March 31: Lausanne, push ups, abs and other inspirations

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Beautiful Lausanne on Lake Geneva

Up until seven weeks ago, I’d never been to Lausanne, on Lake Geneva, and today I found myself there again, to see an old friend from London days. Brett and I worked in media, we had mutual friends and occasionally often found ourselves propping up a bar, beer in hand, watching said mates being idiots.

We’re older and wiser now, and chatted about the past and present (during the breaks) while Brett worked as a cameraman covering the current Iranian nuclear arms talks. When the presenter asked me if I was interested in the outcome, I had to confess my complete lack of knowledge (I dislike the word ignorance) on the subject. Unfortunately I couldn’t learn more from her, because her live news crosses were in Persian! The line-up of journalists and crews under those tents was totally multicultural.

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Reporting from Lausanne on the Iranian nuclear discussions

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All the outside broadcast (OB) vans

Overall, a great afternoon gasbagging and drinking tea down by the water in the freezing wind. Definitely good for the soul! Thanks Brett!

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Mates for 20 years

For the workout today I made something up, which now has my arms shaking. Initially, the 15 minute plan was to alternate one minute of push ups with one minute of abs, but after the first two minutes I could only manage 30 seconds of push ups. So it became 30 seconds push ups, one minute abs, 30 seconds push ups etc. All the push ups were done on my knees – I’m still not strong enough to do a full push up. But I’m getting there. Using the timer on my phone, I wound down the clock and I know my arms, more than my abs, will be sore tomorrow. That might make amends for the chocolate croissant I ate in Lausanne!

Following on from Sal’s inspirational story yesterday, I was thinking, on the train, about other things that have made a lasting impression on me. I’ll limit this to two for now.

The first ‘person’ who came to mind was actually a frog. Watching Kermit the Frog do his Sesame Street News Flash stories made me want to be a journalist. Stop laughing. Ok, start again, because here’s a silly clip where Kermit tries to find out what makes people angry. For me, his incredible job allowed him to ask all the interesting questions, even if he sometimes never received a proper answer. Overall, those spots made a huge impression on my once overly inquisitive mind. Now I’m happy to just let some things remain unknown, possibly such as, for example, in-depth details of the Iranian nuclear debate.

The second big impression I want to mention was a feature story written by Gay Talese. While studying a Masters of Publishing in 2009-10, one of the subjects introduced me to his amazing magazine article about Frank Sinatra. In 2003, Esquire named it the greatest story they’d ever published. Even if you’re not a Sinatra fan, I vouch that you’ll still enjoy it. Oh to be able to write like that!

Fancy sharing some of your inspirational moments or favourite influential people?

Wishing you a wonderful day. And here are some other pictures from today:

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Still getting used to the missing flagpole – it came down in the wind yesterday. Now we have an even better view!

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Looking over Wohlen towards the Swiss Alps

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The flowers are coming! The sign says “Flowers for self picking”

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A beautiful magnolia bud, I think?!

March 30: 30-minute HIIT workout

Have you seen today’s guest contribution from Sal Book? She proves you can change a ‘never never’ attitude to a ‘let’s do this’ attitude with time and patience. What an inspirational transformation! If you didn’t see it, read about Sal’s memorable story here.

Her enthusiasm for running made me want to go for a run today. (Actually, I first read her story on the bus home from the city last week, and if it hadn’t been for a pair of boots and some heavy bags, I would have jumped off and tried to sprint home!) Unfortunately, it’s going to be raining here for the foreseeable future, so another 5km run in the forest remains a carrot at the end of the donkey’s string. Yes, I am the donkey.

It’s been a cruisy few days in the fitfor15in15 exercise stakes, so I thought I’d go a bit harder on core today with another workout from Fitness Blender. This 30 minute total body workout, which is also called Intense at Home HIIT Cardio and Abs Workout – Abs on Fire, requires no equipment and lived up to it’s name.

