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!

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 😛 ) 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.

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!

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.

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!

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.

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!

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!

Goldmember

“There is a small, competitive part of me that gets annoyed from time to time that I didn’t ‘finish’ Weight Watchers. Not just because I crave a sense of completion, not because I once had a burning desire to be on the cover of the magazine; but because I wanted to be a Gold Member.

That’s what you become when you reach your goal weight. And they give you a GOLD CARD. You could carry it around in your wallet and whip it out at any time to prove that you’d WON weight loss! 😛

While I never became a Gold Member, I once stood beside a gold member at the Museum of Sex in Copenhagen – see picture below. That’s not too bad a consolation prize, I reckon.”

Copenhagen, Summer 2004

Copenhagen, Summer 2004

I wrote the above about five years ago, saved it to my draft posts and forgot about it until yesterday, when I cracked open those cocoa nibs and one of them was shaped like a tiny penis. This amused my juvenile mind and I thought, I should write about this cocoa nib development! And that made me remember the old Copenhagen Willy post.

Last night I worried that some people might find that poor taste and never read the blog again. But then I remembered a recent conversation with the incredible Sas about how trying to please everyone is futile, especially everyone on the internet. It’s physically impossible, for one; plus it can get in the way of you being the real you and that leads to all sorts of unhappiness.

So I thought, dang it, I’ll go ahead and post it, as a tiny step towards writing more fearlessly. As you can see there were no deep, profound thoughts lurking behind the inner censor. It’s all chocolate and male appendages.

. . .

I feel very sad looking at that photo from eight years ago. It was the first day of our Russia-Scandinavia tour and I thought I was the most humungous, ugly blob. I’d lost a shitload of weight but had little appreciation of how far I’d come. I felt huge compared to my tour mates, though looking through the photos all these years later it clearly wasn’t the case. I was so scared of gaining weight on that tour. My whole self-worth was attached to the lard busting mission and I felt like I was one Finnish chocolate bar from it all spinning out of control.

With such unsustainable and unkind motivations I can kinda see the inevitability of everything that happened in the following years. Today, properly large again, I’d be chuffed to be the size I was in that photo (minus the dodgy hairdo and maudlin clothing!). But I don’t want that old headspace.

I hope, and quietly believe, that there exists a middle ground where my knees, vanity and mind can all find peace. I’ll keep working on it.

Monthly Check In: September 2012

We’re 75% done with 2012. Time for another monthly plan update.

First of all I must report that I spoke too soon about the laundered Fitbit. It is officially deceased now.

. . .

In case the hyperactive witterings didn’t give it away, September was ace. On the lard busting front, I was happy with how I did in the USA and ended up maintaining on the scale machine. As per the recent travel pattern, the days were so full of grooviness that I didn’t really think about food.

I did guzzle vats of iced coffee, however. Now back here in Scotland, a sultry 8°C/46°F, it seems hilarious that anyone would ever get the urge to put ice cubes in coffee.

THUS ENDETH SEPTEMBER REPORT.

. . .

Now here we are at half-October and I’m getting back in the groove after an extremely shoddy start to the month that involved excessive amounts of chocolate. I could say, “I don’t know what came over me” but I know exactly what happened and I was even aware of it as I was doing it.

After feeling shitty and sugar hungover and doomed for a few days I got re-organised. I find the week after travel to be the danger time. You’re back to reality, you’re tired, there’s no food in the cupboard; your suitcase has vomited its contents all over the bedroom floor.

Now I’m back to my usual routine. What else can you do but get up and crack on with it? I’ve been walking. I made a big thing of wholesome soup. I did some pretend kickboxing with Jillian Michaels. I caught up on the washing (no gadgets were harmed this time).

I choose to kick arse for the remainder of the month. Stay tuned!

. . .

Finally, about these Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Cocoa Nibs. They’re so crunchy and earthy tasting and come in a dinky little tin that’s fun to rattle. The hinged lid is very satisfying to flip on and off. I feel like an eccentric old lady. My pills! I need my pills!

Anyway, it hilariously says on the tin, 1 Calorie Per Piece. I wonder if anyone ever says, “Oh just one for me, thanks”. They are the size of a mouse dropping. Or maybe a rat? Or a Tic Tac, let’s be classy.

I bought three tins on my travels. Since I don’t live in the USA I’d planned to ration them out, one dropping at time for the next few years*. But thanks to these past choctastic weeks there’s only one left.  Let’s see how long I can stretch it out!

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Nibs

This pic was my 2011 stock. It didn’t last very long either!

* Not really.