Image

Weekly Photo Challenge: Spring

Far too much time passes between blog posts regarding the preparations for my upcoming charity challenge, to raise £3800 for my local Hospice to trek the Inca Trail next year (read all about it here). So, I am going to combine an update with my entry to this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge, the topic of which is Spring.

Last Monday, (Bank Holiday Monday) I had a pleasant surprise in that my other half finished work a lot earlier than we expected – 12pm instead of 8pm, which was a huge bonus. Not wanting to waste his new-found freedom we decided that we’d go out for a drive around the countryside, which quickly turned in to an adventure to High Force, a stunningly beautiful waterfall near Middleton-in-Teesdale .

High Force waterfall

High Force waterfall

We’ve been to High Force many times but have always stuck to one particular route, for those who are familiar with High Force we have always parked at the pub and taken the trail which leads to the bottom of the waterfall. Every time we have taken this route we have seen people at the top on the other sides of the falls and wondered how the hell they got there. On Monday we decided that we would finally find the route and experience the falls from the other side, which involved a 2-mile walk from our starting point (Bowlees picnic area) to the falls. This provided a fantastic opportunity to finally get the brand spanking new walking boots out of the box and begin ‘breaking them in’ ahead of the Inca Trail next year.

Putting the hiking boots to good use!

Putting the hiking boots to good use!

A couple of friends joined us and we had a lovely afternoon exploring the new trail and delighting in the wonders of Spring…finally bringing me around to the Weekly Photo Challenge that is Spring! I love spring, it is without a doubt my favourite season of the year. Spring is a new dawn, full of life and injecting colour back in to the world, which is so dull and grey and depressing throughout winter. I actually feel myself becoming happier and more positive in spring, it’s almost like I’m part of the whole process!

The best part of spring for me is watching the spring lambs as they find their confidence. You can always tell the new born lambs as they don’t venture too far from their mothers, but then they get to a certain age and all of a sudden they are the most adventurous little balls of white fluff you ever laid eyes on. And have you ever noticed how they seem to become ‘cliquey’ and run around in little gangs? Seriously, I could just watch them frolicking around the countryside all day, they are so damn cute!

Spring lambs causing mischief

Spring lambs causing mischief

Spring lambs

 

Not only did we see many a cute lamb on our little adventure, but also ducklings! If I love anything as much as spring lambs it has got to be ducklings! Unfortunately they were on the far side of the river and didn’t venture our way, but I was still pretty excited to see my first ducklings of the year….that’s right, I know what you’re thinking…I clearly have issues! What can I say? I just love animals!Ducklings

Anyway, all in all we had a lovely afternoon, took a load of photo’s (at which point I should clarify that some of the photo’s I have posted as part of the challenge were taken by me, and some by the other half) and finally began my training (if a 4 mile stroll through the countryside can be classed as training?) for the Inca Challenge.

 

How I totally changed my lifestyle in one short year

As it’s January, and (it feels like) the whole world and it’s dog are on a fitness kick, New Year’s resolutions and all that, I thought I’d share with you all what I’ve been up to fitness-wise. I’ve got a lot of time before I start trekking the Inca Trail and climbing up and down hundred’s of steps (possibly thousands, but if it really is thousands of steps I’d rather not know) so I’m not exactly in training mode yet, but I am working on increasing my fitness levels and stamina.

This time last year I did no exercise at all. Well, I would walk from my car to the office and back each day, but that only took 5 minutes or so, so it doesn’t really count. About this time last year I did start calorie counting, using a fabulous free app called MyFitnessPal, which helped me to lose 2 stone in weight. For the first couple of months I just counted the calories and didn’t do any exercise, but still lost weight. In March I took up jogging again (my relationship with jogging is very on again/off again, we don’t really get along) until I got a really horrible viral infection which zapped all of my energy for a good few weeks and ruined the little routine I’d managed to get going. Around that time I finally plucked up the courage to try out a fitness class I’d fancied for years, pole dance classes. In case anyone has the wrong idea, the classes aren’t about stripping or lap dancing or anything like that – it’s more like a gymnastics class with a pole, requiring upper body and core strength, balance (and grace… which sadly I am lacking in, but I think I’m getting better!).

 

The latest move I managed to accomplish - Extended Buterfly

The latest move I managed to accomplish – Extended Buterfly

After I started going to pole dance classes I started working on building up my strength at home, doing lots of push ups, tricep dips, ab work, squats etc, which made a huge difference in class, giving me the strength I need to do certain moves and to keep myself held up. Doing these exercises really helped me to tone up, giving me loads more confidence and helping me to feel good about myself. In the summertime I got into the habit of going for a walk during my lunch break every day. I tend to walk pretty fast, and I was pushing myself to walk off 200 calories in an hour, solely so I could treat myself to something naughty at the end of the day!

I was quite content with my exercise regime of walking approx 15 miles per week and my weekly pole dance class, it suited me quite nicely and burnt off enough calories to treat myself to the yummy junk food I love so much. That was until November, when I signed up to the Inca Trail Challenge and I knew I’d have to start pushing myself more to build up my stamina. And, November is closely followed by December. You know, that month where alcohol, chocolate, yummy savoury snacks and all kinds of naughtiness are available at every turn? So it was time to add something else in to the mix, and I honestly didn’t see this one coming – Zumba!

My mam has been going to a local Zumba class for a while now, and had been on at me for ages to go along to a class with her, and I kept resisting. Why? Because I have no co-ordination whatsoever, and no rhythm or anything else that helps you shake your hips and do salsa moves (unless I’m drunk, and I’m not convinced that I have these skills when I’m drunk, but by that point I don’t care), and I didn’t want other people to see what a mess I was and not being able to keep up. Then, all of a sudden after months of asking me to go along, she tells me that the class is in the dark with disco lights bouncing around the walls and my ears pricked up. In the dark? Well that didn’t sound too bad, if it’s in the dark then surely it can’t be too easy to see every mistake I make? So I finally went along to a class and gave it a go. As I expected I made a lot of mistakes and couldn’t figure out a lot of the moves, but…. it was fun! And it burns a lot of calories according to the good old MyFitnessPal app, so I’ve been along to quite a few classes now and think this could be something that I keep going to ensure I get a good cardio workout.

Last week, feeling a little flush with Christmas money, I paid for a monthly pass to the fitness centre where the Zumba takes place, which gives me unlimited access to all of the classes which they run – which is a lot! In the past week, as well as Zumba, I’ve tried out a KBX and an HIIT class, last week I didn’t have a clue what either of those acronyms meant! KBX stands for Kettle Bell X-Treme, if you’ve done a MetaFit class before imagine that with kettle bells. I haven’t done a MetaFit class before, so it was quite a shock to the system! HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training, and the class I did today is very much like the Les Mills Grit workout program. I didn’t find this as bad as the KBX class last week, possibly because I was a little bit more prepared and had an idea of what to expect.

So, that’s my little account of where my fitness level currently stands. Looking back over the past year I’m really proud of what I have achieved in terms of weight loss and fitness, and I felt that sharing this with you would give you a better idea of the very lazy lifestyle I once led and how far I have come, and hopefully my future posts will show you how much further I can go!