I couldn’t complete some of the exercises as fast or as well as the trainer, Daniel, which is no surprise really, but I laughed out loud when he piped up at one stage with “This is a bad idea.” I couldn’t agree more – we were both sweating like maniacs at the end! He definitely made it a tough workout. To paraphrase an Alicia Keys song … “My abs are on fiiiyyyyerrrrr!”

With it blowing a gale outside – the wind was so strong it uprooted our flagpole – I spent a lot of time on the computer today. My 52 Books Challenge for 2015 is running behind schedule, but finally I’ve written another review. Last week I finished The Lotus Eaters by Marianne MacDonald in three hours – if only all books were that easy – and you can read more about it here if you fancy.

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The view is clear without the fallen flagpole with the Aussie flag. It is fixable!

Judy mentioned in a comment on my diet/food dilemma post about the 5:2 diet. Have you heard about it? If not, you can read more about it on the official website here, on the BBC Good Food website or in Marie Claire’s ‘definitive guide’ on the pros and cons, including some recipes for the two fasting days. The main crux of the plan is you eat normally for five days and have a reduced calorie intake for two non-consecutive days per week, like a form of fasting.

I had heard about it before but hadn’t done much research. For someone who has a phobia about cooking a different meal every night, this could be the perfect solution. Maybe April is a good time to start? Luckily, Leo made a risotto for dinner last night and we have enough for tonight as well – the perfect lead in to a new idea to shift a few pesky wobbly bits. Would you be interested in joining me?

Wishing you a wonderful day.

The Lotus Eaters by Marianne MacDonald

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Marianne MacDonald’s first novel about two lost souls who somehow become friends

When the internet was down for the week, I had the chance to read this book in one three-hour sitting, which gives an indication of how easy it is to read. Whether I like it or not is still debatable. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great.

Dowdy journalist Lottie and wannabe-actress Patty Belle strike up an unusual friendship during the late 90s. Patty seems to have it all and Lottie, well, not a lot. Her hopeless relationship with a forever-absent copywriter becomes a bit dull and pointless. Patty’s relationships with, well, almost everyone, including the violent gangster Ed Kaplan, are also eye-rolling material, but we all know people like Lottie and Patty and I suppose that’s a bonus point for MacDonald.

All friendships in groups big or small tend to have that one train-wreck member, and in The Lotus Eaters, Patty is just that. Guys fall for her innocence and charm, girls don’t know whether to hit her or play mum. By the end of the book most people just want rid of her.

Without any thought for consequences, Patty makes her mark on Lottie’s established group of university friends and changes them all. Patty just thinks about what feels right at the time in her constant search for adoration and love. Of all the characters, she is the most memorable, but at the end of the book you’re left with the feeling that everything has changed but it’s still exactly the same. Not much of a legacy for the glamorous Patty Belle.

No More Rules by Sal Book

This is the fifth guest post in a new fitfor15in15 series designed to show the pleasant impact that feeling fit, in all its forms, can have on your life. Sal Book’s life-changing light bulb moment came several years ago when she broke a self-imposed rule and took on a challenge. The balance she’s now found makes for a wonderful, inspiring and totally relatable story. Take it away Sal!

No More Rules by Sal Book (FOX8 Design Director for Foxtel in Sydney, Australia, and lover of baking)

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Sal and her boys after a half marathon in Sydney, September 2014

No running policy. No running whatsoever. Too many bits that wiggle. It hurts. Don’t run for buses. Maybe run for your life if necessary. I lived by a ‘no running policy’ that I joked about a lot. It was up there with my ‘don’t wear swimwear in front of work colleagues’ and ‘don’t live in share houses with couples’ list of rules to live by. Because in my 20s, I thought I knew everything.

