February 20: A 4km run through the forest

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Sandra ready for her run. Alas we weren’t running together, only in spirit!

After seeing this photo my friend Sandra sent me this morning, I was inspired to go for a run/jog/shuffle too. The weather is amazing – all the windows are open in the house to let the fresh air in, and our jackets are hanging on the clothesline getting an airing. Sandra stepped it up a notch and ran 8km, whereas I settled on my usual 4km track. Maybe when I’m fitter, we’ll go running together?

Seems like quite a few people had the same idea to enjoy the outdoors; I came across three couples and one man out for a stroll. So sweet, seeing the oldies holding hands as they walk in the sunshine. If they’d been eating ice creams on a bench together, I probably would have burst into tears (not sure why, but that gets me every time).

Unfortunately, the icy sections in the forest still haven’t melted. I felt a bit foolish tiptoeing through the dangerous parts (it must look hilarious from a distance) so ended up walking quite a lot, for fear of doing another learner-on-roller-skates impression. Pushing off with the back foot was always the slipperiest part.

And, of course, taking photos slowed me down! I found it hard to get into any kind of rhythm but still managed the 4km in 29 minutes 32 seconds. That’ll do me I say! My third fitfor15in15 run of the year. One bad thing though – as I set off, I realised not one drop of water had passed my lips this morning. I’m making up for it now, guzzling a few litres … in a ladylike manner.

Listening to all the birds and the snow melting has filled me with the joys of spring. It’s supposed to snow again tomorrow and early next week, but today, you wouldn’t believe those weather predictions could come true. Are the seasons changing where you are? I’m feeling for all my Australian friends on the north and east coasts at the moment, suffering in the cyclones. Hope the damages aren’t too bad.

And for something totally different, the sleepy capital city of Switzerland, Bern, came alive yesterday afternoon, thanks to the visiting fans from the Everton Football Club. Their team played Young Boys last night (yes, the football team from Bern is called Young Boys; so odd) in the Europa League and in order to prepare themselves for the match, thousands of fans took over the city. Drinking beer.

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Not sure how they got up there to hang those banners, as I think it’s an office! But they did!

I was meeting my friend Pastora in our favourite bar and we ended up having a hilarious afternoon talking to some of the more refined fans from England’s north – all totally out of the ordinary and very good for the soul. (It was a sad result for Bern and a good one for Everton: 1-4.)

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Pastora with the afternoon’s entertainment – the Everton lads!

Wishing you a wonderful day.

February 19: 15 minutes of fast moving

After completing a recent five-day workout challenge (please also see the previous five days of posts), it was time to give the body a bit of a break. I’ve still managed to sweat, but the home-spun, off the top of my head, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout today was just a fitfor15in15 minutes in total.

My idea was to keep moving the whole time, and do whatever came to mind, all while trying to keep a natural flow. So I ended up doing a mix of squats and lunges with punches, crunches, skipping on the spot, knee lifts, plank, fast twisting on the spot and so on, with a warm up and cool down. Thanks to all the exercises I’ve done in the past five days, it felt like I had plenty of options to choose from.

Minutes before starting, I’d finished my morning routine of meditation and stretching, so I felt quite warmed-up to begin with. My arms and butt cried out a little while doing this surprisingly quick routine and I’m now sitting at my desk with that satisfied grin of knowing I don’t have to do anything more today. *grin*

And that’s enough from me! I’m very happy to hand over to my first guest contributor, Nat Gauld, who has been a fitness instructor in Australia for more than 10 years. In the 24 years we’ve known each other, Nat has gone from a curious and enthusiastic participant to a fully accredited and passionate fitness instructor. Take it away Nat!

Getting Started by Nat Gauld

This is the first guest post in a new series designed to show the pleasant impact that feeling fit, in all its forms, can have on your life. Since meeting Nat Gauld in 1991, she has gone from an enthusiastic participant to a fully accredited fitness instructor with more than 10 years teaching experience. Take it away Nat!

