Getting Started by Nat Gauld

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 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 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 30 #2: Stepping out to the tennis

My first ‘workout’ this morning didn’t quite cut the mustard, so I went downstairs and happily donned a new pair of sneakers bought the previous week. The only other sneakers I own were/are still covered in mud and looking pretty grotty from running in the forest. So using some of my Christmas present money from Leo, I splashed out on a half-price pair of sneakers that will never leave the house! No more jumping around barefoot.

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New sneakers good. Urgh.

Stan and Novak were into the second set of the Australian Open semi-final by the time I stood on the little step machine, so with baked bean tins in hand (we ate one of the kidney bean tins in a chilli last weekend!), I cheered them on for 30 minutes. Heart was definitely pumping at the end, but not because of the result. Poor Stan.

Tomorrow marks one month of blogging. It’s been fun making an exercise habit, with you as my witness. I was thinking about tackling the nutrition/food part of this fitfor15in15 project in February, but I think that’s too soon. I’ll slowly phase out bad things throughout the month of February and then start with conviction in March. Eating chocolate will still be on the cards, but maybe I’ll forgo the cheese and beer. Did I just say beer? I must be delusional.

Wishing you a wonderful day, again.

January 30: Morning yoga

Following the uncomfortable experience of exercising after dinner last night, it was time to try something I’ve been meaning to do for a while – working out straight after my morning routine.

The 10 minutes of meditation was interrupted by the neighbour’s cat making a huge racket in the roof, so I did Kim Sears and her fiancé Andy Murray proud (language warning), while bashing my fist on the wall … then slowly went back to sitting on the floor … doing my meditation … as calm as can be … rubbing my hand on my knee … trying to ease the pain …

There were no Buddhist thoughts this morning. I want that cat gone!

This 15-minute morning yoga routine from instructor Brett Larkin came to me via social media last night, so it was perfect timing. Unfortunately, the routine didn’t have perfect timing (for me). It was just tooooooo slllloooooowwwww. Possibly doing the meditation and stretching beforehand had woken me up sufficiently. There are links for other, longer, yoga videos at the end if you fancy.

So I’m not sure if I’ll classify this as my fitfor15in15 routine today. I need to get my heart pumping a bit more. I’m off to watch Stan and Novak (I’m too lazy to spell-check their surnames!) play tennis. Maybe I’ll work out on the stepper at the same time, with the odd fist pump and “C’mon!” That should do the trick.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

January 29: Fondue + exercise = bad idea

It rained all day today so we stayed indoors, watched tennis and High Fidelity, cooked this awesome spinach and feta pie, and generally mooched around.

Then dinner struck. Fondue. Cheese. Bread. Potatoes. Sore belly.

Exercise tonight was going to be abs-focused, but I quickly had to change that plan and make it all about the legs and arms – my tummy was just too full.

I did some crunches (wrong!) then a variety of leg exercises lying on both sides, tricep dips on my desk, push ups with bent knees and some squats using the chickpea tins (ohh, those tins and I have made some history).

And that, I’m (happily) afraid, is that. Fifteen minutes. fitfor151in15 strikes again. My arms and legs are definitely feeling the benefits (during yesterday’s and this morning’s stretching, I could hardly touch the floor, my hammies were so tight), but my stomach? Who knows?! It’s full of melted cheese!

How’s your fitness plan coming along? Do you feel different?

Nicole and Cooper leave tomorrow morning, and it will be strange having everything so quiet again after so many good laughs. Hopefully I’ll have the chance to go to Lausanne next week to see him dance in the Prix de Lausanne (ballet) competition. Maybe it will inspire me to take a class? Ha!

Wishing you a wonderful day.

January 28: Tourists for the day

Done and dusted. Another great day is almost over. It all started with a beautiful sunrise and substantial breakfast in Bern, then a train ride, lunch and walk around Luzern (Lucerne in English, Luzern in German), then a drink in Bern and dinner at home.

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A beautiful clear day greeted us this morning

Alps cloudy

Despite being cloudy, the Alps were clear and bright

Lake of Luzern (Lucerne)

Lovely scenes on the Lake of Luzern (Lucerne)

Pilatus

Snow, the lake and Mt Pilatus (I think!)

Sunset birds

Sunset over the lake, seen by us and a few birds

Kornhaus

We celebrated with a drink at the Kornhauskeller bar in Bern

It’s now 10.33pm and I’ve just finished my 15 minutes of random exercises in the study/office with the chickpea tins. My arms were moving the whole time – punches, lifts, stretching behind, reaching over, pushing down. They’ve had a good workout.

My legs were doing squats or lunges, side to side stretches, heels or knees up … anything that required effort. Again it’s all been done late at night, which I have to sort out, but I’ll go to bed knowing I’ve achieved, even just a little.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

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 24: Bedtime yoga

After yesterday’s four-hour cleaning effort followed by a boozy, cheesy dinner, I felt pretty average this morning!! My morning routine was done at midday, so that gives you an indication of how I was faring.

The whole day seemed sluggish. Mundane things like grocery shopping, doing the laundry and more vacuuming, this time at our house, preceded an afternoon on the couch eating Leo’s yummy chilli and watching crappy TV. I thought about using the step machine at some stages during the evening, but grabbed another piece of chocolate and pulled the blanket higher.

