Monthly Check In: January 2012

Each month I’m checking in with my 2012 plans.

A month is a most excellent unit of time. Long enough to make things happen, but short enough to correct your path if necessary. I was trying to convince Gareth of the merits of the Monthly Check In when he said, “I have done feck all this month.”

“Bullshit!” I declared, then rattled off half a dozen things he’d done, including taking his Etape training up a notch, entering his first homebrew competition and going to see the Turner in January exhibition. Sure we just walked into the Gallery, peered at half a dozen paintings before simultaneously freaking out, “Arrgh! Too many people!” then absconded to the pub. But the point was, he had a good January.

Mine was pretty good too:

January highlights

  • Starting a TRX suspension training class – wonderfully tough! The tricep move in particular burns like no other tricep work I’ve ever done. And it seems I can do squats with the TRX without irritating my knee. Lunges are out though.
  • Going back to BodyPump – I can’t do the squat or lunge tracks at all (any substitute ideas?) but the back/hamstring and upper body tracks are bloody awesome
  • Bagpipe yoga – at the end of yoga class, right after the relaxation bit when the lights were off and the mood was mellow and silent, our teacher said her Quote of the Week which was something about the serenity and joy of life when… BURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRHH! A bloke down the hallway started blasting away on his bagpipes. I love Scotland, I do.
  • Two pounds down on the scale

January lowlight

  • Knee news– I hurt my knee in 2005 and it has been a bastard on and off ever since. Mostly on, but I have tried to spare you from too much of the whining around here. I finally took the osteopath’s advice and got a referral to the orthopedic specialist bloke. After much poking and scanning the verdict was osteoarthritis. Great, my knee has a real age of approximately 85.There is not much to be done for that. All I can do is not make it worse. So the “plan” of the past few years – denying, ignoring, gaining a shitload of weight; doing exercises that make it worse – has been tossed.

    Orthopedic Man said I am a long way from needing surgery, so I need to be sensible and be so very very careful. Kickboxing, running, squatting, lunging and other high impact stuff are out. I am going to skip Zumba for now – the twisting and turning always makes it hurt for days afterward. Spinning is my main cardio. Maybe I’ll get a punch bag. You don’t need good knees to punch, right? And I will keep working on slowly losing this extra weight.

I gotta say I have been really bloody emotional about this knee verdict. It is hard not to beat myself up for all the things I did to get to this point. I am seriously mourning squats and roundhouse kicks.

But I must let go and focus on what I can do. So onward to February! My aims are: kneehab,  continue the astoundingly consistent exercise routine, and be more disciplined with the food diary.

New Years Goals Check-in: June

I'm doing monthly updates on my New Year Goals.

We're 50% done with 2011! 

June highlights

  • Kettlebell Love. Wow that weird lump of iron makes you feel like such a badass. But a lot of the love is for lazy reasons. There's only one item to deal with: no faffing around switching plates on a barbell or putting dumbbells away afterwards. Makes it easier to get past the "I don't wanna" tantrums!
  • Bike Non-Hate. I cycled up my very first hill without stopping this month. I know most people achieve this when they're 8 years old, but one must celebrate the victories. I had to use the very lowest gear but at least I got up the bloody thing. I attribute the attitude improvement to this wee cycling computer. Now I can geek out on how fast (okay, how slow) I am going and how far I've been.
  • Six months of Food Mood Journal Spreadsheet completeness. Nerdgasms ahoy!
  • Six months of not gaining weight and actually very slowly losing, without being an obsessed dieting crazy lady. That feels great after steadily expanding for so long.

June lowlight

  • I completely unravelled for about ten days. There have been some challenging times lately and I managed to carry on with the mindful habits for a good while, but for awhile this month I lost it. It started innocently with running out of yogurt for breakfast leading to me deciding to buy a pastry from Starbucks, then a chocolate after lunch, then skipping a few workouts, then feeling really crap then just wallowing that feeling. And while being aware of exactly why I felt crap (which is progress in some ways), I decided to continue feeling crap by making poor choices, not planning meals, ignoring hunger signals and not pausing to think before I ate.

The positives: I've returned to the healthy habits so much faster than previous setbacks. I'm back to Tuning In and the meal planning is sorted so July is looking better.

Mid-Term Review
It's been a modest kind of year so far. But when I think about my mental state and the inability to breathe in my jeans back on January 1, it feels like real progress.

