June 27 and 28: Weekend wrap

Saturday and Sunday served up plenty of sunshine so we made the most of it by being outdoors.

Saturday we worked in the garden and I did some small things around our house and Liliane and Rene’s too. Even though we’d spent the previous evening at dinner together, we all joined forces again in the afternoon for cards and dinner around the pool (for the first time ever, I didn’t lose a game!). I still find it so amazing to only turn the lantern on at 10.30pm.

Today there was an airshow in a neighbouring suburb, so we all stood in the garden and gawped at the heavens, watching the nine small planes do all their spectacular stunts. A forest blocked some of the view, over the Wohlensee, but all the loop-the-loops and high-up action kept us entertained for 20 minutes, and then they just all flew away again. It was almost sad – the way they couldn’t even wave goodbye!

We walked to Lotti’s house for her birthday gathering this afternoon, a good 40-minute wander in the sunshine on the path that I only ‘discovered’ earlier this year, that’s directly behind the house. Once home, a quick dip in the pool and a play on my new toy (see the last photo), ready for tomorrow’s commute to work, and two episodes of House of Cards wrapped it up.

Overall, it was a very social weekend, with maybe not the right sorts of foods consumed (Lotti’s birthday cake and a few other small sweeties) and not enough exercise completed to counteract the beer calories consumed, but wonderful fun.

In case you missed my post from yesterday, please click here to read the latest guest contribution to fitfor15in15, from personal trainer Richard Wheeler. He has some excellent tips, which I will be taking on board, for (re)starting your fitness!

Signing off with a mixture of photos from the week. Some wouldn’t load a few days ago, but most are from this weekend.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

Break it down by Richard Wheeler

This is the sixth guest post in the fitfor15in15 series designed to show the pleasant impact that feeling fit, in all its forms, can have on your life. Richard ‘Tricky’ Wheeler knows firsthand how tough the fitness road is when you’re first setting out. His practical method for achieving goals – breaking a two month period into two-week blocks – could be the kick-start you need. Take it away Tricky!

Break it down by Richard Wheeler (Personal Trainer in Sydney, Australia and lover of a good book*)


Tricky gives the bag what for

I wasn’t always a Personal Trainer. I wasn’t always fit and healthy. I wasn’t always interested in things like health, wellbeing, longevity and looking the best I can in just a pair of underpants.

I’ve heard it said that inside every fat person there is a thin person trying to get out. Taken as a metaphor, I think this displays a lack of understanding of what causes some people to indulge in such a way that we end up fat. Taken more literally, I think it’s just downright disturbing, but let’s not dwell on that.

I’ve known happy people of all shapes and sizes. I just wasn’t one, that’s all. When I was in my teens I was depressed and anxious. It was years before I really acknowledged this, but with the benefit of hindsight it’s blindingly obvious. I drank and partied a lot, because it seemed to make me feel better. By the time I got into my twenties I had not only established a pattern of behaviour, I had come to a number of hard-to-shake conclusions about myself, and the fundamental necessity of inebriation if I was to cope with life at all. I joined a gym at one point, and sometimes went swimming. I subscribed to that popular misconception that if you exercised a bit it somehow erased your misdeeds from history.

I’m proud to say I did manage to hold down a reasonably well-paid job. I just used most of my money to eat rich food, go out to pubs and clubs, and ensure that even a quiet night at home saw me downing at least a bottle of wine to myself. As I got a little older, in spite of the odd visit to the gym, my body decided it was time to outwardly manifest some of the damage I had been doing internally. I didn’t really notice straight away, but I started to see a fat person looking back at me from the mirror more and more in spite of my best attempts at self-delusion, and I realised I had to change.

I started to consider what I ate a lot more. I started going to the gym a lot more. I gave away the cigarettes, the alcohol, the partying, and, bit by bit, I changed. Please, as you read this, understand that what I just conveyed in one sentence was a multi-year project. If you try to do all those things at once, like you see a lot of people do at new year, chances are you’ll stick to it for a few days, then you’ll snap, go on a rampage and end up in a dumpster somewhere, clutching a cake in one hand and somebody’s pet Dachshund in the other.

