Saturday, 24 January 2015

English National Ballet: Swan Lake

As part of our Christmas present, my grandma - the formidable Grandma Val - took mum and I to see English National Ballet's production of Swan Lake at the London Coliseum in Covent Garden. The closest I'd ever come to seeing ballet performed prior to this was watching Black Swan, and I've only ever attended one ballet taster lesson (influenced by watching the aforementioned film. I loved the class but didn't have the time to take it up). So, I was really excited and eager to experience my first ballet production.

Obviously all the dancing looked amazing, but what struck me was the elegance. It really is something you have to see to truly appreciate. The dancers had an ethereal quality to them, and the choreography was perfect. At one point they really resembled a flock of swans in flight - it was seamless how they moved into a V shape. I was in constant amazement, but this was one of the most outstanding moments to me.

The elegance of the dancing was assisted by the beautiful backdrops. The scenery for the first 'act' - I don't know if that's the correct terminology - was a woodland. It looked three-dimensional and just breath-taking; the colours were green and dark and somewhat mystical, with a huge full moon in the middle. The other most commonly used backdrop looked like the inside of a royal court, and was more vibrant. I felt utterly transported.

London Coliseum
Unfortunately I couldn't take a good picture inside the theatre and you're not allowed to take photos during the performance, so I have taken this picture from The Standard's website.

I knew the women would be lithe, but I was amazed at the size of the male ballet dancers' quads (can you tell I workout). That said, given how they could leap though the air, it made sense that they would have such powerful leg muscles. I was also surprised at how, during the dance routines during the court scenes - again, not sure if that's the right term - the other dancers would take the role of courtiers being entertained. For instance, they would sit at the side in groups, and one would offer the other revellers a drink. They would also pretend to chat and react to the dancers. I was amazed at how multi-layered the performance was - in truth, I thought ballet was just dancing, however there also was an element of acting too.

My favourite composer is Tchaikovsky, so listening to his music all evening was also a great pleasure. It has made me enjoy his works even more, having heard them as part of a Swan Lake performance. I still envisage the dancers when listening to them now, and imagine what was happening in the scene at the time.

It really was an unbeatable experience and I'm hoping I can see more English National Ballet performances  in the future!

Saturday, 10 January 2015

My Fitness Pal - Week One

I was sceptical about using My Fitness Pal again, thinking it would make me more obsessed and stressed about what I'm eating. I also wondered whether it would accurately log the calories burnt during exercise - because I'm already quite fit and not overweight, it takes a lot for me to burn hundreds of calories. 
Here's what I found.
MFP is mostly accurate due to the huge database of foods already entered. In fact, tonight is the only night I've not been able to find a meal, and that's because the pub chain doesn't publish its meals'  nutritional information. Instead, I used the 'quick add calories' option, to log an estimation of how many calories I ate - this means I don't get the carb/protein/fat etc breakdown, but it's better than nothing.
However, I found it hard to believe that going for a leisurely hack for 80 mins - in walk - would burn as many calories as it says. The way I tackled this was to lower the amount of minutes I actually did the activity, to get a more accurate number of calories burned. Not ideal, but better than kidding myself that I could burn 150+ calories going for a hack!
I like that I can adjust my aims and immediately have access to how many carbs and how much protein, etc, I've eaten each day. Due to the quick access to this information, I've found I haven't been so obsessive. It's almost like, once logged, I can forget about it until I next need to make a food choice.
This last week has been an anomaly in that I've had a wisdom tooth and molar out, so eating has been somewhat challenging. Most of my food has been easily 'mushable'! Seriously though, one morning it took me 40 minutes to eat a toasted muffin. Ridiculous. My dental extractions have helped me to reduce my calorie intake, but honestly, I haven't felt that hungry at any point this week.
Formerly, I thought I was eating too many carbs and too much fat, but this week has shown me I really should try to lower my sugar intake. No more Heinz tomato soup or Heinz baked beans! Well, maybe once a week as a treat. I do love baked beans. Beans beans the magical fruit and all that.
Although I started using MFP last Saturday, I didn't weigh myself until Monday, so I want to wait a full week before seeing if I've lost anything. Due to this, the goals I wrote on my previous post have changed slightly.
My new goals are:
  • lose 1lb a week
  • eat 1460 calories a day - this allowance goes up if I exercise
  • do 4 workouts a week, 40 mins each - although I record any walking and hacking I do, which all adds up, I only really count schooling sessions and weightlifting/circuits as 'workouts'. The other activities I do, like taking Ernest for a relaxing hack, are a bonus in terms of calories burnt.
So, from Saturday to Saturday, I've done 530 minutes of exercise and burnt 1475 calories. Normally the week runs Monday to Monday, of course, and under the 'exercise' tab you can see whether you're on track to meet your fitness goals. 

