May 2: Getting back on the bandwagon

It’s been wild weather here for a few days, and Leo is at work attending to some flooding on his building site. What a pain that’s going to be – sourcing pumps and people on a Saturday.

This afternoon, we’re going to the BEA, which is Bern’s agricultural exhibition, kind of like the Royal Shows in Australia and the UK and, I imagine, State Fairs in America.

There’ll be cows, horses, tractors, and wursts on the grill. (That Oxford comma was very important, otherwise it would sound like the animals and tractors would also be on the grill!)

We’re going with Pastora and Leo, Sandra and Tom and Iva, whose husband Marko is away for work, so it will be a hectic afternoon of German. Good for my mental fitness. Maybe some beers will be consumed later on. Not so good for my physical fitness.

I feel like I’ve fallen off the sweaty exercise bandwagon a bit lately but was very pleased when I stood on Liliane’s scales yesterday – two kilos lighter than last month’s ‘weigh-in’ (when I clean their house, I use their scales!). I don’t trust scales much, and definitely don’t feel the need to own any, but I do feel slimmer (and stronger!). Maybe the 5:2 Diet is working for me?

Speaking of the 5:2 Diet, I only did the 500 calorie day once (Monday) last week. I’ll do two again next week. And speaking of weigh-ins, the Mayweather v Pacquiao fight is tomorrow morning Swiss time (at about 6am they say). It starts very late tonight in America. I wonder if it will be a fizzer? I look forward to reading all about it and watching the highlights.

In order to boost my cardio fitness a bit, I did Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred Workout Level 2 again (the last time was March 2). I should have done Level 3 but I was in a bit of a hurry and didn’t want to search for something.

She really makes you sweat, ol’ Jillian, which is why I keep coming back to her workouts, along with the duo from Fitness Blender. This time, I actually did most of the walking to plank and push-up exercises on my toes, not on my knees. Hallelujah! My arms are hurting quite a bit too, because of that and various lifts with weights that were tough. Yahoo! Overall, I find it a great 25-minute workout.

  • Physically Fit: Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred Workout Level 2
  • Mentally Fit: Going to the BEA with friends
  • Nutritionally Fit: Back to two days per week on the 5:2 Diet next week
  • Minimalism: Loving my stretchy black and white Marimekko dress I bought in Melbourne with Gabby. Today I’m tucking it up to wear as a top with jeans – love clothes that serve more than one purpose!

Wishing you a wonderful day.

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.

March 17: Sweat, but no beers, on St Patrick’s Day

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Totally forgot it was St Patrick’s Day until I saw Facebook photos of my friend Elisa all decked out in green, having a beer. Happy St Patrick’s Day to all the Irish, those who wish they were Irish and those out celebrating tonight who wake up with an Irish tomorrow.

Yesterday I went on a mission to “have a look” for some hand weights. swissrose, who writes a blog about life in Switzerland (and has an excellent A-Z of all things Swiss you should check out), cleverly suggested I could look at the local second-hand store, or Brocki, for hand weights. Unfortunately I read her post too late!

Silly me ended up buying the first decent 1kg pair I saw. They weren’t as expensive as I thought they’d be plus they have handles, which means I can hold two in one hand when I need a tougher workout. The idea of returning them and searching at the Brocki went through my mind for quite a while, but then I used the KonMari Method and realised these babies actually spark joy and will stay.

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Out with the old … they’ve done their time and will be a delicious meal soon …

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… and in with the new. Two 1kg weights with handles. How posh!

In order to give them their first workout as part of my St Patrick’s Day celebrations, I went straight to Fitness Blender and Kelli for something hard. And I found it. Brutal even. The Brutal Fat Burning HIIT + Dynamic Total Body Strength Training – FP Blend Workout (phew, that’s a mouthful I dare anyone to attempt after five pints of green Guinness).

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Some may say this is taking St Patrick’s Day celebrations one step too far

Kelli’s 28-minute workout requires just hand weights and a mat for some floor work. And it made me sweat, especially the HIIT (high-intensity interval training) sections which were burpees (yucko!) and crisscross thigh-slap jumps. They’re harder to do than to say, if that’s possible (especially when you’re in a confined space).

I’m really glad I finally bit the bullet and bought some proper hand weights. Hopefully the 1kg weight is enough to do some damage, I mean make a difference. To be sure, to be sure, tomorrow I’ll be sore.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

March 2: Exercise to boost your mood

Does the weather affect your mood? Do you skip to the beach when it’s sunny or feel like crying when it rains? Do you crack the SADs in cold weather or dread an allergy onslaught in spring? Does the wind make you wicked?

What a strange phenomenon the weather is. It’s raining here today, wild weather in fact, and I feel like bawling. The wind is so strong it’s blown small bits of stuff from inside the roof onto my pillow. (We live in a very old house.)

I did a bit of research on how much the weather can affect our moods and, of course, there’s no outright yes or no for everyone because we’re all different. There are, however, some who feel it more than others. Here’s an interesting article from a psychological perspective and another about bad weather making a bad mood worse.

Seems I’m in a bad mood today! (That exclamation mark was added through gritted teeth.) So … how to turn that frown upside down? With a bit of exercise perhaps?

There are hundreds of articles about exercise improving your mood (examples here, here and here), so even if I wasn’t committed to doing at least 15 minutes a day this year, hopefully I would have looked to exercise as a great get-out-of-the-doldrums solution. Hopefully! *gritted teeth*

After thinking who would lift my spirits the most, it was a contest between Daniel and Kelli from Fitness Blender and Jillian Michaels. It’s been a while since I’ve done a workout with Jillian, and this is the reason I went with her 30 Day Shred Workout Level 2.

I really didn’t want to exercise today. Really, really, really didn’t want to. Listening to the crazy weather made me want to stay in bed, and I did until quite late. But at least I finished a book – reading has been very neglected of late.

Jumping around with Jillian – actually, no, that’s an alliteration over-exaggeration as there was hardly any jumping at all – moving with Jillian for 25 minutes (as the house walls shook and the flagpole bent like a branch too) has boosted my mood.

She does a series of exercises which involve both arms and legs (tin cans needed. I was feeling so unmotivated beforehand I couldn’t even be bothered filling the large water bottles, my new weights of choice) and there’s quite a few performed in the plank position. If you have dodgy wrists or shoulders, let alone a weak core, these can be tough. But there’s always the option to drop to your knees and dream of the day when you can stay up the whole time. I dream of that day! *no gritting here*

So, readers, hopefully when you’re not feeling the best, or something’s got you down – weather-related or not – you’ll still think of the fitfor15in15 mantra of doing something, anything, to get the blood flowing and the brain focused on moving, rather than what put you in the bad mood in the first place. I think it’s worked. Maybe a bit of baking now would kick it up a notch? Hmmm … there’s always those biscuits from the Kambly factory … 😉

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!

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.

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.