Getting fit is about life outside of your comfort zone. It’s frequently a determined adhesion to the comfort zone that sees people pile on weight in the first place. I like to recommend to people that they pick one thing, and devote themselves to changing it for a couple of weeks, then move on to the next thing. For example, it’s important to look first at your diet. There’s no mileage in trying to work off a body you’re unhappy with through exercise if you’re trying to fuel the activity with doughnuts and crack. I like to encourage people to break down the next two months of their lives into two-week blocks.

In the first two weeks: Rid your house of junk food, buy in things from the fresh section of your supermarket, create a schedule that will allow you to prepare food ahead of time, so you’re never making food choices whilst starving hungry (guaranteed you will pick something high fat and high sugar). Have recipes to hand for things like stir fries, which are quick and easy but still tasty. Have snack foods available that are nutritious but still interesting to you. Personally, I make a lot of dips, because they stop carrot sticks being so f’ing boring.

In the second two weeks: Go out walking. Walk for a minimum of half an hour every day, and do it at a pace that you could carry on a normal conversation, but it would be broken into weird bursts of a couple of syllables. I once took a phone call while out on just such a walk and the person on the other end thought I was pleasuring myself because of the way I was breathing. If you try to talk and you sound like a telephone masturbator, you’re going about it right. I also encourage you to try to increase your incidental exercise during this time – get off the bus a stop early, take the stairs, not the lift, park on the far side of the car park, or whatever you can think of.

In the third two weeks: Start to incorporate some simple bodyweight exercises into your daily routine. Three times a week, do three sets of pushups and three sets of squats. It can be that simple in the beginning and you will see results. To decide how many pushups you should do in each set, I recommend doing as many as you can, then taking that number and calculating 80% of it. That is the number you will shoot for in each of your three sets. For example, if you can do 10 pushups and 20 squats, you will do three sets of eight pushups, and three sets of 16 squats. Rest for a minute in between sets.

In the fourth two weeks: Begin to consider the future. Going for a walk is something I will always like, because I find it fulfilling, calming, and still a great way to stay in control of my weight. However, a life of going out walking every night because you have to, plus doing ever more pushups and squats on your living room rug might seem like an unfulfilling way to get fitter. I take your point.

I have been a Personal Trainer since 2008, and there has been one thing during that time that has constantly amazed me more than anything else I came across in the industry. People would frequently show up at the gym who had absolutely no interest in lifting weights, running on a treadmill, doing classes, or anything else. They wanted the results, so they’d gone out and joined up with only the results in mind.

Imagine that your goal is to drop a little weight and maybe put on some lean muscle (unless this actually is your goal, in which case don’t imagine it, simply reflect on it). The fastest way to do this might be to combine a weights program with some sprints on the treadmill or rower, but if you absolutely hate lifting weights and running, you’re unlikely to stick with it, no matter how much you want the results. Consider something you might actually like to do instead, like a kickboxing class, or swimming, swing dancing, volleyball or yoga. There are hundreds of different choices out there, and whilst they might not all represent the fastest path to your goals, chances are they represent a path you will actually stick to, which means that in the long run, you will be more likely to get that lean muscle and weight-drop.

Getting fit and staying fit is all about finding a process you love, and doing it for the love of doing it. One of the fittest people I have ever met has no interest in fitness activity at all – he says it bores him senseless. He is, however, passionate about surfing and rock climbing, and he does them just because he thinks they’re a lot of fun. He stays lean, fit, strong and cheerful as a result.

These days I’m pretty damn happy most of the time. I have bad days, but the good days outweigh them massively. I enjoy going to the gym, or going out running. I discovered a love of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which I hope to return to very soon. I won’t be a Personal Trainer forever, there are too many in the world, but it’s been an amazing ride!

* How Tricky and I know each other is a classic story. On Facebook, there is a section for favourite books. One of mine is Allan Sillitoe’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. In January 2008, Tricky contacted me via Facebook because it’s one of his favourites too. “… in a network of over one and a half million people, we are the only people who have it in our books list. That seems kind of wrong. Alan Sillitoe is a genius, and a sadly forgotten one.” Tricky went on to say no need to reply, he won’t contact me again, he just wanted to say it was cool that I liked the book too. Of course, I wrote back – if you love a book, you want to talk about it. Turns out we both lived in Sydney (even though he is English), both worked in television and had both worked in Camden, London, for different television companies. Too many coincidences to ignore! So we met up for a beer and have been mates ever since!

