January 30 #2: Stepping out to the tennis

My first ‘workout’ this morning didn’t quite cut the mustard, so I went downstairs and happily donned a new pair of sneakers bought the previous week. The only other sneakers I own were/are still covered in mud and looking pretty grotty from running in the forest. So using some of my Christmas present money from Leo, I splashed out on a half-price pair of sneakers that will never leave the house! No more jumping around barefoot.


New sneakers good. Urgh.

Stan and Novak were into the second set of the Australian Open semi-final by the time I stood on the little step machine, so with baked bean tins in hand (we ate one of the kidney bean tins in a chilli last weekend!), I cheered them on for 30 minutes. Heart was definitely pumping at the end, but not because of the result. Poor Stan.

Tomorrow marks one month of blogging. It’s been fun making an exercise habit, with you as my witness. I was thinking about tackling the nutrition/food part of this fitfor15in15 project in February, but I think that’s too soon. I’ll slowly phase out bad things throughout the month of February and then start with conviction in March. Eating chocolate will still be on the cards, but maybe I’ll forgo the cheese and beer. Did I just say beer? I must be delusional.

Wishing you a wonderful day, again.

January 30: Morning yoga

Following the uncomfortable experience of exercising after dinner last night, it was time to try something I’ve been meaning to do for a while – working out straight after my morning routine.

The 10 minutes of meditation was interrupted by the neighbour’s cat making a huge racket in the roof, so I did Kim Sears and her fiancé Andy Murray proud (language warning), while bashing my fist on the wall … then slowly went back to sitting on the floor … doing my meditation … as calm as can be … rubbing my hand on my knee … trying to ease the pain …

There were no Buddhist thoughts this morning. I want that cat gone!

This 15-minute morning yoga routine from instructor Brett Larkin came to me via social media last night, so it was perfect timing. Unfortunately, the routine didn’t have perfect timing (for me). It was just tooooooo slllloooooowwwww. Possibly doing the meditation and stretching beforehand had woken me up sufficiently. There are links for other, longer, yoga videos at the end if you fancy.

So I’m not sure if I’ll classify this as my fitfor15in15 routine today. I need to get my heart pumping a bit more. I’m off to watch Stan and Novak (I’m too lazy to spell-check their surnames!) play tennis. Maybe I’ll work out on the stepper at the same time, with the odd fist pump and “C’mon!” That should do the trick.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

January 29: Fondue + exercise = bad idea

It rained all day today so we stayed indoors, watched tennis and High Fidelity, cooked this awesome spinach and feta pie, and generally mooched around.

Then dinner struck. Fondue. Cheese. Bread. Potatoes. Sore belly.

Exercise tonight was going to be abs-focused, but I quickly had to change that plan and make it all about the legs and arms – my tummy was just too full.

I did some crunches (wrong!) then a variety of leg exercises lying on both sides, tricep dips on my desk, push ups with bent knees and some squats using the chickpea tins (ohh, those tins and I have made some history).

And that, I’m (happily) afraid, is that. Fifteen minutes. fitfor151in15 strikes again. My arms and legs are definitely feeling the benefits (during yesterday’s and this morning’s stretching, I could hardly touch the floor, my hammies were so tight), but my stomach? Who knows?! It’s full of melted cheese!

How’s your fitness plan coming along? Do you feel different?

Nicole and Cooper leave tomorrow morning, and it will be strange having everything so quiet again after so many good laughs. Hopefully I’ll have the chance to go to Lausanne next week to see him dance in the Prix de Lausanne (ballet) competition. Maybe it will inspire me to take a class? Ha!

Wishing you a wonderful day.

January 28: Tourists for the day

Done and dusted. Another great day is almost over. It all started with a beautiful sunrise and substantial breakfast in Bern, then a train ride, lunch and walk around Luzern (Lucerne in English, Luzern in German), then a drink in Bern and dinner at home.


A beautiful clear day greeted us this morning

Alps cloudy

Despite being cloudy, the Alps were clear and bright

Lake of Luzern (Lucerne)

Lovely scenes on the Lake of Luzern (Lucerne)


Snow, the lake and Mt Pilatus (I think!)

Sunset birds

Sunset over the lake, seen by us and a few birds


We celebrated with a drink at the Kornhauskeller bar in Bern

It’s now 10.33pm and I’ve just finished my 15 minutes of random exercises in the study/office with the chickpea tins. My arms were moving the whole time – punches, lifts, stretching behind, reaching over, pushing down. They’ve had a good workout.

My legs were doing squats or lunges, side to side stretches, heels or knees up … anything that required effort. Again it’s all been done late at night, which I have to sort out, but I’ll go to bed knowing I’ve achieved, even just a little.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

January 27: HIIT me with your rhythm sticks!