July plans

  • Improved consistency with strength training – twice a week minimum. Need to remember how much I enjoy it when thinking of ditching it for a cuppa and a book!
  • Cycling cycling and more cycling. There's only three months til Cycletta, eep.

Hope you're all well… thank you gazillions for reading. Apologies for the cobwebs on the blog lately!

Two Fit Chicks Episode 27 – Kettlebells and Kindness

For your aural pleasure!After an unintentional 2.5 month absence there’s finally a new peisode of Two Fit Chicks And A Microphone for you – Episode 27 – Kettlebells and Kindness.

We spoke to the lovely Karen Anderson of Before & After: A Real Life Story about her path to self-acceptance and also her love for kettlebells. Karen is such a smart and thoughtful woman so the conversation flowed like BUTTER, baby!

Carla and I also talk about the Fitbloggin conference and finally meeting each other in person. Consider this a verbal recap as six weeks on I’ve still not managed to write about its goodness. Oh dear. As The Mothership used to say in flustered fashion, “I just haven’t had time to bless myself!”. I bet she doesn’t say that now she is retired 😉

Monthly review post coming soon! Hope you are doing well, groovers. How’s life?

Check out the podcast… if you dare 😀 »

Review – Cathe Workout Downloads

CatheDo you like working out at home in your pyjamas? Good news – home fitness queen Cathe Friedrich has just launched Cathe Downloads.

Her entire 150+ workout catalogue is now available in digital format, so you can watch your downloads on any computer or video-enabled mobile device, like an iPod.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post or a PR conspiracy. I wanted to share this as I know many of you are fellow home workouterers. Cathe doesn't even know I'm alive! Sniff sniff.

I wasn't terribly excited by the Download idea at first – what's wrong with old-fashioned DVDs? But it's proved to be very, very handy:

  • No more shipping or customs fees – more affordable than DVDs, especially for non-US residents.
  • Extra lazy option – When I work out at home I usually play the DVDs on my computer, and cranking up a DVD takes so many seconds, man. Downloads are a mere double click into action!
  • Good for travel – a couple of workouts stored on my laptop squashes those feeble dang I left my DVDs at home! excuses.
  • Tailored to your taste – all Cathe's multi-disc series are broken down into the individual workouts – you don't have to purchase the whole set. I can skip stuff I don't dig (like high-impact Step) and just buy the bits I enjoy.

For example:

  • I got a fab 15-minute Stretch routine for $3.97 that is a wee component of her massive Shock Training System series ($299 for 40 DVDs). I like Cathe stretches when I'm not in the mood for proper, la-di-da yoga. Also good for a quick stretch when I get home from kickboxing.
  • I got the Kickbox part of her 4-Day Split series, $15.97 – I've wanted this one for ages but wasn't willing to fork out $79.99 plus shipping/customs fees for the entire 4-disc series.

image from Shopping
You can browse all the workout categories via the Products menu. There's sample video clips too. You can purchase with PayPal or a debit/credit card. To download the workouts you need a good internet connection.

To view the downloaded files you need a computer or a video-capable mobile device, like a phone or MP4 player. Apparently you can watch them on television too if you have an iPod/Phone and an AV cable. There's plenty of support and tutorials on the website.

I'm not a technical person but the video and audio quality was great on my MacBook and Gareth's aging PC laptop. The workouts have chapter points like the DVDs, so you can skip past any too hard bits.

I haven't tried them on my iPhone yet – I don't know when or why I'd need that. Perhaps if I could listen to a weights workout while I lifted at the gym? Or watch a workout on the train and wiggle my feet around a bit?

I like my Cathe downloads – they're more affordable, convenient and ideal for trying out something a different, since you don't have to buy a bigass DVD series.

If you'd like some ideas, here are my favourite Cathe workouts:

And some ideal for beginners:

UPDATE June 2010: I've now become a Cathe Downloads affiliate, so if you purchase any Cathe workouts using this link, I'll receive a small commission. Any sales will go towards hosting fees for this blog so if you fancy supporting I will love you for life. Thanks for your consideration! 🙂

Review – Jillian Michaels: No More Trouble Zones

Jillian Michaels: No More Trouble Zones I don't really like the use of the phrase "trouble zones". A dimpled arse or a wobbly arm is not on par with Basra or the Gaza Strip.