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)


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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’

Embracing Phase Three by Kate Lehmann

This is the fourth 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. Kate Lehmann has never shied away from a challenge and she’s grabbed her newest passion with both hands, literally. Take it away Kate!

Embracing Phase Three by Kate Lehmann (radiographer in Brisbane, Australia, and lover of outdoor adventure)


Kate enjoying Phase Three

In 2003, I went from being a regular traveller who followed the usual path – finish uni, work for a bit, save enough cash to travel the world, ticking off “must see” places like the Eifel Tower, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Uncle Ho, Lenin and Mao, and an overland truck adventure in Africa – before embarking on what I can only describe as Phase Two of my life.

Good friends invited me to join them hiking the Overland Track in Tasmania for eight days. Unperturbed by this obvious challenge, I immediately said yes. One of these friends came up with the idea of testing out this “carrying a pack” thing. So we set out one rainy Saturday to walk and camp in the Royal National Park south of Sydney. We didn’t die, but we overcame a lot of challenges – spiders, soggy sandwiches, forgotten dinners, blisters and a lack of water to name a few. We learnt a little bit more about overnight hiking and, more importantly, how a heavy pack can be carried.

The Overland Track is one of the great walks in Australia, and the world, and I couldn’t wait to get there. I spent more time preparing the food for this trip too and thankfully didn’t go hungry again. We set off the week after a record snow dump, so day one was a detour and involved climbing over Hanson’s Peak using chains and carrying a pack that can only be described as looking like a Christmas tree, I had so many things hanging off it. Borrowed gear, a “traveller” pack (the zippered kind), a big puffy fleece and eight days of food just would not fit in.


With her Christmas tree pack, on the Overland Trail in 2003

That first day wasn’t even the hard one. Stumbling over and through thigh-deep snow for eight hours on day two made me realise that I was the only one who could get me to the hut. There were no cars, no respite-giving kiosks or helicopters – only my determination would get me there. So, suck up the pain and the exhaustion and keep moving, or lie down and die.

Later, much later, I realised how lucky I was to have that experience. Hiking is not a race. It’s set a pace, have the equipment for an emergency, and focus on getting from A to B. Take your time, smell the roses, enjoy the scenery and if in Tassie, keep your eyes out for tiger snakes, leeches and attack wombats. Despite these challenges, a passion for this overnight hiking gig was born.

I got back to Brisbane and booked and walked the Kokoda Track six months later in 2004. By then I was well and truly hooked. After that, I enjoyed multiple trips to Tassie, checking out such wonderful wilderness areas as Frenchmans Cap, Walls of Jerusalem, Western Arthurs, Mt Anne and Maria Island. How good was this walking gig? A lot of preparation in the weeks before goes into your happiness on the trail, but once all the organising is done, just eat what you brought (pack as much chocolate as possible) and relax and unwind from the pressures and stresses of life.


Walking in Tasmania

I consider myself lucky to have such great friends who suggested that first hike and we’ve shared the love of adventure and the great outdoors on many others. People say we’re lucky to have seen so many great places. Not lucky, just making our own luck and grasping a hold of opportunities when they arise. Opportunity sometimes only knocks once, so don’t miss out. Great experiences don’t come without a willingness to get out there and just do it. Have enough determination and it can be done. You meet all sorts of people out there under the stars – old, young, the fit and the slow plodder. You have the time to chat and play cards and write in a diary. Reading it back is like doing the trip all over again … without the dirt slowly accumulating under your fingernails.

After learning the ropes from good friends and mentors, I convinced my sister that she, too, could carry one of these heavy pack things and we’ve had many an excellent holiday together. I’m not allowed to take her to Tasmania to hike – too many leeches – so we’ve stuck to the more coastal areas of mainland Australia.

Our first hike was the Great Ocean Walk. We “double-hutted” the first day to break her into this hiking business quickly. She also learnt heaps, like eating tuna on pita bread for lunch will repeat on you all afternoon (tuna never came on another hike). I also learnt that you should buy a good map and not rely on the free promo one that came in the National Geographic magazine that was, for the most part, WRONG! Thinking you’re nearly there and four hours later still walking is not good for the spirit.


The sisters on their first adventure together, along the Victorian coast in Australia

Trips to New Zealand (no leeches there) to walk the Routeburn, Milford, Kepler and Humpridge Tracks followed, then a week in the Snowy Mountains in April (it’s a hiking playground up there) and Wilsons Prom – where we nearly packed it in a day early after seeing a massive big brown snake … and a leech!!! Not sure which was worse. After convincing my sister to stay, she then ate all the M&Ms out of my trail mix … slowly … and in front of me.

