Sunday, 26 January 2014

First ever HIIT workout

For some reason, I've never done a HIIT workout before, even though it became quite a craze and a few friends have told me I'd enjoy it.

I hit bodyevolutionoc on Instagram to find a workout I could do at home, and found one which looked suitable for a first timer. Two things: not only is this page amazingly full of HIIT workouts using a variety of equipment and moves, but it also features some delicious clean recipes. I would strongly recommend following this page!

So, I picked a workout described as suitable for doing anywhere, anytime, as no equipment at all was required. All I had to do was 3 sets of:

Mountain climbers, 1 minute
Push up/elbow plank, 15 reps (I could not do this in full plank)
Jumps, 1 minute (she jumped on to a wall, but as there's no wall in my garden I used my bosu ball instead)
Split squats, 15-20 reps each leg (actually these were Bulgarian split squats, as she had one leg resting on the aforementioned wall)

Holy wow, this was hard. I was sweating and panting and sweating and panting, and I had a brief break in between sets! I really was amazed at how such a short workout could make me feel so exhausted, and will definitely be doing more HIIT!


Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Deadlift increase

Just a brief and slightly boastful update...

Do you remember when I told you that my trainer had included 8kg single arm rows as part of my latest programme, then handed me a 9? Well, on Monday, she picked up the bar and handed it to me, where we both commented on how heavy it felt. I hadn't eaten my usual mammoth amount that day and supposed it was just me being a delicate flower.

After completing two sets of 15 reps, we both realised that the weight was in fact 30kg, not 25kg. In less than a month I've increased my deadlift 10kg!

I may have mentioned before that deadlifting makes me feel like a real pro, that I know what I'm doing in the gym. I don't know why, I just always associate gym experts with being able to complete extremely heavy deadlifts. It's one of my favourite moves, so I'm really proud to be lifting over half my body weight now.

Please continue to excuse the bad design on this blog - I'm getting it professionally redesigned in February, so I'm hoping by March it will have a spangly and sassy new "coat".

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, 20 January 2014

Blue Monday

Apparently the third Monday of January is the most depressing day of the year: 'Blue Monday'. I was listening to Radio 1 this morning, driving to work (I'm teaching international students for a month again), when I was introduced to this phrase.

There are 2 logical reasons I can think of for people being sad at this time: the weather and the darkness. However, the last couple of days have been lovely, which is why I decided to go for my first run of the year yesterday. There's no point moaning about the weather if you never go outside anyway! Moaning Myrtles. Secondly, it is definitely getting lighter outside, as I can ride on the roads until around 4.30 now.

Well, whatever your reasons for being SAD, here are my cheer-up strategies:

See Ernest. Even though he is extremely grumpy in his bedroom (stable), seeing him restores a sense of balance to my little world, and being able to escape in a peaceful wood is pure escapism.

Hug my greyhounds. I love wrapping my arms around my beautiful, bootylicious greyhounds and playing with their unbelievably soft ears. Whether it's a delicate but thorough sniff from Claus or an extremely waggy tail from Princess, they know how to make me smile.

Look at pictures of greyhounds. I can literally sit on instagram looking at #greyhounds for hours. I love seeing so many of these wonderful dogs happily rehomed, and they are extremely photogenic!

Hang out with Maxx. A hug from my second favourite man (first being Ernest, of course) makes everything seem brighter.

Watch Jenna Marbles' old videos. If you don't know who she is, crawl out from under that rock! She's super funny, especially her older videos. She also has cute dogs.

Snapchat my friend Becky. We have an amazing collection of ugly facial expressions which take time and dedication to perfect.

Watch The Big Bang Theory. This is my favourite show in the whole wide world. I've even got Maxx, my mum and my dad addicted. Thanks to Brother Gareth for introducing it to me.

Listen to any song by Jason Derulo. I really like his music (it's catchy OK?!) and in every interview I've heard, he sounds like such a grounded man. You go Jassssson Deruloooo.