High-Intensity Interval Training. Never heard of it before. No, that’s not a question, missing its mark. That’s a statement. I’d never heard of HIIT until starting fitfor15in15. Like I’ve said, I’m soooo not in the loop with fitness.

Tonight, after a wonderful day and afternoon walking around the old town of Bern (which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site) with Nicole and Cooper, my first attempt on HIIT was made, thanks to the two women behind Tone It Up. And it was good. I should have done it in the loungeroom, as the workout needs a solid, non-moveable object to sit on, and the office chair was way too wriggly. So before you attempt it, set yourself up somewhere near a couch or stable chair.

It starts off easily enough, getting the body warm, and then 15 minutes later I was huffing and puffing, and that was without doing the exercises exactly the way they described. I didn’t have the stamina! There was one move where you touch your foot with the opposite hand and then push yourself up with the hand on the ground. I think it was called a crab move, or something, and it was impossible for me. Another goal added to the list.

Doing something different every day is becoming really enjoyable. My thighs still felt a bit sore from yesterday’s workout, and all the walking on cobblestones and concrete today probably didn’t help. But I’m glad I didn’t just come home and say, “Oh I’ve walked enough today, I won’t do the workout.” The habit has been formed and I don’t really feel the need to motivate or push myself to do it, because I’m finding exercise enjoyable. What, me?!

Now to master that crab move!

And here are some photos of Nicole and Cooper, the Aare River in the city, and the Bärengraben, where the bears live (yes, three bears live in the middle of the city in an enclosure, opened in 2009, right on the river). They’re currently sleeping somewhere nice and warm and will come out of hibernation in spring.

Wishing you a wonderful day.


Nicole and Cooper


Looking at the Aare river and Mattequartier, one of the first inhabited areas of the city


The bears live along the river and have their own swimming pool

January 26: Aussies here for Australia Day

My old workmate Nicole and her son Cooper arrived from Australia around lunchtime today, just in time for some Australia Day celebrations … oh wait, no, Nicole fell asleep after a few hours and Cooper, after a spirited bike ride to the local shops and back in heavy snow, lasted about an hour longer. Their flight from Sydney has taken its toll. Will they wake up really early tomorrow?

Today’s fitfor15in15 was inspired by Cooper. He’s a 17-year-old ballet dancer and will compete in an international competition in Lausanne next week. Good luck Cooper! We were talking about exercise and he mentioned how much he loved pilates for strengthening the legs. I’d never even thought of pilates before – such a novice!

So I did a bit of a search on YouTube and came up with this leg slimming pilates butt and thigh workout, from Fitness Blender (I did one of their overall body workouts on January 21 which was also great). There were plenty of pilates videos (from various instructors) to choose from, and it was my intention to go with a different source to mix it up for you, but after 30 minutes of testing, this was the one that jumped out at me. The workout started very quickly (no waffle from the instructor beforehand) and the woman’s voice was acceptable to my sensitive ears! Great criteria, I know, but I finished the video about half an hour ago, and my thighs are still burning. Good sign, right?!

The last exercise sent me into a fit of giggles. I was taking the minimalist approach to workout wear by exercising sans leggings, and could hardly do the last exercise because my thighs were fairly well stuck on the yoga mat (all while making a lovely squeaking noise too).

On a different note (!), the snow’s been falling for hours, so it’ll be interesting to see what we’ll be able to get up to as tourists tomorrow.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

January 25: Two-hour walk in the neighbourhood

Going for a walk on a Sunday just seems right, doesn’t it? We left at 12.45pm and arrived home at 2.45pm. The change in the weather was really noticeable, going from grey to brilliant blue, and by the time we were close to home, walkers were everywhere.

We went through villages and forests, where we stomped our way through mud, but were lucky enough to come home with clean shoes thanks to the endless snow.

I hope you enjoy the collection of photos from today’s two-hour fitfor15in15 walk from our house to Möriswil, Sariswil, Wohlen bei Bern and home again.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

January 24: Bedtime yoga

After yesterday’s four-hour cleaning effort followed by a boozy, cheesy dinner, I felt pretty average this morning!! My morning routine was done at midday, so that gives you an indication of how I was faring.

The whole day seemed sluggish. Mundane things like grocery shopping, doing the laundry and more vacuuming, this time at our house, preceded an afternoon on the couch eating Leo’s yummy chilli and watching crappy TV. I thought about using the step machine at some stages during the evening, but grabbed another piece of chocolate and pulled the blanket higher.

I haven’t changed my diet at all. This is something to address in the coming months (not that it’s terribly terrible), because there was no way everything could be done at once – I would have been a disaster. So I’m still drinking beer and eating dessert and having the odd bowl of chips/crisps and so on. Once the exercise habit is a habit, then I’ll look at the quantity and quality of what fuels me day to day. That’s also part of the course I’m currently enrolled in (my studies have been neglected this week. The lecturer said 40,000 people have enrolled in this MOOC, so I better pull up my socks!).