Getting Started by Nat Gauld (RPM, Body Balance, Body Pump and Pilates instructor and lover of chocolate)

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Nat Gauld, in full swing, teaching her Body Balance class.

The hardest part of exercise is the same as the hardest part of writing a blog. Getting started. That first word. That first step. If you have the motivation to get out of bed and put on your gym shoes, you have cleared the biggest hurdle.

Having a goal is the key – doesn’t have to be a huge one. It can be: I want to do a 5km fun run; I want to wear that dress I spent too much money on two years ago; I want to have energy to play with my kids; I want to eat Tim Tams (an Australian chocolate biscuit) or I want to feel better about myself.

I don’t follow the theory that it is best to start an exercise program with a friend or family member – then you are not only responsible for your motivation but theirs. If they don’t want to go to the gym or go for a walk, that’s a way-too-easy escape clause for you and you don’t need it. Don’t let them lead you down the easy road out and don’t take on guilt when you want to exercise and they don’t. Once you have a routine, encourage friends to join you and you’ll make friends doing group fitness anyway!!! Group exercise is proven to have lots of benefits – social, as well as physical.

Set yourself a realistic goal, especially if you are starting from scratch – 15 to 20 minutes of any cardio is a great beginning. Case in point – this blog! And most of all don’t set foot on scales – they are your enemy. Your weight can fluctuate widely due to water or food consumption, hormones or once you start turning fat into muscle. Use your clothes to judge your progress and your recovery time – as you get fitter you will feel better faster and your clothes will start to loosen.

The first six weeks are the hardest but once you are in a routine it can become a great lifetime habit. Exercise will make you feel good – I find it a great stress reliever. I exercise in the morning before work because then it is done for the day. It doesn’t matter if your plans change during the day and you need to work late or go play – the job is done.

And remember to reward yourself for your commitment! Be it a beverage or something yummy – or even buying new gym gear!!! It doesn’t matter what you wear to exercise but new gear can be a motivator and a reward. You don’t need to look the part when you start though – go for comfort when working out. Thankfully the days of lurid G-strings over Lycra leotards are long gone. I must confess to wearing them back in the Darwin days, when we worked together, but Ange was way more sensible and more the T-shirt and shorts person! Shelling out for expensive gear is not a motivator when starting off, so wait until you’re hooked!

And reward yourself with a day off when you need it – especially if you are unwell or really tired.
Exercise is actually fun and once you start you won’t want to stop.

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Nat, instructing an RPM cycling class, believes exercising should be fun … and leads by example!

February 18: Fifth and final day of the Fitness Blender Challenge

It’s finished! I survived! And to be honest, at the end of today’s workout, the temptation was high to continue exercising with another Fitness Blender video on YouTube. Could it be today wasn’t as tough as they predicted? Or is my brain and body enjoying this strenuous exercise phase?

The final day of the Fitness Blender 5 Day Workout Challenge to Burn Fat & Build Lean Muscle was shorter than the others, at 37 minutes, and it felt like I could have pushed myself harder. Maybe that’s because I’m still using tin cans as weights, and the two instructors are lifting much more. Perhaps when I do this five-day workout again, I’ll try holding wine bottles instead, which I threatened to do yesterday, but totally forgot about until sitting down at my desk now. Oops.

Today’s focus was on high-intensity interval training (HIIT) for butt and thighs. My arms are still feeling it from yesterday’s workout, which I think was the toughest day, so it was a relief that they concentrated on another area completely. Lots of squats and lunges … but possibly not enough? (I’m sure I’ll be grateful for the shorter workout when I wake up tomorrow!)