I nearly broke that lifelong no running policy. Almost. I made some wonderful little humans and before long, I was running around after them 24/7/365. I wasn’t physically running, but there were definitely a lot of bits that wiggled. As a busy mum, working full time and chasing after kidlets, my 162cm body broke through and beyond the 100kg barrier. I had a moment of shock one day, watching the Biggest Loser and stuffing my face (as you do), when one of the contestants weighed in lighter than me. Yikes! It was time to ditch the wiggle.

I bought a very cheap cross trainer and off I went – weight watcher-ing everything I ate by day, cross training by night. My husband was wonderfully supportive and helped me find the time I needed for exercise. Most importantly, he listened to all my bitching about food. I love food and it was hard. Kilos slowly peeled away and 18 months later I was 30kg lighter. But the lifelong no running policy was still intact. In my mind, a cross trainer wasn’t running, so all was good.

I work in a creative industry and have found that most creatives are an inspired and positive bunch of people who enjoy the lustre of crazy ideas. Two of my colleagues were mad enough to sign up for this thing called Tough Mudder. They started a campaign to enlist anyone and everyone on their team. I was 30kg lighter, feeling great and tempted by the idea to just do something out of the ordinary. My friend knew I was a country girl at heart and wasn’t afraid of a bit of dirt, so he kept pushing me to give it a go. I had to tell him about the no running policy but he persisted and I’m ever so grateful he did.

The event was months away and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I figured that it if I could endure over 24 hours of labour pains, to squeeze out a human being, then surely I could take on this measly Mudder business. One unexpected perk from childbirth was the feeling of empowerment. The most incredible thing I’ve ever done in my lifetime is give birth to my sons. After they arrived in my life, I was surprised by an unforeseen drive that was born inside of me, especially to feel ownership of my body again. I felt like I could do anything. Take on any challenge. So I decided to do the Tough Mudder. I was going to own it. Go the whole 21km with obstacle courses. I signed up. I was scared. Damn it! I better start running or something.

The no running policy was abolished. Training was hard. I had a lot of support from friends and family. My sister ran with me, my team ran with me. My Mudder goal was to be able to run 7km without stopping and push myself with strength training on the side. Everyone around me helped a great deal, but ultimately the person who had to push me the most was me.

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This popular waterside path in Sydney, called The Bay Run, is one of Sal’s favourite runs

Running was a whole world outside my comfort zone. All those wiggly bits did hurt. Running with a D-cup does suck. Every time I had a running session, I never actually wanted to run. I would procrastinate, taking forever to get out of bed, find my gear, put my shoes on. I would force myself to run, and found that I always felt amazing afterwards.

Hiding inside that little moment after the run is the addiction. You don’t see it or feel it coming. The mind says no, but after you finish, the body says yes. It feels amazing … after you’ve run your first ever full kilometre without stopping … after you’ve run your first 5km … after your first ever racing event … after your first ever PB … after every PB … Eating. After. Running (my personal favourite).

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A leap of faith! Sal flying high in the Tough Mudder

Tough Mudder was difficult and incredible. Mission impossible was to attempt every obstacle. I succeeded all but one and I was grateful for my run training. For those moments between the obstacles, it didn’t feel hard. My body was able to cope and keep up with my team.

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What’s not to love about this photo?!

All the winter running had really prepared me for the cold, thick mud. I finished and it was surreal. I felt invincible. But the very next week I stopped running. It was all done and dusted. I didn’t realise that I had ignited a spark.

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Mission: Accomplished!

After Tough Mudder, I spotted an advertisement for the San Francisco Half Marathon. The thought of running across the Golden Gate Bridge was enough to turn that spark into a desire to find that invincible feeling again. It didn’t take much pestering to convince my husband that we should take a family holiday to the States. Much like me, he is a man who loves experiences and before we knew it, we had booked flights for the family to America and both of us were signed up for the half marathon.

I ran 21km in 2h 26mins. I ran 18 of those kilometres grinning like an idiot, oblivious to the hurt, feeling mesmerised by where I was and where my running had taken me. I couldn’t believe I was running on the road of the Golden Gate Bridge. The last 3km did actually hurt, especially on some of the hills as we headed back into the city, but I still loved it.