But you can't blame Jillian Michaels – these products need magical all-promising titles to suck in the crowds. If she gave her DVD a more honest and accurate label, such as I Am Going To Kill You In Forty Minutes Flat, she would never make a living.

No More Trouble Zones, henceforth known as NMTZ like a failed boy band, is a full body resistance workout in a circuit format. There are seven six-minute circuits, each consisting of two sets of five 30-second exercises.

It's less complicated than that sounds. All you need to know is – no matter what torturous exercise Jillian throws at you, you only have to endure it for 30 seconds at a time! Just when you are swearing at the telly and spluttering up your lungs, POW! She moves on to something else. This is the beauty of circuit training – it is brief in its brutality. Unlike say a Body Pump class, where you must perform bicep curls for the duration of an unfortunate Bryan Adams techno remix.

The best part of NMTZ is its simplicity:

  • Easy to follow structure
  • Straightforward moves like squats, lunges and old school floor exercises
  • Minimal space – since it's weight training, not cardio, you don't move around too much. If you can step back and forward into lunges you've got enough room.
  • Minimal equipment – just some light dumbbells, a mat if your floor is hard, and your own body weight.

It's also efficient. Jillian bangs on about maximum calorie burn in minimal time, so she does compound moves like squat with shoulder press and lunges with bicep curls. Your whole body gets involved so your heart rate goes through the roof.

I was skeptical – she uses only three pound dumbbells in NMTZ. How was that going to achieve anything? But the relentless pace and big moves ensure a tough workout. I used 3, 5, and 8 pound dumbbells depending on the muscle group and was pleasantly crippled the next day.

Verdict: NMTZ is a tough and straightforward workout, perfect for those days when you can't be bothered fussing around with lots of dumbbells and barbells.

Jillian explains the moves well but it is worth watching the DVD on the couch first so you know what's coming, as they really fly through the circuits.

NTMZ is aimed at the more experienced exerciser but you can easily modify the moves. For example, I could not for the life of me safely perform a chest fly with a double leg raise, so just raised one leg at a time. Another modification is to just do each circuit once then skipping forward to the next, instead of repeating them. You'll still get a  good sweat going and you can gradually build up to the whole thing. This is also an option if you're pressed for time or a nice compromise for Cannae Be Arsed days.

My heart rate definitely climbed higher than with non-circuit weight training. That said, I've been missing lifting heavier weights like in Cathe Friedrich's DVDs so I'm planning to alternate the two for the next wee while.

Aside to the lads out there: I managed to persuade poor Dr G to give it a go. He can confirm this is not a wussy girl workout! Direct quote: "Hard, but good. I loiked it."

Here's a detailed breakdown of each circuit.

Note: This is just notes I scrawled between circuits so the exercise names may not be entirely accurate.

Warm up
March in place, jump rope, arm circles, skaters, jack jumps.

Circuit 1 – Shoulders and Legs
– squat and shoulder press
– chair squat with anterior raise
– back lunge with shoulder raise – left leg
– back lunge with shoulder raise – left leg
– press out

Circuit 2 – Chest and Core
– chest press with crunch
– chest fly with double leg raise
– bicycle crunch
– squirms
– push ups

Circuit 3 – Biceps and Bum
– deadlift with hammer curl
– static squat with concentration curl
– alternate lunge with wide grip bicep curl
– side lunge with bicep curl

Circuit 4 – Thighs and Triceps
– chair squat with kickback
– sumo squat with French press
– surrenders
– crescent (?)
– lunge & press

Circuit 5 – Core
– double crunches
– twisting plank
– plank with toe tap – left
– plank with toe tap – right
– windshield wipers

Circuit 6 – Upper Body and Core
– evil plank rows with dumbbell
– supermans
– scissors
– hip raise thingy left
– hip raise thingy right

Circuit 7 – Lower Body and Core
– side plank
– side raise
– inner thigh lift
– repeat above on other side
– donkey kicks – left and right

Cool Down
The usual cool down sort of thing.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored review; I just liked the DVD and want to convert you to my working-out-at-home-in-your-jammies religion. Cheers to Diana from Soap & Chocolate for first writing about Jillian's new DVDs – I was off to the shops in a flash.

Livin On A Prayer

Note: Comments are behaving strangely at the moment. If you ignore the weird text and just type your comment and press Post, it is received but the page won't reload like normal. I'm investigating and hope to sort soon!

