tsking at all the cake last weekend.

So if you fancy cheering me on, kicking my butt, or just want a stickybeak at how two ladies navigate the festive season (I’m personally addicted to this window on the running coach life), I am writing every day on the Up & Running blog throughout December. Fair warning for the coming weeks: There Will Be Cocktails!

 

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DVD Dust-Off: Week 3

This is a slacker Week 3 DVD Dust-Off Update but I wanted to get caught up since I’m nearly finished with Week 4! I’m enjoying this project but I hope this is more helpful rather than batshit boring for you guys. I have non Dust-Off posts coming very soon so don’t worry!

Element: Tai Chi for Beginners7. Element: Tai Chi For Beginners with Samuel Barnes (2008)

This was an impulse buy because I loved other DVDs from Element and felt a mad compulsion to collect them all, like I once did Baby-Sitters Club books (even the Super Specials) or obscure Radiohead singles. It’s beautifully made with serene music but the verdict is unchanged from years ago: I find tai chi more a snooze than serenity now! I may revise my opinion when I’m 70 but for now it’s time to pass it on. Also, the bloke reminds me of that bloke in Star Trek whose name escapes me and it was kind of unsettling. Profound, I know!

Verdict: Total REHOME

Cathe Friedrich's Gym Harcore Series: Gym Style Legs DVD8. Hardcore Series: Gym Style Legs by Cathe Friedrich (2005)

Despite the cheery faces on the cover this is a serious lower body resistance workout – over an hour with barbells, dumbbells, resistance band and stability ball work. I thought this would be a definite Rehome as there’s so much squat and lunge work, but I’d forgotten there there’s a good 25 minutes of floor stuff using just a resistance band which was doable with my dodgy knee – great moves for the hips and glutes. There’s an evil calf raise section which I could do no worries. So a surprise keeper! There’s lots of info, reviews and a clip on Collage Video.

Verdict: KEEP

Cathe Friedrich's Low Impact Circuit9. Low Impact Circuit by Cathe Friedrich (2006)

This workout contains three circuit cycles, each with a step aerobics routine, a step interval blast, a compound strength exercise then an upper body move. Cathe is so creative with her workouts – there’s some great variety in the resistance moves, including some natty resistance band work.

While the step work is low impact on this one (Cathe has some seriously crazyass step DVDs out there), the movements did not feel good on my knee so I just the resisty bits. I only have this DVD as it came as part of set, so I’ll find someone who actually likes step work to make full use of it. If you’re after an efficient mix of cardio and resistance work and like a bit of step action, give this one a burl! More info here.

Verdict: REHOME

Back tomorrow with November Challenge wrap-ups and the lowdown on my big December Challenge!

 

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DVD Dust-Off: Week 2

Another week of getting reacquainted with old friends for the DVD Dust-Off

Element: Ballet Conditioning (Amazon affiliate link)4. Element: Ballet Conditioning with Elise Gulan (2007)

  • Description: A lower body workout with ballet-inspired moves.
  • Duration: 49 mins
  • What I did: The full workout
  • Equipment: A chair to assist with balance and act as your barre.
  • Space required: Not too much – you’re standing in place. The biggest move is sticking your leg out behind you (I forget the Frenchy name), so it depends on how long your legs are!
  • Pros:
    • It’s fun pretending to be a ballerina. It’s also bloody exhausting!
    • I like the Element brand of DVDs – the productions are elegant and tranquil and as per last week’s Pilates DVD the instruction comes via voiceover.
    • It’s pitched as advanced, but I found it easy to dial it back to my level
    • This really worked my hips, glutes and outer thighs which are all areas that the osteopath says I need to strengthen – great way to make rehab exercises more interesting
  • Cons: Some of the moves are harder on the knees. But it’s straightforward to modify, e.g. doing a very very demi-plie rather than a grand one. Not that what I did would be remotely recognisable as a plie, hehe. I also skipped the jumping on the spot moves. It’s just a matter of using common sense.
  • Further reading: Watch a video snippet at Amazon.
  • Ideal for:
    • fans of yoga and Pilates – it’s a great core workout and knowing how to find those muscles will help you get more out of it
    • anyone who was ever told they were too fat for ballet ;)
  • Verdict: A definite KEEP

Zumba Fitness DVD Exercise Kit5. Zumba Fitness DVD Exercise Kit (2010)
You might remember I wrote a big review of this in 2010 – lots of detail there. As predicted the time I got bored with the tunes so it had been many months since I’d last touched them. This week I did the 20 Minute Express and the LIVE! one. Enjoyable, but it felt really old. It made me pine for sexy Sue and Samantha‘s brilliant class at Fitbloggin this year, sniff sniff. But this is a fab set of DVDs for someone new to Zumba or someone who can’t get to a class, so I’ll pass them on.

