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.

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.


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!


“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.

Fitbloggin 2012: The power of “me too”

“Empathy is the antidote to shame. If you put shame in a petri dish it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgement. If you put the same amount of shame in a petri dish and dose it with empathy it cannot survive. The two most powerful words when we are in struggle: “me too.”
Brené Brown

Mara, me and Karen. Photo by Susan.

It took about two minutes to go from worrying that no-one to would get up to the mic at our Self Acceptance and Weight Loss discussion to wishing we could keep going all afternoon. It was a moving, magnificent tear-fest!

This live-blog post (thanks Kim!) gives you a feel of the session but for the full effect, just imagine a gigantic lump in your throat and an overwhelming urge to hug stranger-friends 😉


I don’t think it was just my overly-emotional brain but this year it felt like there was more curiosity about and embracing of the idea of self-acceptance. It’s easy to get tangled up in semantics and definitions, but from the stories I heard and conversations I had, so many of us are done with the whip-cracking, bullying approach and are being kinder with ourselves as we make healthy changes.

As Mara said at the time we didn’t want to leave everyone “on the edge of the cliff” after such an intense session, so we created a free e-book called Self Acceptance 101. We also wrote it so there’d be something for those not at the conference.

In the book we each address the questions posed in the discussion, including:

  • What does self-acceptance mean?
  • How can you make peace with your imperfections?
  • Does self-acceptance mean you’ll never lose weight?
  • How can we cultivate a community around love and acceptance instead of negative self-talk and comparison?
  • How can you begin to develop a blueprint for your life – that works for you – even when it doesn’t look a bit like anything you see anywhere else?

Many of my answers are things I’d meant to blog about but never quite managed to put into words. Nothing like deadline to put a fire under your butt, eh?!

You can download the e-book here. Hope you enjoy!

Huge cheers to everyone who came along to our session and to Roni Noone for the bold idea of ditching the traditional conference panel format, which resulted in a great space for a kickarse conversation.

Finally thank you to my buddies Karen Anderson and Mara Glaztel. I confess I developed huge crushes on them after last year’s conference, so to work with them on the e-book and discussion was one of those warm fuzzy I can’t believe this gets to be my LIFE! moments.

P.S. Just a warning, I have about ten posts brewing about this USA trip. Brace yourselves for unbridled enthusiasm!

Show me the Monet

Last year at Fitbloggin I thought to myself, I must get more organised with this blogging caper. Get myself an “editorial calendar” and schedule posts in advance like the pros, so there’s no tumbleweeds every time I skip town for a few days. But here we are sixteen months later and I’m more slackarse than ever!

Speaking of professional blogging, whenever I see the word monetizing I always think of the legendary Impressionist. Monetize your blog, yo! Add some brushstrokey lillies and watch the dough roll in!


Yesterday on the train ride to Baltimore I was fretting about our Self Acceptance and Weight Loss discussion. All these fears and disclaimers were running round in my head:

…. is there time to get a t-shirt printed that said Yes I’m Fat But I’m Feeling Good About Myself And Actually Losing Weight In A Slow And Mindful Way, Thanks.

… also, I don’t know what to wear.

… to be honest, I should have just stayed at home.

… who’s dumbarse idea was this?

Then of course I worried about having so many non-self-accepty thoughts. Who am I to faciliate a discussion on this topic?

But I finally remembered that this freaking out cycle always happens before any public event. Accepting that made it easier to sit back and let the emotions run riot for awhile, then get back in the present.

Susan Ito of Food Food Body Body fame did a brilliant performance piece last night that included her own freakout about coming to Fitbloggin a few pounds heavier than last year. She too had contemplated not coming. I got all choked up thinking about how common these feelings are; how we feel like we’re not good enough the way we are. These feelings and fears can be genuinely paralysing. Which makes it all the sweeter that so many wonderful people find the courage to show up anyway. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about being real, Susan said.

Here’s to showing up in all our imperfect glory and havin’ a good time!

Meeting Old School Bloggers And Their Cats Tour

Hello! I’ve been in North Carolina for the past few days with my longtime blog pal Denise on a wee Meeting Old School Bloggers And Their Cats Tour (Jennette, Lori and Marla) before we head to the Fitbloggin conference tomorrow. It has been bloody awesome but the jetlag has turned me into a jibbering fool so will just leave you temporarily with this pic of a cute little Venus fly trap from the botanical gardens today. I was so excited as I’d not seen one before and called Gareth later to share my joy but he was all, “yeah I’ve seen them at Dobbie’s Garden Centre” or somewhere, like it was no big deal. Pfffft!