Sunday, 19 January 2014

Culture: El Dorado exhibition

Last week, my mum, brother and I went to the British Museum to see Beyond El Dorado: power and gold in ancient Colombia.  Firstly, it was exciting because I've never been to the British Museum before, and secondly, the exhibition was incredible. To me, it's always impressive how hundreds of artefacts, thousands of years old, have survived, from tiny pieces of jewellery to statues taller than myself (OK not hard, but you see my point). 

Who are these people?
I wasn't sure who El Dorado was, but as soon as you walk into the exhibition, there is a wall which explains what, rather than who, it was. The name means 'golden one', and myths have described it as a lost city of gold or a golden man: the truth is much more interesting, as gold was not currency during this period, but had symbolic significance. 

There were hundreds of artefacts, from nose rings and chest plates to cups and religious offerings in the shape of animals and little figures. I've never seen so much gold! I was particularly impressed by the advanced techniques they used to construct the intricate objects, which were explained using brief video demonstrations as well as text on the walls and little boards in front of each glass case.

As well as the beautiful objects, which were often constructed with other textiles such as feathers and precious stones, the exhibition explained how the objects were significant in the ancient Colombian people's spiritual lives, which included ceremonies to connect with animal spirits and rituals of transformation. They wearable objects were also used to display wealth and social rank, in life and death.

Tickets can be found here. The exhibition closes on 23rd March 2014.

The British Museum is enormous, so it's impossible to see everything in one day, but while we were there we also looked around the Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece and Rome rooms. I loved the statues and am even more eager to visit Greece now. 

Mother's impression of a lion.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Progress Pics

I was doing so well with not being a terrible blogger. A couple of my family members weren't well this week so I have been justifiably preoccupied, but it also means I have a few posts to write about interesting things I've been doing/reading (particularly reading).

Today, my trainer kindly took some photos of me during my workout. After her comments on my back last week, I was a wee bit curious to see if it's looking as good as she said it is. I felt a bit of a goose having my photo taken when clearly I'm not Jamie Eason or Andrea Brazier, but it's actually a really motivating way to monitor progress.

So here are some progress pics (even though you don't actually have any others to compare with...derp whatever)...

Chest fly, also known as Preying Mantis

Deadlift 25kg

I'm not even going to lie about how proud I am of my back definition. I know the middle one is blurry but hey, action shot.

I would like to point out how horrible my hair colour is and how painful it is not dying it.


Monday, 6 January 2014

First Workout of 2014

My trainer really gave new meaning to 'post-workout shake' today. A new year called for a new workout, and this one seriously rivals the title for hardest workout ever. I'm also pleased because my deadlift weight has gone up from 20kg to 25kg! A modest increase, but an increase nonetheless.

So here it is... 

Run - 10 mins

DB squats, 8kg kettlebell - 15 reps
Deadlifts, 25kg barbell/12.5kg DB each hand - 15 reps
Side lunge, 3kg med ball - 20 reps
Kettlebell swing, 8kg kettlebell (well obviously) - 15 reps
Bridge (this is good if you have back problems) - 15 reps
Side step jumps - 10 reps

DB chest flyes, 5kg - 15 reps
Assisted pull ups, 14kg - 15 reps
DB single arm row (my trainer said "we'll use 8s,", promptly handing me a 9), 9kg - 15 reps
DB diagonal raise (this works the rotator cuff), 4kg - 20 reps
TRX rollout - 15 reps
Med ball crunches, 3kg - 20 reps
Back extensions - 20 reps

Cool down:
Walk - 5 mins

You do each circuit, of upper and lower, 3 times, although we ran out of time so I only did upper twice today.

Designed by Michelle Maxwell of


Sunday, 5 January 2014

First Ride of 2014

The first day of 2014 was not suitable for riding. I like to start the year with a lovely long ride, but it just wasn't possible on Wednesday - the rain was horizontal. It didn't put Ernest off grazing (nothing would) but I didn't fancy braving the roads miles from home when I could barely see.

Friday 3rd was much more suitable, so we set off with a Graze flapjack in my pocket and the wind whistling overhead. The first sign it was going to be eventful was when we attempted to pass a tower of straw bales covered in black tarpaulin - it was so loud, flapping in the wind, that Ernest nearly turned around and went home of his own accord! 