Verdict: REHOME

Cathe Muscle Max (Amazon affiliate link)6. Muscle Max by Cathe Friedrich (2005)

  • Description: A total body resistance training workout
  • Duration: 68 minutes
  • What I did: Upper Body Premix (about 45 minutes?)
  • Equipment: Barbell and plates, resistance band, dumbbells, step bench (for chest work)
  • Pros:
    • I reckon Cathe makes the best resistance workouts – so much variety in the moves and she fries your muscles from all angles.
    • Like BodyPump, you can never really outgrow this one – just up your weights.
    • The premixes are great too – there’s options to do an express version, upper body only or lower body only. Great value.
  • Cons: Quite a lot of equipment required. After favouring Jillian’s fast-paced one-set-of-dumbells workouts for so long it felt annoying to faff around with changing weight plates etc. But as the workout went on I enjoyed the She-Ra feeling of doing a proper grunty weights session.
  • Further reading: Watch a snippet on CatheDownloads.com.
  • Ideal for: BodyPump fans
  • Verdict: I can’t make full use of this one – the lower body stuff (which I used to love; it’s brutal) is too much for my knee, so I’m tempted to pass it on. But…  I have a soft spot for Muscle Max as it’s the first Cathe DVD I bought. It’s on the MAYBE pile!

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Walking in Amsterdam

Last weekend Julia and I met up for an Up & Running work-o-rama in Amsterdam. Just over an hour’s flight from both Edinburgh and Bologna, it was the perfect place for an in-person summit. We were only there for three days but we found ourselves falling into a routine…

First, we’d wake up early and go for a run (her) or power walk (me). Despite all the photo stops I got an excellent huff and puff going.

Goedemorgen

Goedemorgen!

Then we’d go to Our Favourite Café. It was quiet and cosy with a resident fluffy cat and beautifully presented breakfasts. When even a humble fruit salad looks like a bowl of jewels you can’t help but slow down and savour the heck out of it. I thought of my usual desk-bound oats-and-yogurt-scoffed-from-plastic-container and how easily I could make that meal more pleasant.

The next two mornings we’d pretend to ponder the menu as if we weren’t saddo café stalkers, then order the same thing as before.

Foxymobile

How sexy would you feel behind that wheel!?

After brekkie we’d walk a bit further, get some coffee then get to work. Julia would take out her ridiculously gigantic Up & Running rubber stamp and stamp our Up & Running wings on a fresh blank page and write the date. That was the official signal to switch the brain on!

Julia likes her Starbucks fix

Then we’d motor along right through the day, pausing only for another cuppa. I’d narrowed down our mega to do and ideas lists to an achievable agenda beforehand, so we knew exactly what we had to focus on. Zing, we were on fire!

Just before sunset we’d down tools as our stomachs were starting to grumble, then walk all the way back to the little apartment we’d rented. So much walking! I really regret washing that bloody FitBit… the stats would’ve been off the charts.

Have some more Amsterdam cliches

Have some more Amsterdam cliches

Then we’d have a nice early dinner, then back to the apartment for a final cuppa and a couple more hours work. Eating just two bigger meals would be impractical in everyday life (my soul would perish without lunch to look forward to :P ) but it worked like a champ for that work-a-thon situation.

Random Dutch ginger cat

Random Dutch ginger cat

Obviously when you’re away from home you don’t have partners, day jobs, laundry, family, housework etc etc to contend with. And you have to cook your own dinner. But the weekend was a great reminder of how I operate best. I relish routine and ritual. I lust over lists. I find freedom in planning and structure. Sometimes I rebel against that that because it sounds boring, but if I like it… why fight it?

