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 15: Day two of the Fitness Blender Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing you a wonderful day.

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

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

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

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My lovely bunch of flowers from Leo

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing you a wonderful day.

February 3: Rebecca-Louise Smith workouts

Don’t you love it when you find something that backs up your own way of thinking, just after you’ve thought it? My nutrition at the moment isn’t ideal, but during the month of February I want to wean myself off some (not all!) of the “bad” things and introduce other alternatives.

There are courses out there providing recipes and eating plans for 8-12 weeks, such as I Quit Sugar and Kayla Itsines (to name just two of many!), but at the moment, for me, they feel slightly overwhelming – just the THOUGHT of cooking all those new dishes every night saps me of energy! Cooking has never really been my thing (eating on the other hand is a totally different story!), so the pressure of learning another recipe, and going through the motions, every night gives me the shivers.

And then this morning, I read this article from Leo Babauta, who writes the very popular website zenhabits. He hit the nail on my head!!! Well, he hit the nail on the head of what I’ve been thinking about for the past few weeks. Jumping into something new is tough. We’re all gung-ho about it and enthusiastic, then reality kicks in. We falter, and then get mad at ourselves for faltering. And then give up, because, hey, we’ve faltered.

By keeping the expectations realistic, the flow and transition should be smoother. That’s why this site is fitfor15in15 – apart from being a catchy title, the idea behind it is very simple. Just 15 minutes of exercise a day. Some days you’ll want to do more, like me today, and some days you’ll struggle through the minimum, but by making it a regular, and achievable, habit, it’s not so tough; the thought of it isn’t draining.

So for nutrition, just like starting to exercise, I’m using the whole ’21-days to make a habit’ concept, and hopefully by the end of this month I’ll be less inclined to buy the not-so-healthy option and actively search for something better. Baby steps! (I’m going to miss those jam doughnuts …)

Now (mmm … doughnuts …), onto today’s exercise …

I felt like doing more today, something intense! Searching “tough exercise” on YouTube resulted in these two (and other) videos from Rebecca-Louise Smith, who appears to be a pilot as well as a fitness trainer.

First up, I did her Military Boot Camp Workout and then went straight into the 7 Best Ab Exercises, for a combined total of 25 minutes.

Even the realisation that I had to do burpees in the first video didn’t put me off! Ok, I may have groaned in disbelief, but incredibly, I did them (still with shabby form, I suspect) and it wasn’t too bad. And the planks at the end of the second video were tough. I went to my knees after about 10 seconds – all part of the process, I know, and something to aim higher for next time.

I’ll definitely keep a lookout for Smith’s videos again. On her website, she says being healthy requires 80% proper nutrition and 20% fitness – something I hadn’t read before. These words have provided another boost in this year-long campaign to look at what I can do better, to make me feel better.

Wishing you a great day. (It was a bit cold here, so that’s why I stayed indoors!)

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Chilly

January 27: HIIT me with your rhythm sticks!

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

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

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

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

Now to master that crab move!

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

Wishing you a wonderful day.

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Nicole and Cooper

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

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

January 26: Aussies here for Australia Day

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing you a wonderful day.

January 19: A day of silence

Today was a day of silence. I went outside to go to the laundry room and was so astonished I stopped in my tracks – no tractors in the fields, no cars or machinery noise coming from the council workshop nearby, no wind. It was the right moment. After a while though, I realised it wasn’t actually silent. I could hear snow clumps falling off trees in the forest and water trickling from the gutter. And then it started to snow. Today was another day to feel very happy about where we live.

Snow covered clothes line

Needless to say I didn’t hang the washing on this line

Solar lights in snow

I don’t think the solar lights will be working tonight

So with a clear head it was time to exercise! I ummed and ahhed about what to do and decided on another YouTube workout. When I saw Jillian Michaels’ Six-week Six-pack Abs Workout Level 1, I had to try it, knowing how weak my abs are. But what? Once again, I couldn’t get the volume to work (occasionally we have this problem when watching things off the internet on our television), so I did the workout in silence. Well, not complete silence, because there was plenty of my huffing and puffing. Despite ‘missing out’ on all the motivational talk (maybe that’s a blessing?!) and the odd instruction, it was doable without the sound.