I haven’t changed my diet at all. This is something to address in the coming months (not that it’s terribly terrible), because there was no way everything could be done at once – I would have been a disaster. So I’m still drinking beer and eating dessert and having the odd bowl of chips/crisps and so on. Once the exercise habit is a habit, then I’ll look at the quantity and quality of what fuels me day to day. That’s also part of the course I’m currently enrolled in (my studies have been neglected this week. The lecturer said 40,000 people have enrolled in this MOOC, so I better pull up my socks!).

During the week, I read this simple but effective article about a woman who committed to doing 15 minutes of yoga per day for a month. Her outcome was encouraging and has also made me more inquisitive about yoga. Maybe I’ll add 15 minutes of yoga to my morning routine? 10 minutes of meditation, five minutes of stretching, and then 15 minutes of yoga … it could be possible. And then I’d do a minimum of 15 minutes of sweatier fitfor15in15 exercises later in the day … Hmmmm … It’s something to think about (but I’m worried about overcommitting myself time-wise).

The author, Grete DeAngelo, lightly touched on something I have been meaning to write about for a while. How the day could almost become a collection of 15 minute blocks; of 15 minute habits. Once you form one habit, it becomes easier to form another. Because when I think about how much I can achieve in 15 minutes with exercise, it almost becomes a game, a challenge, to start thinking of what else can be done in 15 minute blocks. It’s addictive!

Her story also sparked my desire tonight for a calming yoga routine before bed. I found this, and enjoyed it. It’s shot quite strangely – we’re looking at the man from behind and to the side, and he’s sitting a fair way away! Sometimes I had to look twice to work out what he was doing. But the exercises were just enough, the waves on the beach nice to listen to, and the rising moon pretty to see. Because this was the first time I’ve done this video, I had to keep checking my phone to understand his descriptions of some of the moves. If I do it again in the future, it will be more relaxing.

Here are some other things I enjoyed reading about this week:

Diagrams to help us understand some foods. This was very interesting, and helpful. As I said, I haven’t altered my diet at all yet. Baby steps, baby steps.

Technology is harming our brains. I think we all know this, but it’s an interesting read.

An interesting article about study and learning techniques. If you’re guilty of this, like me, it’s time to re-evaluate our methods!

A recipe for tumeric and ginger tea. Apparently it’s good for us. It sounds pretty delicious too. I’m trying to drink at least one (two-cup) pot of tea a day at the moment.

The Swiss finance industry caused a massive stir recently. If you can work out what it’s all about, can you please let me know? I’m still confused (was never good with money matters) but do know it means it will be more expensive for friends to visit us in Switzerland now. Sad face.

Wishing you a wonderful rest of the weekend.

January 20: Indulging an embarrassing passion

I have a secret … a confession … it’s a little bit embarrassing. My partner knows about it, and he’s not happy. He can’t stand it. Well, not it … but her. Her name is Marple … Miss Jane Marple … and every now and then I enjoy watching her on television, solving crimes from the early to mid-1900s in England. Leo would rather eat snails.

So today, as the snow bucketed down all morning …

Snow on clothesline

Quite a difference in 20 hours, from yesterday’s clothesline photo

… fitfor15in15 hunkered down in the lounge room, on the little manual step machine thingy, with a tin of red kidney beans in each hand (chickpeas were upstairs!), engrossed in another Agatha Christie whodunit for one hour. Those 60 minutes passed very quickly, and I worked up a good sweat, then watched the remainder of Ordeal by Innocence from the comfort of the couch.

Ooh I love a good murder mystery, and apparently this was one of Aggie’s two personal favourites. It was disappointing to read the version on tele differed quite a lot to her original book (Miss Marple wasn’t even in it!), so I’ll be searching for that when at the library next.

Have you ever been miffed by adaptations of books for the big or small screens? Sometimes I wonder why they even bothered keeping the book’s title, because the endings, or characters, or plot – anything! – when changed, made it a completely different story.

But back to today … My arms feel sore, my legs and bum a bit tight. Overall it wasn’t too stressful … just like walking in the woods, but warmer … and with tin cans … and Miss Marple being all inquisitive and clever.

The idea behind fitfor15in15 is to do a minimum of 15 minutes exercise per day. For me, that means specific exercise, and not what you’d do in your normal day, such as walking to the bus, doing the gardening, or cleaning the house and so on. Making time for 15 minutes every day forms a habit, one that is hard to talk yourself out of.

If you set a goal to exercise every day, you can’t slack off occasionally and say, “Oh, it’s too cold/I’m too tired/there’s not enough time, I’ll exercise tomorrow.” That’s why I’ve chosen a MINIMUM of 15 minutes per day. Some days you feel like doing more, or have time to do more, and some days you don’t. And on the days you don’t, those little 15 minutes of knee lifts or squats or sit ups or twists – whatever takes your 15-minute fancy – keep the habit going, keep you motivated, and keep you moving.

In 2014, I became quite sloth-like. I was beginning to believe I’d been one in a former life. If it required moving, I’d get it over and done with as quickly as possible and then flop back on the couch. Inactivity was the norm, and that became scary. I’d never been a lazy person before – always on the go and happy to be that way. So for three weeks now, I’ve been moving, and am reaping the benefits already – I had to run the last 100m for the bus today, and made it.

They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. Tomorrow is January 21. I think I’m a convert. And while some days will be good ones, like today with 60 minutes, I know some days I’ll be struggling with 15. But that’s alright, don’t you think? Recognising the struggle will make the ‘victory’ so much sweeter.

Wohlen Switzerland

Walking to the bus on the road – the snow’s too deep to take the shortcut through the fields

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Both beanie and jacket hood required today!