Next time I feel wonky I’ll come back to this list and remember what feels good:

  1. Keeping meals simple and quite repetitive (less thinking required)…
  2. … but making a real meal of out of them (because the more I enjoy the meal at the time, the less brain-space food takes up later. So focus on the food; put it on a nice plate!)
  3. Moving my butt each day at roughly the same time (so it feels more auto-piloty)
  4. On both a weekly and daily basis, narrowing down the priorities and what really needs to be done (instead of getting overwhelmed by the big picture and flapping around)
  5. Making time to write each day (clears out the brain)
  6. When feeling grumpy, step away from the desk and get some air (before my bum becomes perma-welded to the chair)
  7. If I decide to have a treaty food, making sure it’s worth it (like this amazing apple pie we saved right until the last day… hubba hubba!)
Amazing apple pie... we left this treat right to the end.

So worth the wait. Gotta love those little ice cream balls.

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Runs with hamburgers

Last night I was running on a trail beside a railway line, while holding a large hamburger in my left hand. I was dreaming, of course. But it felt so good to be running. I was light on my feet despite my unweildy body and the whopping burger.

I felt an urgent desire to be on the other side of the tracks. I came to a bridge that crossed over the line but it was extremely narrow; about a foot wide. I’d need to turn sideways then somehow wiggle and squeeze my way over. The hamburger would need to go. As my run-ragged heart hammered away I looked at the bridge and then looked at the burger then looked at the bridge and looked at the burger again. What to do? What to do?

I woke up half-laughing. Random dream or a painfully literal metaphor for the lard busting efforts? Hmm…

This is not a burger with the lot“What kind of burger was it?” Gareth asked, “I bet it was an Aussie burger with the lot!

“Yes!”

“Well that’s a rubbish burger to run with. They put too many fillings in and it always falls apart. Lettuce onions tomato cheese bacon pineapple and I don’t know which is more ridiculous, the fried egg or the beetroot.”

“So I should have ran with a Scottish burger where it’s just crappy meat and cheese welded to the bun with grease?”

“Far more sensible.”

. . .

Once, twice, three times a blogging lady!

Three Times A Blogging Lady Challenge: Halfway Report. I’m slightly behind! I have three 85% completed posts. Shall knock those buggers over tomorrow. This Challenge along with the DVD Dust-Off have highlighted my tendency to noodle endlessly instead of just getting things done and moving on. Let go of that hamburger and CROSS THE BRIDGE baby!

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DVD Dust-Off: Week 1

Arrgh! The first week of the DVD Dust-Off was eight days long. I was away for much of it and forgot to pack any discs. So I did a lot of walking then played catchup today.

Jillian Michaels Kickbox FastFix1. Kickbox FastFix by Jillian Michaels (2012)

  • Description: 3 twenty minute kickboxing-inspired workouts in a circuit style that will be familiar to fans of JM’s DVDs.
  • Duration: 20 mins per workout.
  • What I did: Workout 1, which has an upper body emphasis.
  • Equipment: one set of dumbells (I used 4kg)
  • Pros: Short but highly effective workout, brief intervals so you never have to do the same thing for long, minimal space and equipment required, easily modified for a dodgy knee, some resistance work thrown in. If you’re new to kickboxing watch Jillian’s tutorial first as she does not really pause to explain the moves in the actual workout.
  • Cons: Occasionally squeally background exercisers.
  • Further reading: Detailed breakdown of workouts on this Amazon review.
  • Ideal for: time-strapped BodyCombat fans.
  • Verdict: KEEP

 Stretch Max by Cathe Friedrich2. Stretch Max by Cathe Friedrich (2005)

  • Description: 3 twenty minute athletic and yoga-based stretch routines
  • Duration: 20 mins per workout
  • What I did: Workout 3, resistance band
  • Equipment: nothing for Workout 1, stability ball for Workout 2, resistance band for Workout 3
  • Pros: Short workouts providing a good solid stretch, poses held long enough to do the job, and it’s kinda fun wielding the resistance band.
  • Cons: If you’re hardcore about proper yoga terminology and moves you probably wouldn’t like this one.
  • Further reading: Lots of reviews on Collage Video.
  • Ideal for: popping on after a cardio session for an extended stretch/cool-down.
  • Verdict: KEEP