Our favorite track is Bibbulmun Track in Western Australia. It’s 1000km and we’ve done half of it, going over twice for two hikes of over 10 days. Occasionally you walk through a town, so you really get the time to relax and unwind from work. Combine the stunning scenery with meeting such interesting people along the way and you have a most excellent holiday. Also, for anyone who has a sister you will know they can be very honest – you laugh, you cry and you tell each other off, get on with it and then laugh again.

I no longer have a pack that looks like a Christmas tree. I’ve slowly upgraded my gear and fortunately it no longer weighs a tonne. If you’re not hiking, then looking for and buying hiking gear is almost as much fun. I thought for the rest of my days, as long as I was fit enough, hiking holidays were for me.

That was until 2012 when those same old friends suggested we try something different … “Do you want to cycle from Lhasa to Kathmandu this year?” Of course I said yes. The fact I owned a knockabout bike that only went on the odd bike track didn’t worry me at all. And here began Phase Three …

The tour we booked had a questionnaire where you outlined how much exercise/training you did each week. Um, tap dancing one night a week and doing the odd hike up Mt Coot-tha, in Brisbane, on the weekend didn’t seem to cut it with their “suggested training schedule”.

I also needed a proper bike and had no idea what they were talking about in the shops. “29er, 26er, hard tail, dually.” What were all these words?? I just wanted a bike that would allow me to ride up mountain passes over 5000 metres and tackle some dreadful road conditions in Nepal. I ended up with a 29er Hard Tail and immediately fell in love with it … until I couldn’t clip out and nearly went splat on the bitumen on my first ride. I clearly had a lot to learn.

The trip was great, but since I’ve been back it’s been even greater. Meeting a handsome fella on the tracks of Brisbane’s Gap Creek has also been great. Now my weekends are full of rides and single-track adventures. I’ve also done a lot of fun cross-country racing on the mountain bike. The competitions have different grades, so even if you are new like me you still have fun and occasionally get up on the podium.


Kate, right, now enjoys mountain bike racing, especially with a podium finish

Combine all that hiking gear I have in the cupboard with the bike and you have “hikling” adventures. Pop a pannier on the back of your bike and you can go further and still camp under the stars. I still go hiking – it’s a different pace altogether – but, for me, being on the bike is loads more fun. There are so many more places you can visit with a bike. Now, if only work didn’t get in the way so much! How do you win lotto?


On her 40th birthday “hikling” trip to an island off the Queensland coast

Update: Kate enjoyed her first blogging experience so much she now has her own site, showcasing her hiking and cycling adventures around the world. Read more at www.theoutdoordiaries.com. Great work, Kate!

I am a spinner by Peta Yaxley

This is the third 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. Peta Yaxley stumbled upon a community willing to share its knowledge and she now enjoys new skills which have dramatically altered her life. Take it away Peta!

I am a spinner by Peta Yaxley (school teacher in Australia and lover of music)


Peta spinning at the Borough Markets, London, during a blizzard!

I am a spinner. I take raw fleece, preferably dark, straight from the shearer and through a process of carding and drawing and plying I make yarn. It’s such a simple, pure process and I am addicted. There are many things I love about spinning wool – the main being that the only thing that has come between me and my garment is a shearer. In a world of sweat shops and Primark, there is an ethic to my craft, along with the general ‘slow cloth’ movement, that looks to embrace the slow process of transforming raw materials into something beautiful and unique to the creator.

I left Australia in 2004 after a bad breakup and three years later found myself lonely and depressed living in London. Working in London in the hubbub of broadcasting, I revisited crocheting and then taught myself to knit under the tutelage of my dear cousin Karen, who also lived in the UK. As my love of these crafts cemented, I saw Karen spinning (and saw the cost of quality yarn) and thought I might try my hand at a wheel. It was my urban epiphany.

At the back of the Royal Vauxhall Tavern (where I had spent many a trashy night in my ‘lost years’) was The Vauxhall City Farm where I met an amazing group of older women who taught me their crafts. My Saturday mornings became sacred as an escape from the churning cog of London town – I would jump on my bike, pop into the Farmers Market on the way and then with panniers full of veggies I’d cycle across town to the farm. I learnt to spin on a drop spindle, then a wheel. We spun the fleece from the farm’s sheep and alpacas and I learnt to dye from their large and comprehensive dye garden. All this whilst I bonded with women of all ages and walks of like – my love of the craft circle was born too.