My husband and I had walked across the Golden Gate on our honeymoon 11 years earlier, so to run across it was very special. He was behind me on the course, but I worked out that we would cross paths as I came back for the return leg of the bridge. I texted him to keep an eye out. We found each other, a quick kiss in the middle of all the runners and then off again.

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Running across the Golden Gate Bridge was a proud and memorable achievement

One thing I love most about life, is that you never know what is ahead of you. The first time I walked that bridge with my husband, I never imagined a decade later we would be running a half marathon across it. These are the things that make me smile in life. Running continues to make me smile in life.

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Sal chasing Minions in the iconic Sydney City to Surf race

It’s almost my three-year ‘runniversary’ and running is just a part of who I am now. I am a busy mum and to fit everything in, I run to work. I’m solving a transport and time issue all in one. On my long run days, I get to feel a little bit ‘bad ass’ by watching the sun rise while I’m out. If I run to work, for the rest of the day I enjoy a lovely ‘I don’t care if the Zombie Apocalypse happens’ sort of feeling – if the zombies come, well at least I can run fast enough! If work gets a bit stressful, somehow it feels easier to cruise through the problems and find solutions.

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Peace and beauty on an early morning run to work

I get a lot of support from my husband. Running is something that requires time, but we try our best to give that to each other. I think it’s important for parents to have time for themselves. When I’m running, there are no phone calls, no emails, no mummy, no dramas. It’s just me. I also get a lot of support from my running group. Last year I joined Running Mums Australia, not expecting the positive change it would bring to my running. It’s a virtual running group on Facebook with over 9000 members. All of them just mums who like to run. Some are champion runners, some are just starting out, some do ultra marathons, others enjoy 5km events. All of these women are connected by their desire to run. It’s a place to share run stories and seek advice. RMA has definitely helped me maintain my running mojo and I’m very proud to be a part of that group.

My new rule is to stop making rules. They only hold you back.

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Crossing the middle of the Sydney Harbour Bridge by foot isn’t something you can do every day. But it was possible for Sal, once she broke ‘the rules’

March 29: 20-minute yoga workout and food dilemmas

What a lazy day it was! The wind was howling, it rained non-stop and the low-hanging clouds made it feel like it was dusk all day. It was hard to separate my arse from the couch. So I didn’t try much.

Now, it’s late and I need to exercise. Sadie Nardini comes to the rescue (again! Search for her name in the search tool on the blog and you’ll see some of her other workouts) with a 20 minute Booty Booster Flow. Seeing as mine had been flat all day, I figured it could do with a boost. Shake that booty.

Can someone else please do this and let me know if you sweated as much as I did? Maybe our heating is up too high? I had to strip off my socks, then my leggings, and then my t-shirt in order to get through this. How strange! Hopefully my arse will be awake tomorrow. But thanks again Sadie, for another good workout. (I did have to cut her short though, because for the first time, her constant talking really, really did my head in. I’m sure it’s because it’s late. I think.)

I’ve also been thinking about my diet, and by diet I don’t mean lettuce leaves and air but what I currently eat. The idea of changing my nutrition, which isn’t all that bad I don’t think, has always been part of the fitfor15in15 plan. But as I’ve mentioned before, things are slowly being changed in order to not be overwhelmed and fail everything at once.

After three months of daily workouts, an exercise habit has been formed. Once again, before the start of a new month, I think about when is the right time to tackle the nutrition side of things. It’s time to really start thinking about cutting out the crap. Even just for a short amount of time – say one, two or even three months.

Years ago, I did the Liver Cleansing Diet and felt quite healthy. By the end of three months, I even craved an apple instead of a chocolate bar as an afternoon snack. Unheard of for me! Now I’m thinking about encorporating some of those elements and additional things like smoothies and nuts and … oh it’s all so overwhelming!