During the week, I read this simple but effective article about a woman who committed to doing 15 minutes of yoga per day for a month. Her outcome was encouraging and has also made me more inquisitive about yoga. Maybe I’ll add 15 minutes of yoga to my morning routine? 10 minutes of meditation, five minutes of stretching, and then 15 minutes of yoga … it could be possible. And then I’d do a minimum of 15 minutes of sweatier fitfor15in15 exercises later in the day … Hmmmm … It’s something to think about (but I’m worried about overcommitting myself time-wise).

The author, Grete DeAngelo, lightly touched on something I have been meaning to write about for a while. How the day could almost become a collection of 15 minute blocks; of 15 minute habits. Once you form one habit, it becomes easier to form another. Because when I think about how much I can achieve in 15 minutes with exercise, it almost becomes a game, a challenge, to start thinking of what else can be done in 15 minute blocks. It’s addictive!

Her story also sparked my desire tonight for a calming yoga routine before bed. I found this, and enjoyed it. It’s shot quite strangely – we’re looking at the man from behind and to the side, and he’s sitting a fair way away! Sometimes I had to look twice to work out what he was doing. But the exercises were just enough, the waves on the beach nice to listen to, and the rising moon pretty to see. Because this was the first time I’ve done this video, I had to keep checking my phone to understand his descriptions of some of the moves. If I do it again in the future, it will be more relaxing.

Here are some other things I enjoyed reading about this week:

Diagrams to help us understand some foods. This was very interesting, and helpful. As I said, I haven’t altered my diet at all yet. Baby steps, baby steps.

Technology is harming our brains. I think we all know this, but it’s an interesting read.

An interesting article about study and learning techniques. If you’re guilty of this, like me, it’s time to re-evaluate our methods!

A recipe for tumeric and ginger tea. Apparently it’s good for us. It sounds pretty delicious too. I’m trying to drink at least one (two-cup) pot of tea a day at the moment.

The Swiss finance industry caused a massive stir recently. If you can work out what it’s all about, can you please let me know? I’m still confused (was never good with money matters) but do know it means it will be more expensive for friends to visit us in Switzerland now. Sad face.

Wishing you a wonderful rest of the weekend.

January 23: Clean and simple

On average, once a month, my neighbour asks me to clean her house when she’s really busy. I’m happy to do this because she and her husband are very good to Leo and me. Like tonight, for example. We were invited for an amazing fondue dinner (which I enjoyed so much, I forgot to take photographs) and we spoke German and Swiss German for hours.

I’m always appreciative when my Swiss German friends speak High German with me, because, really, it’s a foreign language for them. Yes, they read it on a daily basis, but they don’t speak it. It’s kind of like requesting a Spanish person to speak Portuguese when you live in Spain. A neighbourly language, sure, but not really the same thing.

Today, I cleaned my neighbours’ house for four hours. I repeat. Four Hours. My back is broken but I feel like I’ve done something good for people who mean a lot to me. We have neighbourly dinners quite often, and they’re always a good giggle … with conversations such as how do you annoy a Swiss person, and how big is Australia in comparison with Europe.

I haven’t done my fitfor15in15 “15 minutes today” because, hell, I’ve done four hours. Cleaning a house where two people and a dog live takes time. I’m meticulous. I don’t even clean my own house as well as I clean the neighbours’. For me, it’s a labour of love. Tomorrow, it might be hard to touch the toes, but it’s worth it for the camaraderie and ongoing friendship. I like helping out when I can.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

The love of a good woman by Alice Monro


A collection of short stories

Maybe I was distracted while reading this collection of short stories by Canadian author Alice Monro, but I just couldn’t get my teeth into it. Possibly that is part of the short story genre?

Monro writes beautifully, and some of the stories will stay with me for a while, but her style is such that the end isn’t really the end. There’s a lot left to the imagination, some guessing going on, and you’re left with more to think about. Preferably, I like a story to have an absolute ending, a resolution, but maybe that’s something I need to work on, as opposed to saying it’s a fault in her style, because she’s a very popular writer.

Something sinister lies behind almost every story in the collection. Something happens, or is hinted at happening, that is unsettling. The title story is about a death that for years goes unexplained, and it slowly comes to light that some of the nice people of the town are not all that nice after all. For the main character to still love, and want to be involved with, the murderer was a mystery to me. It takes all kinds in this world, I know.

Of all the stories, I enjoyed “The Children Stay” the most. It was beautifully told, about a woman’s life going in a direction no one expected, not even her. The ending left a melancholy, but satisfied, feeling.

Maybe towards the end of the year, I’ll try reading another collection of Monro’s works. The love of a good woman has definitely contributed to my mental fitness, as the outcomes were challenging. But for now, I’m going to search out stories that have a beginning, a middle, and a definite end.