Element Pilates Weight Loss for Beginners3. Element: Pilates Weight Loss for Beginners by Brook Siler (2008)

  • Description: Pilates workout combining standing and mat work.
  • Duration: 48 mins divided into two chapters consisting of 15 mins standing and 33 minutes floor work.
  • What I did: The whole shebang.
  • Equipment: A yoga mat or friendly floor.
  • Pros: I bought this DVD because the lady has red hair and looks a bit like Julianne Moore. She is very elegant so you can let envy fuel your workout. Her clear, calm instructions are delivered via voiceover. I like the variety of classic moves like the Hundred and roll up. I got a thorough Pilates workout and my abs were talking the next day.
  • Cons: Stupid title. I hate when they stick “Weight Loss” on there to make people buy it. I also dispute the Beginners label. I’ve done lots of classes so I understood the concepts
  • Further reading: Watch a snippet on YouTube.
  • Ideal for: those who’ve done a bit of Pilates before and want a good home alternative.
  • Verdict: KEEP
The overall theme of Week 1: Why did ever stop doing these ones? They’re fab. I’ll be getting stuck into some weight training titles for Week 2.

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Friday Link Feast #21

I was laying on my back in yoga on Wednesday night, transfixed by the Scream-like knots and swirls in the pine beams above, when I realised I’ve been going to the class for a whole year! Hooray for consistency in at least one facet of my life! I’m not sure my bendiness has improved that much but it’s been amazing for the brain.

I’m still dealing with the Yoga Snorkel situation though. I also need to buy a less voluminous top as I keep getting smothered by fabric in any sort of upside-downish position. Can I ask what you yoga folks out there wear? Do you just buy something that’s relatively tight-fitting? I’m not keen on sleeveless (it’s too cold and I’m too lumpen) and I don’t like fabrics that are too unnatural. Fusspot much?

Anyway, on with the linkage!

Zygocactus shadow on the living room wall. Just about to bloom!

Rather menacing zygocactus shadow on the living room wall. Just about to bloom!

The Good People Making Groovy Things edition

  • Sara has created a stunning graphic novel called Magpies. She’s just launched an Indiegogo campaign for the print edition. It’s hard to put into words how much I loved the beauty, intensity and intimacy of this book, so why not have a gander at the trailer and the incredible process of its creation.
  • Kathryn and Lucy have launched a swanky new edition of An Honest Kitchen magazine and it’s all about seasonal desserts. These ladies know how to make healthy food taste good.
  • Sara at Fit to Blog has started a Festive Fitness Focus challenge for bloggers looking for some support and drive as we head to the crazy end of 2012. Go team!
  • Philippa has started Book Ends: a podcast for writers and book lovers. So far she’s chatted to Lisa Jewell and one my favourite authors Nikki Gemmell. Fabbo!

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November Challenge #2: The Great DVD Dust-Off

How many workout DVDs does one woman need? Not this bloody many…

Workout DVD collection

Workout DVD collection

These poor buggers sit lonely and colour-coordinated on my bookshelf in their cosy blanket of fine dust. The collection is pared down dramatically from a few years ago – e.g. the rarely-used Billy Blanks Tae Bo was banished to the charity shop!

There’s another half dozen or so piled beside the DVD player – they’re favourites that I use over and over again while ignoring the rest.

While it’s nice having this retrospective of Cathe Friedrich’s changing hairstyles, the wastefulness bugs me. So many reminders of my old impulse purchasing ways. I’m sure half the workouts are totally unsuitable now with my dodgy knee. It’s time to de-clutter and get some variety into the DVD diet!

The Challenge: To use a different DVD every time I work out at home.

Duration: Continue until I’ve tried every DVD in the collection. This could see me through until summer! ;)

Rules:

  • Minimum of three DVD workouts per week.
  • No repeats.
  • Only one workout per DVD i.e. I can’t do all three levels of 30 Day Shred. One workout, then move on to a new disc.
  • Report each week en blog for accountability.
  • After each workout decide if the DVD winds up in the Stay or Go pile.
  • Thus we shall inch forward into a streamlined future!