The apothecary of dyeing with plants had me transfixed as I learnt about the wonders of woad and weld and madder. Reds from Brazilwood and greens from stinging nettles. Yellow from marigolds and those blues from indigo – those blues! I was transfixed and transformed by a craft centuries old – mordants and dye baths and rinses – alkaline or acid bath can alter my hue. Addicted.


Spectacular indigo dyed wool, drying on Peta’s property

There is a meditative state that I get from spinning that calms me. I often spin listening to music or the radio and I can be at the wheel for hours; time dissipates as one hand sorts the fleece and the other releases the draw. I can spin very fine and have tried my hand at sheep, alpaca, yak, angora, cashmere and the amazing world of silk. Spinning silk is akin to working with cobweb – fine and strong and stunning.

There is a resurgence of women into knitting, crocheting and spinning. For all the twee ladies (to whom I owe a huge gratitude) there is a growing number of us into the ethics of the craft. There are guerrilla knitters, yarn bombing public monuments. Ravely.com connects millions of us across the globe as we share projects and advice and patterns. There are stitch’n’bitch groups globally, connecting women (and some men) together; Stitch London was an amazing network – some nights there would be over 80 of us making at Royal Festival Hall. Good, clean, productive fun.

I quit London and spent a year in the Middle East. I’d already joined a knitting group online and fell straight into a community of expat women who welcomed me and helped me navigate the strange land I had fallen into. Again, huge gratitude to the Doha Knitters. I spent a hot, repressive Ramadan spinning silk dyed with spices from the local souk. I later knitted a shawl that earned me first prize at the local Bangalow Agricultural Show (in northern New South Wales).


Peta’s winning silk shawl

Back home to Australia, a land built off the sheeps’ back. The irony of living in the Northern Rivers of NSW where it is ‘too wet for sheep’ doesn’t escape me. There are loads of alpacas though – in fact there are currently eight on the macadamia farm where I live. Two spinning wheels that have crossed continents and oceans sit in my awesome tin-shed-conversion flat and I spend days outside spinning staring across the valleys. I have taken on the local agricultural shows with gusto – first prizes and highly commended for shawls and vests and skeins. I joke that I’m giving the nannas a run for their money.

These days I am never happier than when I am at home, outside in the sun, BBC6 on the radio, cat by my side and sat at my favourite Ashford spinning wheel. It is the simple things.


Another beautiful creation – Peta’s mandala shawl

February 23: The need for cardio

After running on Friday, I wanted to recreate that enjoyable whole body moving feeling today. Saturday’s arm workout and Sunday’s walk were nice, but now that Leo’s not around to laugh at me, I mean, now that it’s the start of a new week, it’s time to sweat! It’s raining outside, so that was my perfect excuse to look for a cardio workout video on the internet. There are so many, it’s a matter of knowing what you do and don’t like.

Initially I searched for Billy Blanks, on the suggestion of my friend Sandra, as he does Tae Bo routines, some focusing on cardio. But I quickly worked out what I don’t like about his workouts – the back-up athletes’ incessant counting did my head in just previewing these videos. Close to an hour of that stuff? No thanks. If you can handle listening to people count from one to eight non-f’ing-stop then, please, check out his Bootcamp Cardio Sculpt, his Bootcamp Cardio Inferno or this older cardio workout. They look like great workouts but I just couldn’t subject myself to that noise. Maybe I’ll try doing one of the classes next week, with the sound down. Maybe.

I ended up going with a 30-minute fat burning cardio workout from Bollywood actress Bipasha Basu. It’s the first time I’ve done one of her Good Health 24/7 videos and I was struck by how much she looks like Angelina Jolie with her hair up. Incredible!

At the beginning, the workout seemed quite tame (neck and ankle turns in the warm-up and so on) but when the proper workout started, my goodness, Basu and her team had me moving! The music was a bit techno-ish, but with the sound down you can still follow her dubbed instructions (it seems exercising and talking at the same time, a la Jillian Michaels, is not her thing).