"Today's class will feature no less than three Bon Jovi songs," our Body Pump instructor gleefully announced this afternoon.

Oh hell yes! Way to turn around my bitcharse disposition in one sentence. You cannae beat a bit of the Bon. The tunes turned out to be a really dodgy techno remix of Living On A Prayer and two inferior newer songs, but it did the trick. I don't know where I'd be without exercise to elevate my mood. In jail, probably.

I had a Bon Jovi Flashback in the middle of the Tricep track and nearly dropped the bar on my nose from laughing. The day before my last high school exam, me and three good mates went to Sydney to see Bon Jovi in concert. My first concert ever! Unless you count that Elton John tribute guy who played at the local greyhound track when I was ten.

When you lived in a far-flung rural town the only way for kids to get to concerts in the Big City was by charter bus. It took about five hours, excluding vomit stops. Since this was 1995 there was only a cassette player on the bus and the self-appointed Overlords of the Cassette would sidle up to the driver and bat their eyelashes until he put their tapes on. It always fascinated me how on a bus full of strangers a clear hierachy of popularity would establish itself within the first fifty kilometres. Anyway, we were approaching the outskirts of Sydney; so close to Bon Jovi we could smell the acid wash, when a rather tired and dull blast of guitar dribbled forth over the speakers.

"What the hell is this shit?" I snorted to my friend Jenny.

There was an outraged intake of breath and one of the Cassette Chicks spun around in her seat, fixing  her kohl-rimmed eyes on me in what we call back home a Death Stare.

"This shit," she hissed, "Is Bon Jovi's latest album!"

Oh. Well. It was shit.

Anyway that has bugger all to do with anything, doesn't it? I have an almighty backlog of posts but had pangs of self-consciousness every time I sat down to write. It's been odd trying to get back into the groove after my Internet Exile. It's like I had amnesia and stumbled across my belongings like a stranger… I write about my blubber? On the internet? Why would you do that? Why would anyone read that?

And then I watched some really depressing documentaries about wars and poverty and felt guilty for writing about trying not to eat things for almost eight years.

More soon, comrades! 🙂

Astounding Feats of Arithmetic

The Scottish Government is running a campaign for a healthier nation called Take Life On. Billboard sayz: change your life by swapping plate of flaccid chips for plate of pasta.


Some folks will get all snobby about it and suggest refined white pasta with a token blob of tomato goo isn’t particularly nutritious. Then there’s the billboard with a beer on it, imploring you try one night per week without a pint. But the campaign is all about the value of small changes adding up to a healthier you and I’m all for that. You gotta start somewhere, says she who once Drove Thru four times a week.

Must say though, first time I walked past that billboard I thought, "Ooh. Quite fancy chips for my dinner." I’ve been living here too long!

. . .

100 PushUps Update

Good news: I can now do 12 consecutive proper push-ups! (started out at 3)

Slightly crappy news: I needed to do 16 in order to progress to Week 3. FAIL!

Now I have to repeat Week 2, which had already taken 3.5 weeks to complete. At this rate I will be the World’s Oldest Blogger by the time I get to 100.  But my goal for six weeks was to get to 20, so I’m on my way to being able to respond if someone barks, "drop and give me twenty!"

Well… at this stage I’m only any good if conditions are perfect – properly hydrated, well rested, no kickboxing class the night before, not in a bad mood, etc. One day I’ll work up to a Spontaneous Show-off level of pushup prowess and I’ll drop to the floor in supermarket queues just because I can.

. . .

Any mathemagicians out there? Dr G and I have been having a heated debate about my push up statistics, namely by what percentage I have increased my ability. Could do 3, can now do 12. One of us says 300%, the other 400%. We’veve been sitting here scratching our heads for an embarrassingly long time!

Our excuse is that it’s 1AM and we also had a very very late Friday night. Actually Gareth has that PhD so he really has no excuse at all. I am so brain dead that I just asked him, "Is magician spelled with a J?"

Shauna used to be able to do just 3 push-ups, but can now do 12.
By what % has her push-up ability increased?