Michaels performs the classes with two other women, who give beginners and advanced examples while she does the intermediate. Again, I couldn’t do all the beginner’s exercises. These gals are very fit! But I worked up a serious sweat, and feel good. It goes for about 35 minutes including warm-up and cool down.

Do you have a collection of fitness DVDs or internet workouts you’ve been neglecting? I just go with whatever takes my fancy, and doubt I would or could follow a six-week daily course. That seems too regimented – for me fitfor15in15 is all about variety.

Speaking of variety, how are these for some eggs! My friend Kanjana, who we visited for lunch on Friday, works at an egg factory in Bern, and gave some special eggs to Pastora, Iva and I. I’ve never seen eggs so big! And they are double yolkers! So here’s my lunch today.

Double yolk eggs

Lunch of champions! Great egg-laying skills from some very large hens

Big egg

They weigh over 100 grams. We received a carton of 10 – so far five have been doubles, and one a very large single

As an aside, the Germans and Swiss Germans call men’s testicles eggs, whereas we call them balls. Chuckle chuckle. Sorry, did I just put you off your breakfast?! 🙂

Wishing you a wonderful day.

January 7: Exercise video in the lounge room

Today was tough. I didn’t want to get out of bed, and had no inspiration at all … ridiculously lazy … waa waa waa. The sun was shining in a cloudless sky! What more do you want, slacker?!

Maybe my threshold for something new is one week? I’ve read it takes 21 days to form a habit. It’s day seven and I could feel myself returning to my old ways of thinking – What’s the point? Enjoy life as you are! Who wants to be an exercise junkie? I’m happy with the way I am. You need extra fat in winter and so on and so on … Some days really are a mental challenge.

So what if I have absolutely no upper body strength and everything creaks and cracks when I exercise? Who cares about the clothes that don’t fit, the spare tyre and those wobbly bits? Well, actually I’m not so worried about the wobbly bits. I’m worried a sedentary lifestyle is going to be hard to change the older I get, and that my body will set into a premature rigor mortis. I don’t want simple things like tying up my shoelaces to become a massive issue. I don’t want to be old before my time. I used to pride myself on how flexible I was, doing the splits etc, and kinda thought it would always be that way.

Ahh, wrong. Now I strain to touch my toes with straight legs and have issues with my left wrist (weird bone in the joint, no strength for years), left shoulder (skiing fall in 2012, crunches when raised), left knee (snapped cruciate ligament skiing in 1996, which still aches in cold weather) and right foot (yay, finally something on the right! A fractured bone in 1999). All these things still cause problems, and I feel them when I exercise like I did today.

I did a Jillian Michaels workout for just under 30 minutes. It’s the Level 1 class of her 30-Day Shred series. Click here if you want to see the video. I’d never done this ‘class’ before (I did some of her yoga videos on YouTube last year) and there were push ups *gasp* and squats with weighted arm raises *groan*. Everything that makes my left side go ouch. To top it off, I twinged something in my left ankle doing the skipping on the concrete terrace a few days ago. What a sorry sack I am – can you grasp my mood today?!

Ok, time to lift it a bit. The video was fun, I raised a sweat just doing the beginner-level exercises, and I feel great. I laughed about hitting my hands on the ceiling when doing the star jumps, and before I knew it, we were doing the warm down. How did that time just go so fast?

If you don’t feel like exercising, think about the habit you’re trying to form. Every day for a minimum of 15 minutes. The class really did fly by – I was done before I could stop whining and I’m happy I didn’t give in. Keep at it! Every little bit counts. Why not look up some other exercise videos on YouTube to have ready for a rainy day?

As a giggle, I’d like to show you our lounge room, so you can see how low the ceiling is. I have to do star jumps with my hands either side of the centre beam and there’s no chance of ever doing a clap at the top!

Wishing you a great day.

This is my hand stretched out in front. If I hold it straight up, I can lay it flat on the white ceiling while flat footed.

This is my hand stretched out in front. If I hold it straight up, I can lay it flat on the white ceiling while flat footed.

Wide lounge room

I push the coffee table into the dining area (where I’m standing), lay out my yoga mat (or a towel) and use tins of chick peas as my weights.