So for now, it’s a fitfor15in15 thank you and goodbye to Daniel and Kelli from Fitness Blender, and I’ll definitely be back for more in the not-too-distant future. For those interested, they also have longer programs – from two to eight weeks – on their website, which cost a little bit of money. My idea is to keep costs down, seeing as I don’t have a job at the moment, but if you like their style, and would like nutritional information included too, then these longer programs could work for you. I have no affiliation with them at all, I’ve just enjoyed their workouts and thought I should mention they offer more.

Tomorrow, I’ll be going back to 15 minutes of exercise for at least one day, just to give my body a little break. But I’m looking forward to ramping it up again next week perhaps, because this feeling … it’s a good feeling!

Wishing you a wonderful day.

February 17: Day four of the Fitness Blender Challenge

Writing every day makes it feel like time is moving quickly – or IS it just going really fast? Soon enough, we’ll be one-sixth of the way through the fitfor15in15 year. Yikes!

Right now, we’re at the six-and-a-half-week mark (sounds like a movie!) and I’m definitely feeling changes … I’m using less body moisturiser. (Joking!) We don’t own a set of scales, so I have no idea how much I weigh and don’t care! All that matters at the moment is my belt does up one hole tighter and there’s a hint of some muscle about the places; there’s a little less hail damage on the outside of my thighs and my ‘toodles’, the wobbly bits at the back of the arms, sway less in the breeze – all great incentives to keep going. Maybe when I’m feeling at my peak (December 31) I’ll post some ‘before and after’ photos. *how embarrassment*

This morning, I finally wrote my review of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo, so have a read if you fancy. Over the past few weeks, I’ve used the KonMari Method to lighten the clothes and books load, sort out my cupboards and drawers, and it prompted me to clean my desk too. Now I just have to go through 18-months worth of papers from my German classes so the office will be clean and organised … on my side. (Ha! Just testing to see if Leo is reading this?!)

At lunchtime, I met the friend (Leonie) of a mutual friend (Kim) in Bern, which was great. It was nice to hear Leonie’s Aussie accent and talk about life in Switzerland. My neighbour lent me his car for the quick trip, in return for buying him a loaf of Basler Brot! A very fair trade.

And now, I’ve just finished day four of the “Fitness Blender 5 Day Workout Challenge to Burn Fat & Build Lean Muscle.” My arms are really feeling it! There were quite a lot of push ups, downward dogs and punching. This workout focused on kickboxing and yoga moves and was totally enjoyable – Daniel and Kelli mix up the exercises to keep it fun, even while your arms are shaking and sweat runs in your eyes. They’ve found a really good balance of exercises, and also, for me, it’s nice working out with professionals because you feel it’s going to pay dividends. (Maybe this is also a sign I should stop exercising on my own so much, because today I found myself laughing along with their couple banter and saying thanks at the end of the session :-/ … )

Tomorrow is the last day of the challenge, and they’ve promised we’re going out with a bang, so I’m going to take it a bit easier on Thursday and include a special guest post from Nat Gauld, a fitness instructor who may give you the push you need to start your fitfor15in15 challenge. Just because it’s halfway through February doesn’t mean you can’t start now!

Wishing you a wonderful day.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo

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Marie Kondo gets to the heart of decluttering

“Effective tidying involves only two essential actions: discarding and deciding where to store things.”

There are hundreds of decluttering and organising books on the market, guiding you on your chosen journey to ‘get rid of stuff’. I’ve read many of them over the past four years, after a “my stuff owns me” revelation in early 2011. Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying (or The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, depending on the version) is possibly one of the most extremely simple, because she gets down to the nitty gritty by asking one brilliant question.

“Does it spark joy?”

When you hold something in your hand, and really feel it, does it make your heart sing, or do you feel indifferent, or, at the other end of the scale, repulsed? We think we might have indifferent reactions to, say, kitchen utensils, but if you hold your whisk and think, “That makes lovely scrambled eggs for breakfast on Sunday mornings” then the association is a good one, and therefore the item stays. If you hold a book in your hand and think “I disliked the main character immensely”, then, obviously, it’s a goner.