Walking in Dublin

Two Mondays ago I was in Dublin for the Flora Mini Marathon 10K.

After nine years living here in the UK, I'm still not over the novelty of being able to "pop over" to a whole other country for the same price/time it used to take me to get from Canberra to my hometown! But it would be a sad, curmudgeonly day if I ever lost that sense of wonder. Even when wonder is really profound stuff like, "OMG Cadbury Tiffin! You don't get that in the UK or Oz!"

Unlike the Running Festival last month I walked this one solo. But I was in a crowd of 40,000 other women, the Mini Marathon being the biggest women's race in the world…

Approaching the start line... blue sky!

Approaching the start line… blue sky!

I also had company in spirit - Up & Runner Cels was over from Brussels to do her first 10K (and she kicked butt) and Coach Julia J was over from Modena, with some of her Italian runners. We hung out all weekend and I could say nowt but ciao. I need to work on my Italiano.

The atmosphere was brilliant. So many people were running for charities and had the names of lost loved ones on the back of their t-shirts. That wells me up every time; always a sober reminder of the fragility and randomness of life.

The race was divided into Runners, Joggers and thousands of wonderfully chatty Walkers. The pace was slow-going for ages – most seemed up for a fun stroll rather than to steam along as fast possible like a big ginger walking machine as per my own intention.

At 4km I had to ditch the number obsession after I accidentally switched off Walkmeter so I didn't know how fast I was going. My brain about exploded trying to add up the splits with my watch, so the rest of the race was just me and my feet and all those ladies.

I've fiddling with this post for almost three weeks now, flitting between feeling proud and emotional then feeling stupid for feeling emotional, because all I did was walk ten piddling kilometres. It seems so silly when my friends routinely run for miles, Julia just did another Half Iron Man; Gareth is about to cycle up some Alps. It also seems extra lame when I used to be able to run and haul up mountains and kick arse at kickboxing.

I got stuck on that whiny groove around 6km (why does this always happen in the middle of races? I guess the brain wanders): You're so slow. Why'd you get so lardy again? You did 14 minute miles in Moonwalk training, why didn't you appreciate it? My feet hurt. This sucks. I suck. I bet Julia is in the pub with a Guinness by now!

But emotions come and go like the tide. The trick is to let 'em wash over and keep walking anyway. As I got closer to the finish line the bleak thoughts were replaced by peacefulness at being in a foreign land on a sunny day in a happy crowd; bewilderment at the lady smoking as she walked along in a cancer charity t-shirt, and the fun of eavesdropping on some breathless on-the-go wedding planning:

So I've got my shoes I've got my dress I've done the invites too my hair? I'm not sure about the hair depends if Kelly is coming if Kelly is coming I'll get her to do my hair for free she's a hairdresser see but if she's not coming I'll have to find someone else to do it oh no I've not done the flowers yet…:

Here are some photies I snapped along the way:

Amazing cheer squad outside the Irish Cancer Society

Amazing cheer squad outside the Irish Cancer Society

You cannae beat a pompom!

You cannae beat a pompom!

Around halfway, methinks

Still chockers at the halfway point, with gorgeous streaky blue sky

I wanted to hug this woman at the 7KM mark

I wanted to hug this woman at 7KM

I finally crossed the finish line in 01:45:49, an average of 10.35 minutes per kilometre, which I was okay with considering the first three km's were a very snailish 15, 12 and 12 minutes as it was so crowded. I must've sped up towards the end there.

I felt fitter than I did in Bologna last month, with no knee or sciatic pain. That's the comparison I choose to make now, rather than dwelling on where I used to be years ago. Being part of that race, with so many women of all shapes and sizes and stories, reiterated the importance of celebrating and making the most of where you are, right now.

Walking can be boring but it's working and it's taking me some interesting places!

Walking in Bologna

Walking is boring. "There, I said it", as the kids say these days. I fancied it up my training sessions with nice scenery, hilarious podcasts, Julia's fabulous schedule, and the post-it note reward scheme… but still I grumbled every time, a bike would be so much faster, dammit. As would a Ferrari.