There’s a water break which is needed, but other than that it’s go go go, with marching in between exercises to let you catch your breath. You don’t need any equipment, except maybe a mat for the push up exercises, but you will need a bit of space as there are forwards and backwards jumps and walking lunges.

Now that the routine is finished, and beads of sweat are still trickling from my forehead, one question needs to be answered. How did Basu not sweat?! Was her studio air-conditioned? Did she have someone pat her down between takes? She was a vision of concentration and perfection the entire time!

Speaking of concentration, do you think you’d have what it takes to run a marathon? I’ll sign off now and leave you with my second guest contributor, Karie Parker, who in less than five years has gone from being an occasional treadmill jogger to a marathon runner. Take it away Karie!

Wishing you a wonderful day.

p.s While watching the last Inspector Montalbano episode yesterday (sob sob!) it felt like two earthquakes rocked our neighbourhood. The whole ground and front side of the house shook with the impact. Hours later, once we could be bothered to move off the couches, we saw what it was – the new snow from Saturday on top of the old snow became too heavy, and three quarters of it slid off the roof in two thunderous movements. It’s incredible how such a small amount of snow shook the house so much and made such a racket.


New snow on old snow became too heavy for our roof – nearly all of it was dumped on our doorstep. What a noise!

Becoming a runner by Karie Parker

This is the second guest post in a new series designed to show the pleasant impact that feeling fit, in all its forms, can have on your life. In the past few years, Karie Parker has become an avid runner. When we met over 10 years ago, we loved a social catch-up after work. Now she loves a social catch-up on the fly. Take it away Karie!

Becoming a runner by Karie Parker (mother of three, living in Singapore, and lover of shoes)


A proud moment for Karie, winning her division!

I don’t know where to start. When Ange asked me to be a guest blogger, I thought it would be a piece of cake. I was wrong. My running career has become so important to me, there is no way I can sum it up in a few paragraphs but I’ve tried.

If you had asked me four years ago what I do to keep fit, I would have said I go to the gym, do Pilates, boot camps and a bit of boxing. Today, I would say I RUN! I still do other things but running is number one on my agenda. I started about four years ago and haven’t looked back. It has seriously changed my life – I am stronger, faster, fitter and happier than I’ve been in a very long time, maybe ever.

It all started with a few short runs on a treadmill and now I’m running marathons. I’m the first to admit that I hated running. I had all the excuses in the world why I shouldn’t run but when I look back, they were just that … excuses. I know lots of you are rolling your eyes and saying “running is bad for your knees” or “people die running marathons”. I’ll say the same thing I say to everyone – “Just try it!” You don’t have to run fast or far – just walk out the door and have a go.

Since I’ve started, I have learned so much about myself. I used to eat because I’m Italian and I love food! Now, I (mostly) eat to fuel myself. I used to count calories and weigh myself daily. I haven’t been on a scale for over a year and I’ve had to buy all new clothes to replace the ones that are now too big. I used to be someone who exercised and kept fit. I now think of myself as an athlete – not a great athlete but a pretty good one.

If getting fitter and stronger wasn’t enough, making new friends was motivation to keep me running week in and week out. The friendships I have developed with my running mates is beyond anything I can describe. I started as a Nike run leader in Sydney about two years ago and the people I have met through that have been unreal. We support each other through our training, we help each other reach new goals and we have become way more than running friends.

Through our marathon training last year, we had to do quite a few long, slow, runs on the weekends. This was the time we really bonded. It’s amazing how well you get to know somebody after three hours of running – and that didn’t include the big breakfasts afterwards! These guys are my inspiration and cheer squad for my running events and my dearest friends when I need personal support and encouragement.


After her first marathon, in 2014

I recently moved overseas and thought I was going to die without seeing them two or three times a week to train, but we still manage to support each other through Facebook and daily chats. I feel like they are still with me on my long runs. I’ve been here for eight months now and I’ve had the pleasure of running my second marathon with two of my best buds from Sydney and just recently another friend joined me on a Nike run in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We have big plans for the upcoming 2015 racing season too.

Finally, I couldn’t finish this blog without a very special mention to my number one fan and supporter, my husband. He started off as my personal chauffeur, getting me to and from run clubs, races and the like. He follows me around during races to give me cold drinks and cheers along the way and once we get home, he’s online looking for my times and photos. I’m a very lucky girl.


Karie has embraced her new way of life

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)


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.


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