One Hundred Push-Ups

Who’s up for a new challenge? Andrew is taking on One Hundred Push-Ups. It looks to be the Couch to 5k of the push-up world, a six-week program designed to gradually build your strength for the mother of all moves. From the website:

"If you’re serious about increasing your strength, follow this six week training program and you’ll soon be on your way to completing 100 consecutive push ups! Think there’s no way you could do this? I think you can! All you need is a good plan, plenty of discipline and about 30 minutes a week to achieve this goal!"

Holy exclamation mark, Batman!

I like how they say "on your way" to completing 100 consecutive push ups, because right now my efforts are rather weak and wobbly and I’d be happy to work up to 20. We do a lot of push-ups in my kickboxing class but there’s only so much you can progress with one class a week. I like the idea of a real concerted effort to improve – not only the quantity but the quality of the reps.

It’s also a convenient wee challenge – I can do push ups anywhere, and unlike this stinking Moonwalk it’s not going to take over my life. Or puff up my hands.

So I’m in, baby! I’m going to take the initial push up test tonight then start next Tuesday 17th, giving myself a couple of days to rejoin the living après-Moonwalk.

Anyone else fancy it? It’ll be tops. And there’s nothing quite like knocking out a few push ups to make you feel smug, strong and sexy.

Further reading on the joys of push-ups for young and old, large and small:

(Proper entry re Moonwalk later today!)

Feats of Strength and Stupidity

Shera_2 I’ve been feeling kinda strong and feisty lately with all my kickboxing and weight training, and last night I gave Gareth a stunning demonstration. He was checking the kitchen floor for loose tiles and asked if I could help him move the washing machine. Two minute job, nae bother.

Separate laundries, a.k.a. utility rooms, are not common on the tiny isles of Britain. At least not in our sector of the housing market. So the washing machine is usually in the kitchen, wedged under the counter.

Ours machine is clunky and heavy so shifting it is a two man job. But I wanted to prove my brute strength and usefulness so I started dragging it out myself.

"Whoa!" said Dr G, "Nice one, She-Ra!"

I beamed.

"Can you just move it a little bit more to the right?"

I tugged with a Monica Seles urrrghhhh. There was a CRACK. Then a whoooosh. Then Gareth was almost knocked off his feet by the mighty jet of water that shot straight into his belly.

"You broke the hose! Turnitoff turnitoff turnitoff!"

"What? How? Where!?" I helpfully threw my hands in the air.

The severed hose writhed and the water spewed, rapidly flooding our stupid little kitchen. Gareth fought his way to the cupboard under the sink. Washing powder, garbage bags, shoe polish and sponges plopped into the water as he dug around for the switch.

Finally there was silence.

"I’ll get a towel," I said.

"This has done nothing to improve your reputation for having No Practical Skills."

"This wouldn’t have happened if we lived in a civilised country where laundries are not just for a privileged few!"

So apparently the hose is attached to the washing machine with a screwy-in-thingy and the screwy-in-thingy snapped right in half. Hopefully I can track down a new hose soon as it would be nice to wash the 27 towels it took to soak up the chaos.

"What were you trying to do there?" Gareth was laughing, despite being soaked to the bone, "You’re always so violent. No more kickboxing for you!"

It seems funny now but last night it felt like the straw that soaked the camel’s back. I  wanted to throw myself into the puddle and thrash like a toddler. This Fixing Up The Flat bollocks is getting old. Why does Two Minute Job task turn into an ordeal? Why can’t we just live in a dorm with a futon and a cardboard box?

I think Dr G has had enough too, going by his expression when he sat down on the couch last night and stretched his feet out under the coffee table, only to smash his toes against the microwave I’d neatly stowed there. Mess! Destruction! Trip hazards! Floods! Enough!

And what the hell does this have to do with weight loss, you may ask. Well. Perhaps we could fashion yet another weight loss analogy. Weight loss is like moving a washing machine because… people will tell you that it’ll be be quick and easy and painless but the reality can be very very messy and make you very very cranky.

Dip Dip

I have a burning ambition to do a tricep push up. Also known as a close-grip push up and probably seventy five other names, but it’s the one that looks like this.

I cannot do ’em for the life of me – I barely manage a standard push up! For years I’ve jealously watched people churn them out at Body Pump classes while I slumped on my mat. There is a strange beauty in that neat up and down action… it’s like the human equivalent of a collapsing ironing board!


I figure this time last year I couldn’t do tricep dips and now I finally can, so maybe in another years time I can do the pushup. At this rate I reckon could work up to a pullup in approximately 75 years!