Generally we eat quiet well (Leo jokes that he’s gained every gram of fat I’ve lost in the past three months) but it’s the snacks and treats which are the killers. Chips, chocolate, biscuits, pastries … mainly anything sweet and delicious. They’re not part of the everyday, but they’re definitely around a bit too much. It’s a constant battle against a sweet tooth.

Do you think it’s a good idea to try some sort of diet? Some kind of plan? I’m a bit loathe to do that, because buying new ingredients and making new meals every night is a bit overwhelming and tedious for me. I have a tendency to want to do things by the book or not at all, but the thought of all that time in the kitchen … ugh … I should be more positive about it, right?! Once again, I’ll keep thinking about it for a while longer. But I think the time has come to make a decision/change. Let me know if you have any thoughts on the matter!

Here are some photos from my trip to meet Claudia in Bern on Wednesday, that I said I’d post when the internet worked again.

And please stop by tomorrow when you can read the next guest contributor installment, from Sal Book, who has a lovely story about her change of heart from being a ‘never never’ to a ‘let’s do this’ exerciser.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

March 28: Sightseeing and the 7-Minute Workout

Tonight at 8.30pm, wherever you are, is Earth Hour. Do you ‘celebrate’ Earth Hour by turning your lights off at home and having a romantic evening with candles, for one hour? We’ll be at Eve and Paul’s house, so won’t be celebrating at home, if at all! Next year hopefully.

Sunshine and a free day were enough to push us out the door to go exploring, with a drive to the area around the Lake of Biel, and a small village called Erlach. You can reach St Peters Island from Erlach (we walked out there with our friend, Liz, in 2013 when it was covered in snow) but the town itself is also worth a visit.

Nearly all the snow’s gone from low-lying areas now, but it did look like there was some fresh stuff on the westerly mountain range near Neuchatel. It’s still such a spin out when I see mountains like that, and even more wonderful knowing that another country is on the other side. We joked about going to France for the day. For Australians, that sounds so decadent, but in reality it’s like driving from Sydney to Wollongong, or Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast.

We walked around the village of Erlach for about an hour, but I still wanted to do a fitfor15in15 workout. Even though we leave for Eve and Paul’s soon, there’s a workout that’s easy and effective that gets the job done – The 7-Minute Workout. Do it twice, with a minute of jogging or skipping on the spot, and the workout is done! When time is tight, you can still do something to raise your heart rate. No excuses!

Wishing you a wonderful day (oh the bliss of having the Internet at home again! This is a ‘simple thing in life’ which is grander than I would ever thought I’d want it to be!)

And here are some photos from our sightseeing trip to Erlach (where I also had the best rhubarb pastry with vanilla custard that I’ve ever eaten, yummo!)

Update: I’m posting this at 12.22am. The photos didn’t upload in time before we went to Eve and Paul’s, so it’s being sent now. No time to write detailed descriptions, sorry. Had a great night (no lights were dimmed for Earth Hour) and we laughed a lot. I even managed a joke or wisecrack (or two) in German, which makes me happy.

March 26: Thera-Band and walking

Still no joy with the internet so I have no idea how long it will be before I can post regularly again. What a right royal pain in the derriere. I’m using my new iPad mini, which Leo gave me for my birthday, with a foreign keyboard which is taking some getting used to. Well, I have the time now to go through and sort out what the Function and Alt keys can do, and maybe to find the exclamation mark, which some may say is a good thing to lose. I do use it extravagantly.

The weather has gone cold and overcast again, so running at the moment doesn’t hold quite the allure as it does in glorious sunshine. So I’ve come into the city to post this update using the train station internet, which is free for an hour, and to walk around for a while, for fun, as my fitfor15in15 workout today. I might also go home and do some exercises with the Thera-Band.

