April 27: Monday Runday … or Runday Monday?

Mondays have been run days for the past few weeks, with mixed results, so I’ve decided to rename Monday as Runday Monday, or Monday Runday. Which one do you like best?

Either way, I’ll continue to run every Monday, mixing between 4km and 5km paths for now, and who knows, maybe I’ll be on track to meet my goal of 8km by the end of the year – if I can curb that head-splitting pain in my ears enough to actually run.

It’s cool and windy here today and I’m nervous about heading out (because of what happened last time in these conditions). I’ll wait until this afternoon, when I’m completely hydrated and feeling warmed up. Hopefully the wind will have died down a bit too.

So to keep you amused until I’ve exercised, here is a new series I’m starting (please excuse my immaturity) called

Funny German words as heard by a native English speaker

#1: der Dudelsack

The bagpipes. When I first heard it, my brain spelled it doodlesack, which takes on a whole different meaning. *crying right now* Try saying it loudly five times without smiling or laughing.

#2: Wankdorf Stadium

Where Bern’s top-tier football team plays its home games. Try saying that loudly once without smirking. Visitors see the signs and ask, “Is that real?” But the best part? The name of Bern’s football team. 🙂 Oh you’re going to love this … Young Boys. Young Boys play at Wankdorf. Nearly four years here and that never gets old. 🙂

Ok, enough college humour, how did the run go? Well, I wish it took me as little time as it did to tell those gags!

Inspired by yesterday’s London Marathon, and the efforts of my friend Ellie (read her hilarious training routine here. She did it in four hours and 23 minutes! Go Ellie!) I thought I’d tackle the 5km circuit (yes, how big of me – she runs 42km, I do five).

This circuit has no Big Ben views or wandering tourists, but a short steep incline after 700m, then it’s relatively flat for the second kilometre, with a slight decline during the third, then a slight incline on the fourth, then a slight decline on the fifth. And guess what … I got a stitch at the bottom of the third, and top of the fifth (sounds like a baseball game) … right after the declines. So I had to walk for about 500m total, to get rid of that bitchy stitchy. Here are some tips for pesky stitches.

It seems my cardio fitness is really suffering at the moment – too much yoga and not enough prolonged sweating, perhaps? Maybe I need more Jillian Michaels when the weather’s crappy, and running more than once a week when the weather’s good? Hmmm … On a positive note (there’s always a positive), I didn’t get the pain in my ears. The wind was warmer than expected, so I think that made a big difference.

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Who cares really, but here’s today’s run!

I walked the first minute or so as a warm up, then jogged, shuffled and walked my way through the rest. Tick, but not a big one. Huni, Liliane’s friend, was in her garden again, but I didn’t stop this time. She shouted out “Hop! Hop!” (which means Go! Go! in Swiss German) as I waved on my way past.

  • Physically Fit: 4.5km run, 500m walk
  • Mentally Fit: Listening to more of Cary Elwes book about The Princess Bride movie
  • Nutritionally Fit: Fifth day of fasting on the 5:2 Diet – 500 calories. Breakfast smoothie 280 calories (37g raspberries – 20 calories; 300ml coconut water – 72 calories; 80g strawberries – 26 calories; 182g banana – 162 calories (whoa, I had no idea the banana would be so much until it was already in!). Dinner 220 calories – mixed salad with tuna, sniff of olive oil
  • Minimalism: I went through my t-shirts to see if any could be turfed, but kept them all

So, another Runday Monday, or Monday Runday, is done and dusted. It’s time to get serious about cardio fitness. Despite Ellie saying she’d never do it again, maybe, just maybe, I’ll run a marathon one day too.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

April 23: Tough ab workout and flexibility

For today’s exercise, I thought I’d search for something different from somewhere different, but I knew it had to be stomach-centric. When I plank, I’m gobsmacked at the pudding that hangs from that area! When the fitness instructors plank, their bellies stay flat and taught. How is it so?! I can’t even ‘blame’ having kids on this excess! So that’s a new goal for the end of fitfor15in15 – to plank without the pudding.

Thanks to the Internet, ask and you generally shall receive. I liked the name of this – Get Fit Fast Ab Workout – 15 minutes of pain – and ignoring the physique of the totally ripped bloke without a shirt, thought I was up for it.

Ahh, no … nowhere near up for it. Apart from it feeling a bit militarised, with the host, Adam Harper, barking at his buddies, “Don’t you give up on me!” *cringe* it would be a brilliant workout for someone who has the fitness levels of, say, Adam Harper and his buddies.

Wowsers it was tough. I couldn’t do any of the exercises properly, or for the entire duration, apart from the side plank hip lower one. I’ve learnt some new exercises though and will try adding them into any homemade routines. The last one, touching your ankles through bent, spread legs, may become a regular. (I really had to giggle at the end of the show, when the host plugs his company’s t-shirts. If they’re so good, shouldn’t he be wearing one?!)

A lot of the raised-leg exercises hurt my lower back, so I did them with bent knees. I realise this made them much easier, but I’m not an advocate of pushing through the pain, yo. Especially when it’s yo back, yo. Overall, I’m not proud of my efforts in that workout, but it’s something to do again and refer back to, in order to keep improving. It’s motivation to plank without the pudding! Plank without the pudding! (A new mantra?!)

One thing I am proud of today is the realisation I’m becoming more flexible. Yesterday and this morning, I was able to touch my nose to my knees for the first time, albeit briefly, but that is a massive improvement from January. Sure it can be contributed to four months of moving, but I also think yoga is making a big difference. I’ve done two yoga classes, here and here, in the past week and I really think my hips are loosening up, which means I can bend further forward. Morning stretches, as part of my morning routine, will have also played a role.

Have you been doing something regularly and noticing an improvement? It’s such a nice boost, isn’t it?! Please, tell me about your successes.

  • Physically Fit: Get Fit Fast Ab Workout
  • Mentally Fit: Sitting in the sun for 10 minutes
  • Nutritionally Fit: Fourth day of fasting on the 5:2 Diet – 500 calories
  • Minimalism: Nothing today – other than minimal calorie intake 🙂

Wishing you a wonderful day. Here are some photos from my walk home yesterday evening after meeting Iva.

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The long way home

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The sun was a huge ball and created a wonderful sunset glow

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The sun sets on another day in Tulip Military School

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.

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)

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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.

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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.

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Karie has embraced her new way of life

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.

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