After a long trot uphill, we turned the corner and the wind immediately quietened down as we were sheltered by trees. A rather zealous black Labrador greeted us, but Ernest likes dogs so he wasn't upset. We reached the first big crossing, the B3400 to Overton, but someone kindly stopped for us to pass safely (thank you, considerate driver). 

I believe this area is Ashe. I've tried to Google Map my ride but there are few named lanes so it's quite difficult. Along this road, anyway, are the most picturesque cottages I've ever seen. They're called Glebe Cottages, and I always imagine them in the 16th century with witches living inside casting spells. They have dark beams showing through and are just beautiful. I always stop outside just to admire them!

Further up this road was a huge puddle. I thought we were going to have to swim it was so big. Thankfully Ernest isn't afraid of water, or we would have been in a pickle. After navigating past a tractor cutting the hedges, we had about 15 minutes of calm before the wind picked up again. Trees were creaking rather too loudly overhead for my liking! The rain also started and was horizontal when we left the shelter of the trees and had to cross the main road again. 

All of this was fine, the rain stopped, we had another 15 minutes of relative calm, and then about 30 minutes from home I saw the first flash of lightening. Oh, no. Then a big rumble of thunder. Oh, no. I don't really like thunder and lightening, and certainly didn't want to be riding in it, especially as the rain started again with much more force. Ernest, thankfully, just pricked his ears up at the lightening but didn't flinch. I was really proud of him for being such a good boy, when his rider was quite anxious by then. There was another flash and even longer rumble of thunder, and we had to trot all the way home, but he was completely relaxed about the tempestuous weather, which made me relax. 

We were SOAKED. Absolutely wet through! That said, it was actually quite a fun ride - about 8 miles of fighting a somewhat losing battle with the elements, but home safe. I think Ernest rather enjoyed himself too, as New Year he had to stay in all day due to the bad weather and I didn't ride on Thursday. 

A very memorable ride to start the year. I wanted to take photos but it just wasn't possible with everything going on! 

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

New Year, Better Me

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had a good evening - if the poker chips from last night were real money, I'd be very rich by now. I had the luckiest hand all night, and won when we went all in on the last game. I love poker when I win.

Typically, most of the statuses on my Facebook have been detailing people's aspirations, resolutions and aims for 2014. I applaud this, as aiming for something is better than aiming for nothing, and if using the start of a new year urges people to get going, well good.

I used to be a big fan of resolutions, which from about the age of 13 always included 'swear less'. However, I don't think I'm that terrible as a person and I don't want to cut all my hair off, so I'm going on the 'New Year, Better Me' rather than 'New Year, New Me'. Here is a list of meaningful, and one trivial, things I would like to achieve this year:

get a 'career' job in the publishing industry - I'm aiming for editorial assistant but Men's Fitness really opened my eyes to a career in journalism. Either way, I would like to be in a stable, good job. Soon.

Not important:
don't dye my hair for a whole year. This is probably  definitely going to be harder than getting a career job.

compete in showjumping competitions again! I'd love to get back up to 3ft but I'd rather take our time and just enjoy getting back out there again.

run another half marathon - preferably Basingstoke so I can beat my time of 2 hours 7 minutes from 2012.

improve my French. Without living in France, it would be almost impossible to become fluent, and while I can speak at conversational level I would like to see a big improvement in fluency. 

Kind of important but dependent on #1:
visit a new country. I love travelling, and if I can afford to, in the latter half of the year I would love to go to Germany or Ireland. I visited Dresden for a day in 2004, but would love to explore more of Germany, and I've wanted to go to Ireland for a long time as apparently it's a beautiful place.

lower my body fat to 18% by February, and generally increase my weights. I'd love to be able to deadlift 50kg, but as I'm only on 20kg at the moment I think I'll need longer than a year... I will probably aim to lower my bf again, after an informed discussion with my personal trainer, as I'm so nearly there now and there is definitely room for healthy improvement. 

Let me know what you want to achieve this year!