I read this book quite quickly, because Kondo has a very relaxed style, with the occasional anecdote and story from a client. She is a Japanese tidying expert, and has been decuttering, cleaning and organising things since she was a small child. It was her calling, so to speak. Once she’d finished with her room, she did her siblings’, and then her parents’, with mixed results! So she strongly suggests sticking with your own personal things at the beginning of your what-will-soon-be mania. Organising is divided into clothes, books, papers (sorting through papers! Argh!), miscellaneous items and lastly, sentimental items and keepsakes and should be done in this order.

As mentioned before, we live in a small house, which I love, because it limits what we can bring in. We have a wardrobe, set of three large drawers and two smaller chests of drawers each. Before reading this book, I was an advocate of Project333, where you have about 33 pieces of clothing in your cupboard for each season. I hadn’t quite got around to whittling my wardrobe down, because I pretty much had 33 items of clothing for EACH season, and stored the out-of-season clothes in the three large drawers and hung the in-season things, including t-shirts etc, in the cupboard. Then I only needed to look into the cupboard to decide what to wear. Surprisingly, I miss this a little bit – knowing everything you’d decided was right for the season is right there in front of you. I hung t-shirts and singlets and shirts and skirts and shorts and jeans in the cupboard. No guess work really.

Now, everything that needs to be hung is hung, so summer and winter skirts snuggle side by side. Seeing these summer skirts when it’s -4 outside does seem like a bit of a waste of space at the moment, but I’m making a commitment to the KonMari Method and know there will be an adjustment period! But one thing I am truly excited about is Kondo’s great way to fold clothes. When you read about it you slap your head in disbelief that you’d never thought of it before. For example, instead of putting all your t-shirts piled up on top of each other in a drawer, so the bottom ones rarely see the light of day, fold them all on their side, from the front of the drawer to the back, so you can “flick” through them easily and see them all in one go. This little change means I’m now wearing things I’d forgotten about.

Kondo could be classified as a little bit odd, but by goodness, she is passionate. And you cannot hold that kind of harmless passion against anyone. She loves it. She’s made a business of it. She’s written a million-copy bestseller about it. She’s into it! And I like that about her. She has many sweet ways to help you let things go and most of the time her logic is sound (note that I use “most of the time” … if you read it, I think you’ll know what I mean).

But her undeniably intelligent strategy is this – once you have only the things that spark joy, and you’re found the right place where they should live, you will never have to tidy or declutter again; the day-to-day house stuff solves itself. When you love what you see around you, the promise is almost there that it will be a life filled with much more joy. And therein lies her perfect pitch. After a recent clean-out, I still have the last three sections to attack (Papers! Argh!) and in a strange way, despite my joking protestations, I’m actually quite looking forward to it.

February 16: Day three of the Fitness Blender Challenge

I’m feeling a wee bit tired. Not quite exhausted. But not on top of my game. This “Fitness Blender 5 Day Workout Challenge to Burn Fat & Build Lean Muscle” is really enjoyable, but I think it’s getting the better of me!

Day three today, which moved the focus from legs and arms to high-intensity interval training for abs and cardio. I felt amazing after finishing this 52-minute workout this afternoon, and should have written about it straight away, because now I’m too tired (10.19pm) to rave about it. The exercises are fun and the hosts, Daniel and Kelli, keep you motivated and smiling, despite their cheesy banter. Normally I would find stuff like that quite nauseating, but for some reason, with them, it’s just really cute.

The morning started well, despite feeling incredibly tight in the legs. I’ve rediscovered muscles most normal people have. My thighs and glutes hurt just walking. It’s a good kind of pain, but it’s made the morning routine stretches even harder, and, most likely, even more necessary as a great way to start the day. I met my friend Tineke in town for lunch, so I also walked 40 minutes to the bus and back (in total). Combined with a 30-minute stroll around the city, the legs really have had a good workout.