Unfortunately, writing the posts at home using my mobile phone as a wireless hotspot has used all my data for the month. I’m in the city also to ask when that resets. It’s strange being so dependent on an internet connection. Maybe this little forced experiment will be good for my book reading challenge, where I hope to read 52 books this year. I’ve fallen behind, so now’s my chance to catch up (exclamation mark).

Wishing you a wonderful day.

March 25: 30 minutes on the step machine

Still no communications at our house, so this will be short, as I’m using my iPhone as a hot spot and dread how much that’s going to cost! But what can you do?! The cable company is coming tomorrow to fix things (hopefully!).

Without a cost-effective Internet (or television) connection, I haven’t been able to search for new workouts. Not happy about that! So today’s fitfor15in15 exercise was 30 minutes on the little step machine with hand weights, looking out the window at the birds in the feeder and listening to As You Wish, the audio book by actor Cary Elwes. The whole experience was totally charming and only slightly sweaty.

In the book, Elwes gives a behind-the-scenes account of his time working on The Princess Bride movie. Have you seen the movie? I think it’s a classic; it has everything! Humour, fighting, fencing, giants, true love, pirates, witches, betrayal … oh the list goes on! It really is one for all the family. And listening to Mr Elwes read his own musings is quite an ear-opening experience – he has one heck of a jolly plummy accent and whatnot, I say old chap!

I took some nice photos in the student quarter of Bern today (will post them when we have wi-fi again) before meeting Claudia for lunch. We had piiiizzzaaahh and it was delicious! Not so good nutritionally but very good for the soul.

Claudia, from Dresden, is one of my former German teachers and has lived in Bern for over 10 years. We’ve continued to meet once a week to talk German for about an hour and then English for about an hour to ‘maintain’ our foreign languages. She’s become a good friend and has been my lunchtime restaurant tour guide in the city too!

Leo’s suffering from shocking hayfever at the moment, poor thing. Birch trees, be damned! My turn comes with the grasses in May/June. Can’t wait for that …

Wishing you a wonderful day, and bring back my Internet please, Mr Fix-It Man!

March 24: No internet = a productive day

We’ve had no internet, home phone or television for the entire day. I’m using the 3G connection on my iPhone as a hot spot so I can write this post! What a bugger of a day it’s been … but wait … no … it hasn’t been annoying at all … because not having the internet … means … it’s been PRODUCTIVE!!!

Things I achieved today without the need for the internet:

  1. Read an entire book in three hours (review to come soon)
  2. Darned holes in two cardigans and one t-shirt (me! Darning!)
  3. Washed all my woolen jumpers
  4. Did a load of normal washing
  5. Searched for the hole where that damned cat keeps going into our roof
  6. Brought the chicken wire from the garage for Leo to put over the hole. Finito!
  7. Swept all the leaves out of the shed and cellar stairs
  8. Collected all the pine cones imbedded in the lawn and threw them into the forest
  9. Kicked and threw balls with my neighbour’s children for 30 minutes
  10. Put bird food in the feeder
  11. Watered all the outdoor plants
  12. Vacuumed the house (including some of the ceilings!)
  13. Cooked dinner

So there you have it. I think there’s more but you get the general gist of things. It was a totally non-stop productive day, and that’s a good feeling. Maybe our communications system should blow up/not work/crap out/stop working more often?

After all that running around in the garden with the kids and picking up all those pine cones (two buckets worth) and leaves (leaves! leaves! It seems like I’m obsessed with leaves!) my fitfor15in15 workout today is going to be bedtime yoga. I’m exhausted and can’t wait to get into bed and listen to a new audio book called As You Wish by Cary Elwes, about the making of one of my favourite movies, The Princess Bride. But for now, some light moves to get me in the listening mood. Bedtime yoga, here I come!

(I wonder how long the box which supplies these three services to our house is going to be broken … this could be a veeeerrrrrryyyyyy interesting week!)

Wishing you a wonderful day.