Whatever ends up in the Go pile will go to the charity shop or I’ll give them away on the blog to happy new homes. If anyone is still using a DVD player by the time I’m done. I’m sure right now someone is working on the ability to download Jillian and Cathe directly to your eyeballs.

I started yesterday with Jillian Michaels’ Fast Fix Kickbox, a recent Favourite. Man, I’m going to miss that one. Only 20 minutes, just one set of dumbbells required, and there’s punching! Definitely in the Stay pile. Onwards!

Update: Here are the DVD Dust-Off Reviews:

  • Week 1: Kickbox FastFix by Jillian Michaels, Stretch Max by Cathe Friedrich and Element: Pilates Weight Loss for Beginners by Brook Siler
  • Week 2: Element: Ballet Conditioning with Elise Gulan, Zumba Fitness DVD Exercise Kit and Muscle Max by Cathe Friedrich
  • Week 3: Element: Tai Chi For Beginners with Samuel Barnes, Hardcore Series: Gym Style Legs by Cathe Friedrich and Low Impact Circuit by Cathe Friedrich
  • Week 4: Yogalates for Weight Loss with Louise Solomon, Travel Fit by Cathe Friedrich and Yoga Meltdown by Jillian Michaels.
  • Week 5: Cathe Friedrich Muscle Endurance, MMA: Boxing and Cardio Core Circuit
  • Week 6: Bob Harper Yoga for the Warrior, Body Rev Cardio Conditioning and Pure Burn Super Strength.

NB: Here’s the lowdown on November Challenge #1 if you missed it.

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November Challenge #1: Three Times A Blogging Lady

November is a brilliant time for a challenge – there is still one sixth of the year remaining so it feels like there is still time to make something of it, and if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere a challenge can distract you from the soul-crushing darkness outside.

I have a fitness challenge that I’ll post about next time but I also wanted a writing challenge to get some focus happening. I pondered a third NaNoWriMo but can’t face that 50,000 word slog again just yet. I thought of NaNoBloPoMo, where you blog every day for the month but I think that would be overkill for both me and any poor readers out there.

So in the spirit of moderation and baby steps I’ve decided to go for three posts a week. To butcher the Lionel Richie classic – once, twice, three times a blogging lady!

Just like NaNoWriMo, I’ve got a logo and everything. Except it’s crap!

Once, twice, three times a blogging lady!

The first post of the week Shakespeare at 35 is all about stray hairs, priorities, biological clocks and blog crushes.

Hope you have an ace weekend!

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If you’re up there somewhere…

The highlight of the Mothership Reunion was seeing her try to use an eyelash curler.

My sister and I gave her a mini makeover – I was on hair, Rhi on makeup. In hindsight it might have been a bit insulting: Yo Mum! Haven’t seen you in a year, what the hell are you wearing?! Let us spruce you up! But she really loved getting pampered after a few weeks of Cruise Casual.

Bougainvillea

Except for the eyelash curler. I could have watched her snapping it at her face all day. What is this contraption? Like this? Ow! Crikey! Ow! 

Turns out she didn’t need the curlers – she has disgustingly long, lush lashes. I’ve not inherited them nor had I noticed hers before. That made me feel a little sad. You don’t get these details over Skype or email.

The last day of the Reunion happened to be ten years since Poppy – Mum’s dad, our grandfather, obv. – passed away. He was in our thoughts and conversations all weekend. As Rhi dusted Mum’s nose with powder I saw the family resemblance alive in their dark eyes and big laughs and my heart just cracked.

I miss him as fiercely as I did a decade ago. Not only for his intelligence and warped humour, but because I like the way he did things. He made it feel okay to carry a little spark inside you; to want to make things and go places. And I miss the way he made my grandmother smile.

I wish I’d been able to know him when I was a adult. He got ill as I finished high school. How would we have got along? Would he have come to Scotland for a visit? Would he and Gareth have bonded over their love of motorbikes?

I can’t remember where I was going with this; I’ve wandered off again. In summary: it was bloody brilliant to finally hang out with my mum and sister at the same time. And I need a visit back home to Oz soon. Least of all to make sure Mum’s following our beauty advice!

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