I'm glad I kept plodding along though, because on Race Day in Bologna the rewards became clear…

1. Races RULE!
I felt like a donut signing up to walk the race when the Up & Runners were running it, but Julia insisted that races were best thing to keep my motivation blazin'. She was right. WHY is that woman always bloody right?

I loved the whole shebang. Laying out my gear the night before. The jangle of nerves at breakfast time. Walking to the race with all the Up & Runners, down a cobbled cliche of an Italian street. I gracelessly jumped in the air and yelled, "WOOHOO!".

At the start line, bouncing up and down in a sea of hot pink, I finally got it. THIS IS WHY YOU DO THE TRAINING. To get the other side. The race! The fun part! The people! The new places, new sights, new smells.

Race gear, ready to rock!

2. It's okay to fake it
It didn't matter that I'd not loved the training – the important thing was that I did the training. My legs didn't know that my mind wasn't entirely into it, they got fitter and stronger regardless. So often when things are boring/uncomfortable/scary/unfamiliar that voice pipes up, "maybe this isn't meant to be" and/or "let's run away!". I'm glad I went through the motions anyway, week after week. This can be applied to so many things in life, right?

3. There's an BEAST lurking within!
As soon as the starting siren went off my brain flipped from "let's go for a nice Sunday stroll" to "let's walk this f*cker as fast as possible GO GO GO!". The halfhearted stroll became an all-out charge! Out of my way, Italians with umbrellas!

(Did I mention it was raining on race day? It wouldn't pass for rain in the UK – twas "like being misted with Evian" as Paula called it – but many locals were ducking for cover!)

I think I've been trying to convince myself ever since I first hurt my knee that I didn't really care about running or races. Oh I'm just happy doing my workout DVDs! I'm happy to hold the bags while everyone else races. Don't mind me! But as much as I love my solitary DVDs and my classes, I also love getting competitive with myself. So I'll keep indulging that side with more events. In time, hopefully my body will be able to keep up with my brain's ambitions.

4. Lipstick adds a sense of occasion
At the start line I met the lovely Erica, an American living in Italy whose blog I've read for years. She'd come to run the 6k and is doing the 10K Course in June, so she got a sneak peak at the lady who'll be bossing her around for 8 weeks! Anyway, Erica was wearing RED LIPSTICK. With her hot pink race t-shirt she looked so foxy and ready to rock. My new years resolution was to wear lipstick more often, you may recall, so I've added a sub-clause: wear red lipstick in a race. My foxy pal LBTEPA does that all time too. I have lips, I have sticks, so why the hell not?

5. My granny knee is thankful
The more I walk the better it feels. I pine for Zumba and kickboxing but taking the sensible route is paying off. It doesn't lock up so much and the "burning" sensation happens less frequently. Same goes for the sciatic pain. The race topped up my resolve to keep moving and eating well. 


6. Everything's more fun with friends
I walked the race with Honor, Clare and Julia who are recovering from injuries. Their company really made me savour every Holy Crap We're Walking In Italy moment. Races are a great excuse to hang out with awesome people. We need to do this stuff more often!

Cop a load of this race medal! Sure it says Run when I Walked but that's faster than snoring in bed on a Sunday morning. I'll take it.


Up & Running LIVE in Italy – Good times and Nutella pizza

Thank you so much for your comments on the Elephant post! You all rawk and I feel about 237% less loony now! 🙂

Last summer Julia and I became possessed with the idea of an Up & Running retreat. We'd just enjoyed a brekkie in Brussels with Cels, a lovely Up & Runner, and discovered that meeting the woman behind the 90 x 90 pixel forum avatar was bloody amazing. We had do it again. En masse! With running! And yoga! And goody bags! And wine!

We settled on a cosy gathering in Bologna, Italy in order to align with Julia's very own Running Festival race. We held our breath when we announced it on the Forum (you know that throw your own birthday party will-they won't-they feeling!?), but we ended up with Up & Runners travelling from England, France, Germany, Guinea, Italy, Netherlands, Scotland, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates with Australian Jo scoring the prize for furthest travelled!

We took over a bed & breakfast in central Bologna. Julia had done a brilliant job scouting it, and when I saw the sun-dappled foyer with Fiat lurking in the background I sighed happily, "Ahhh… Italian as f*ck!"

