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.



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.


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 😛 ) 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.

15 thoughts on “Walking in Amsterdam

  1. OK, my ridiculously long held desire to visit amsterdam is about to be converted into action (inspired by this wonderful post and those piccies!)! So – where do I go for the jewel fruit salad brekky for starters? I promise not to have the apple pie (she lied).

  2. That tip about making food look beautiful is a great one. I did that for a little while — if I was having an apple and a couple of cheese and crackers for a snack I would cut it up and lay it out appealingly on a pretty plate, and it would feel special. Then after a while it all seemed like too much work, like tracking, and I lapsed. But I might try it again.

  3. So, to be a Jillian Michaels nerd, she said that if you workout at the same time every day (esp. if it’s intense), then your body gets into the routine and you get a pre-workout jolt of testosterone and other great workout boosters ’cause your body has learned that it has this THING it has to do every day at the same time. And she says that means your workout will be more effective and will feel better. How sweet is that?

    I’m with you on the routine thing. I’m apparently VERY resistant to setting one, but seem to flourish with it. At least of late I’m taking the 5-ish p.m. sweat-your-buns-off classes at the gym, so there’s a beginning… =)

    I REALLY like that stamp idea. Great visual reminder of “why I’m staring at this otherwise blank paper.” I might need to make one for my own work…

    Thanks for the lovely, interesting, and v. useful post! =)

  4. SO love this post, Shauna. From the delicious photos (wow, that sunrise) to the tip-top list of insights (so much for me to borrow!) to a feeling of gratefulness (why yes, tomorrow is Thanksgiving over here!) that I get to know you in this virtual way and read about your exploits in Amsterdam and elsewhere. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Hi Shauna, I’m a long-time lurker, first-time commenter (unless you count some notes dropped on you FB fan page). Thanks for sharing your routines and rituals. I’m especially committed to number five right now. On a personal note, I just wanted to say I’ve been following your writing for years, and you are such an inspiration.

  6. Hi Shauna. It was a really nice post. I can totally agree with the list thing, I’m a real listaholic, unfortunately the lists are to make them not to live by them. Truly sad, but nice that you don’t fight against them.

    And also, breakfasts in a cafe- if only there would be more morning persons amongst my friends. Guess I have to wait til they all get old and can’t sleep anymore.

    But again, positive post.

  7. I love this post, Shauny baby. My family’s crazy never-to-be-repeated month away from home – and the assorted weather dramas and personal challenge disappointments! – has brought many revelations about what I want and need for a blissful life. The biggie is simplicity (happiest times were hanging out on the beach eating fruit with the twins, something easily replicated in Oz with a caravan or tram ride down the road) and holy crap no more gluten-free donuts! xo

  8. I love the whole list (and the fact that you’ve created a list!) and in particular #s 1, 3, and 5. Fewer choices in my morning and midday meals always makes me less stressed when eating, if I just get up and go for a walk then it’s not something I have to think about and try to squash into the day, and wow, it’s been a really long time since I’ve written anything.

    Once again you’re an inspiration, Shauna!

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