How do people manage to run consecutive marathons? And how’s this young woman who holds the world record? I’ve done three 50-minute workouts in a row and I’m knackered! Because the exercises are harder and the workouts are longer than what I would normally do (especially on consecutive days), I hope it’s really making an impact on my fitness, that can be maintained and improved upon during the next few weeks.

This 5 Day Challenge could be a really good thing to do once every three months, just to give yourself a little boost. At the moment, I’m kind of cursing it, but finishing it on Wednesday might also be a sad day – I’ll miss their laughs!

Here are some photos from today.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

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When the snow melts, it goes fast!

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The melting snow has brought down some sweet, little moss clumps off the roof

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It was very foggy here today. That’s the view to my favourite farmhouse, on the walk to the bus

February 15: Day two of the Fitness Blender Challenge

Last night, we had a great Valentine’s Day dinner with friends Pastora and Leo at this lovely restaurant on the Aare river in Bern. My suspicions were confirmed! I thought we might be dining out with them! We ate and drank too much – definitely not part of the Fitness Blender Challenge – but hey, it’s all about balance.

The back of my legs were really sore today, because of yesterday’s workout, so I struggled with squats and anything requiring a straight leg. Day two, at 44 minutes, was four minutes shorter than day one and didn’t feeeeeeel quite as tough (well, I didn’t sweat as much!), but that’s probably because I had to do the beginner’s suggestions thanks to my legs aching so much. No doubt, they’ll be like this tomorrow too.

Also, I’m lifting tin cans while the hosts, who were definitely feeling it, lift much heavier weights. A bit of me wishes I had heavier weights, as these arms need some serious toning, but at the same time, I’m pretty happy I still have full use of them right now. Maybe I’ll try a wine bottle in each hand tomorrow … and then resist the urge to open them afterwards,

In my hurry to get out the door yesterday, I forgot to add the collection of links to articles or things I’ve enjoyed reading during the week, so here they are …

In a continuing theme about accents, following last Saturday’s New York clip, here’s a tour of the British accents. Can you hear all the differences easily? If you’re from Great Britain, do you think the guy, who might be a professional voiceover artist, got them right?

Well, here’s something we should be proud of at fitfor15in15 – an article about doctors being urged to promote the “miracle cure” of regular exercise. We’re so regular we go every day! (Oops that came out wrong … of no, that didn’t make it any better either …)

I read a website, called The Private Life of a Girl, for little snippets of creative insight and blogging help and fashion … and … and … she posts daily so there’s always something! This one, about occasionally feeling directionless, was sweet.

Reading about the Food Babe this week was news to me, but apparently she’s big in America. Vani Hari is trying to get the chemicals and toxins taken out of packaging, among other things. Here’s an article from The Atlantic about her crusade.

And my friend Gabby sent me two interesting stories – one about what monks do in the modern world and an illustrated look at words in foreign languages that are hard to explain in English. Beautiful!

While reading all this and more, I failed to do any study or write the review for Marie Kondo’s book 😦 Slack! I’m onto it this week!

Wishing you a wonderful day.

February 14: A 48-minute Valentine’s Day workout with the cutest couple

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

How cool is this car-track design outside our garage last night? What a fluke to have two crazy hearts! Happy Valentine’s Day! (Not that I’m really into it, but I received beautiful flowers which I’m very happy about.)

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My lovely bunch of flowers from Leo

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A lazy morning then grocery shopping (how romantic!) took up most of the day, and it’s now 5pm and we’re going out at 6pm for a “surprise” dinner. I think I have an idea what it’s going to be, but for now I’ll just be quiet and wait patiently for the reveal 🙂

I felt like doing a Fitness Blender workout again, because normally they’re short and to the point, but instead this longer workout, part of a five-day series, caught my eye. So I did day one today and will complete the series on Wednesday. It was a really good workout, lots of squats and arm exercises, and I used the tins cans instead of their clever weights. I’m sure I’d be feeling a whole lot worse if I’d been using the recommended weight!