The most gleeful part of organising was the goody bags. What's the point of going to meet a bunch of internet people if you don't get a goody bag, I ask you!? The goods included snacks, a hand-made Up & Running headband, STICKERS! and nail polish in the perfect shade of Up & Running pink.

Goody bags, full of goodness

Goody bags, full of goodness

My spewy nerves dissolved the minute the first runner came through the door. Cate, an expat Aussie in Switzerland, had a smile even more dazzling than her avatar and it hit me, "Holy crap these people are REAL! This is going to rock!".

After that initial weirdness of connecting real bodies to internet voices, soon the room buzzed with exotic accents and laughter. There was wine and delicious pizzas, those amazing wood fired ones that I will be dreaming about for months to come. Especially this baby for afters…

Nutella pizza. If this is wrong I don't want to be right.

Nutella pizza. If this is wrong I don't want to be right.

Friday morning began with Coach Julia's Boot Camp. She didn't bring her whistle or megaphone but I insisted on calling it a Boot Camp just to mess with everyone's heads.

Coach Julia pretty in pink

Coach Julia pretty in pink

I shed a few tears at the sight of our runners taking off for their warm-up run with Coach J out in front. Okay, it was a lot of tears. Not even a year after our very first 5K Course ended, here was a group of women from all over the world, zooming along together. Behind the international keyboards had lurked real life runners, after all!

I'd hoped I wasn't alone in feeling a sense of community and deep connection on the Forum right from the start, but oh man, it was so real. They were such a genuine, funny, warm and beautiful bunch of women. I was totally overcome with emotion all weekend long. Apologies to everyone I blubbed on!

Anyway… after the running came a runner-friendly yoga cool down.

Post-BootCamp yoga



Love that smile!

 On Friday night we had a pasta demonstration at the B&B from a handsome young Pasta Man.

Pasta Man

He rolled it paper thin… amazing


Pasta lessons

Tessa gives it a go, sporting her official headband with the wee Italian flag on it! Swoon.


Julia shows the dough who's boss

Julia shows the dough who's boss

As well as the most light and tasty pasta ever, there was a mega load of antipasti. I particularly loved the artichokes, the hunks of Parmesan, the local soft cheese whose name I forget and the garlicky bruschetta. And another hunk of Parmesan for good measure, yes please…

Just part of our Friday night feast


And homemade tiramisu for pudding. Oh my stars.

Saturday was a free day to explore Bologna (or in my case, fall deeper in love with coffee, eat gelato and chit chat endlessly). That evening our resident runner/photographer Sara set up a photobooth for us to play with.

There was a minor incident when some espresso-fuelled loon wondered aloud if one could be photographed mid-air by diving onto the bed, and then kinda almost broke the bed attempting it *whistles*. Thank goodness the camera did not catch that moment.

Julia and I attempted yet again to get a serious photo for our About page.

Trying and failing to get a professional team photo

This is where I suggested we do cheesy poses like the opening credits of The Young & the Restless

My buddy :)

My buddy 🙂

Now all we had left to do was Sunday's race…

Thanks Sara for pasta pics and photo booth and Cate for tiramisu and Pasta Man.

Walking in Barcelona

Last weekend I went to Barcelona to hang out with my pal Coach Julia Jones. We had a great time eating tapas and working on our new Up & Running half marathon e-course, which we're launching next week (squeak!). 

After our Brussels work-a-thon last summer, I was awed by how she packed her running shoes and exercised and ate mindfully… rather than seeing a few days away as time for sloth and scoff-o-rama. Six months on I reckon I'm getting there too! I enjoyed my tapas and some incredibly decadent chocolate pastry thingos but whoa baby, I savoured the whole shebang. Half the fun is hunting down the perfect thing to eat – following your nose through the narrow streets, oggling fancy treats in the windows, taking a photo or ten before finally tucking in. That's how I did it til I lost my way… be selective, then savour. It feels good to get back to what works.

Sagrada Familia

Pigeons near the Sagrada Familia

The exercise went well too. On Sunday Julia suggested we each head out for 40 minutes – a run for her and a brisk walk for Granny Knees me. It's been years since she coached me but OBEY JULIA remains a mantra… I cranked up the GPS and Walkmeter on my phone so I'd be able to show her proof that I'd walked and not just sat under a tree eating cake. Again, it is very useful to know what really motivates you – in this case, a need to please and a love of gadgets! 😉


In my eagerness to "make good time" some how I got a bit lost on the way back!