For this week, going from Monday 5th to now, I've burnt 1001/690 calories and exercised for 310/160 mins. When setting up my account, I selected that I want to lose 1lb a week, am active, and want to complete 4 workouts a week for 40 mins - MFP has obviously worked out that in order to do this I need to eat a deficit of 500 calories per day and burn 690 calories per week. 

Possibly my favourite thing about MFP is that, if you undereat, a warning message on the dangers of underrating comes up. Most will ignore it, I'm sure, but I think it's quite a responsible thing to do. It also has a message that says, 'if everyday were like today, you'd weigh *** in 5 weeks'. It's a nice reminder, or a shock depending on how you've eaten, on where you're headed.

Overall, I'd recommend MFP as a way to monitor your eating and exercise. I just hope that my surprisingly active week pays off when I weigh in on Monday!

Saturday, 3 January 2015

I've Joined My Fitness Pal... again

A little while ago I joined My Fitness Pal, then deleted my account because I just didn't keep it up. For those who aren't familiar with MFP, it's an online food and exercise tracker. You enter your details - height, weight, measurements - and what you want to lose, as well as how active you are day-to-day. It calculates your daily calorie limit, although you can increase your limit depending on how many calories you burn during exercise. Then, you enter all the food you've eaten that day - there's a huge database of foods, although you can add your own recipes etc.

I've decided to rejoin, to see how effective it is at helping me lose 7lbs (half a stone). I'm hoping that the slight weight loss of 1/2lb each week will be fat from my muffin top dropping off, although I won't know until the end of March (my next scheduled body fat check).

I've kept a food diary on and off for years, but feel that My Fitness Pal is a more environmentally friendly way of keeping track (just call me the paper saver). It's become common knowledge that keeping a food diary can aid weight loss, but I'll be interested to see if it makes me more obsessed about what I eat.

Today has been a good day because I had a wisdom tooth out, so eating anything solid has been impossible past 1.30. That said, I'm slightly over my sugar limit, due to the baked beans I ate before my operation, the tomato soup after, and the ice cream my dad bought me to make me feel better (thanks Daddy Martins). Hopefully I'll be under tomorrow!

Thursday, 1 January 2015

2015: The Year Ahead

Happy New Year everyone! Today has been a relaxing day - I cooked pancakes for the other members of the Fantastic Four and my parents, took Ernest for a ride, had a roast with the aforementioned and my Auntie, and played Trivial Pursuit.

Here are the final 10 questions from Into Mind's post, 'Your Year in Review.' The first 40 questions I answered can be found here.

41. What do you want the overarching theme for your 2015 to be?

42. What do you want to see, discover, explore?
I'm looking forward to going to Montpellier in May with the Fantastic Four, and Hever Castle with Maxxy in February. If we can afford to, Maxx and I would like to visit Ireland as well. And I'm supposed to be going to Ibiza in summer for my Aunt's birthday. Maxx and I have agreed that there's lots of areas of England we haven't explored, so it'll be exciting to get out on his bike. 

43. Who do you want to spend more time with in 2015?
My godchildren and the friends I barely saw last year.

44. What skills do you want to learn, improve or master?
I'd like to continually improve my teaching skills, through my PGCLTHE and by gaining experience teaching academic English. I'd like to master pull ups - at the moment I can do assisted, but I'd love to be able to do a full set unassisted. Or even just one. I also want to learn how to cook amazing Thai food... sweetcorn fritters, pad thai, massaman curry... Mmmmm.

45. Which personal quality do you want to develop or strengthen?
I'm very organised but not so good at flexibility, so I'd like to learn to deal with unexpected situations better.

46. What do you want your everyday life to be like?
Rigidly controlled. Just kidding - busy but not fraught, with time set aside at the end of each day to chill out and switch off. Fulfilling.

47. Which habits do you want to change, cultivate or get rid of?
I have a bad habit of trying to do too much, and trying to please everyone, which then exhausts me. I'd like to become more balanced.

48. What do you want to achieve career-wise?
More private students, and a teaching role at a University.

49. How do you want to remember the year 2015 when you look back on it 10/20/50 years from now?
The year I had a lot of fun, made a lot of memories with those I love, and had exciting experiences.

50. What is your number one goal for 2015?
To be more balanced and make improvements in all areas of my life, even if they're just little ones.