Now only was the workout fun, the hosts who are obviously a couple are just so darn sweet. They bounce off each other (verbally, not literally) in the nicest way and it was hard not to giggle along with them. Awwwww, lovebirds! The perfect workout for Valentine’s Day!

I’ve done a few Fitness Blender things before, but what I didn’t realise is this husband and wife team are behind it all. They have made over 400 exercise videos available to us for free. These guys are not only cute, they rule as far as I’m concerned!

Would you like to join me on Fitness Blender’s 5 Day Workout Challenge to Burn Fat & Build Lean Muscle? They say you shouldn’t drink alcohol during the five days, but I’m going to have to break that rule/suggestion tonight!

And now for a shower and away we go! I’ve got half an hour to get ready! Yikes!

Wishing you a wonderful day.

February 13: Plenty of luck on a 4km run in the forest

I’m not overly superstitious, but occasionally I touch wood and avoid walking under ladders and so on. This morning, I joked with Leo that I wouldn’t leave the house for fear of something going wrong. Strange things can happen on Friday the 13th, or on any other day to be honest …

Throwing caution to the wind, I DID leave the house – to christen my new jogging/shuffling sneakers. A big risk, considering I took a tumble on my last run, and still have the scars to prove it!

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Out with the old …

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… and in with the new!

The white ones had served me well for the past six years, not that they were flogged to death or anything, but running – sorry, shuffling – in the forest over the past few years had taken its toll.

So when I saw these new ones also 50% cheaper (in a continuation of the sale where I bought my indoor sneakers), I couldn’t resist. It was time for replacements and at half price, resistance was useless.

The track through the forest was still very icy and covered in snow, despite so much of it melting in all the glorious sunshine over the past few days. Dripping water was such a comforting sound today – it means spring is coming! Normally dripping water makes me want to race to the toilet and if it’s a dripping tap, well that’s another story completely – that noise drives me mental! Ahh, misophonia … the gift that keeps on giving.

At first, I was unsure if these new shoes would provide enough support for that problem with my left foot, which has been diagnosed by a podiatrist as Metatarsalgia. New orthotic inserts/innersoles have helped a lot. The pain was crazy there for a while, and that’s another reason why I haven’t been jogging since January 10.

After testing them out on my usual 4km lollipop loop, which involved some springing from non-muddy patch to non-muddy patch, there was no pain. Happy camper. I didn’t struggle with the slow incline as much as I have in the past, and may have stretched my legs a little longer and held my head a little higher as I ran past the loggers cutting down some trees on the homeward stretch. Such an idiot! All up, the run took me 26 minutes, which included walking as a warm-up for two minutes. I’m getting fitter!

Buying the two new pairs of shoes goes against my minimalistic grain, but the foot problem made it a no-brainer. I know you’re supposed to replace sneakers quite regularly too, so six years was a good stint. And it was so nice to see that flash of colour, especially running through the snow!

Fancy going for a shuffle/jog/run? Even round the block is better than nothing. Start on a flat path and then maybe build up to an incline or two when you feel ready for another challenge. I’m not quite ready to run any further just yet (this being only my second jog – sorry, shuffle – of the year), but with these new shoes I’m looking forward to doing more.

Wishing you a great day.

P.S I cleaned my desk today too.

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Space, at last!

There’s no before photo – WAAAAY too embarrassing. It was littered with German books and German magazines and pieces of paper and dust and notebooks and, let’s face it, too much crap to go on like that. Now along with all things computer, I just have a candle and lighter (for my morning routine, done on the floor), the lamp, a little bottle of nice smellies topped with the tiny knitted hat I love, a print of an artwork by Hans Schärer called Madonna 2 (my highlight from an exhibition in Bern in 2012) and a box of tissues.

Surely, with all this space, prize-winning writing will ensue?!

Do you love your creative space? Does it inspire you?