Training day

I’ve been meaning to write about Les Mills for a while now and have a lot to say, but for now, I wanted to give a quick shout out to the new, free workout they’ve released featuring Nina Dobrev.

They built up to it for a few weeks, with a new challenge each week such as completing as many burpees or lunges as you can in a minute. I didn’t participate in these challenges and now I wish I had because I would have been a bit more prepared for the awesomeness of this workout.

I’m relatively new to Grit and rubbish at it, so it’s nice to see Nina looking as shattered as I do after each and every track.

Also, who came up with burpees? Because I’d like to have a word.

Friday Five – Tips to stick to your resolutions

We’re a week into 2018, and if you made New Year’s Resolutions you will either be celebrating one week down, 51 more to go, or you will be disappointed that you’ve let them slide already. Either way, I thought it was a good time to share the tips that motivate me to stick to habits.

New habits are hard, they don’t always stick, I’m not perfect, and that’s why this reminder is as much for me as guidance for anyone else. These aren’t new or revolutionary, they’re just the key five things that will help you continue (or restart) the journey to getting your goals.

  1. Make it easy. If your goal is to do 20 minutes of indoor cycling a day, you don’t want to have to un-flat-pack your exercise bike every time you want to go for a stationary ride. Equally, you can’t leave the thing in the middle of the floor so that you trip over it in the middle of the night in search of a glass of water. There’s a happy balance, but it’s key that you keep your activities as set up as possible so that there are no (or few) barriers to just getting on with it each and every day.
  2. Do it regularly. It might not be a daily goal you have, although that’s the usual format. It’s important to have a regular schedule of whatever goal it is, though, so that you know when and where you have to do it. Of course plans change and you have to adapt, but it’s a good start to know that when you get home from work you do X, or every Sunday morning you’re going to achieve Y.
  3. Do it even if you don’t want to. This one really is the most important, despite the fact I’ve sandwiched it in the middle of the others. If you don’t feel like doing it, try and make yourself. If you REALLY don’t feel like doing it, then you have to make yourself. But the trick is to promise yourself you only have to do it for five or ten minutes. The important thing is to do it, so those five or ten minutes count. And you might find that once you’ve started, you just get on and do what you’d normally do anyway.
  4. Be accountable. This one annoys me because so many other guides, particularly with fitness goals, say ‘get a friend to do it with you!’ and that is just not practical for everyone. Firstly, your goal might be private or secret or a surprise, and secondly, you might not have a friend you want to share with. That’s cool, but you can still be accountable in other ways. Sharing on social media or blogging is one way, getting an app to track your habit (like Streaks) also works. At a very basic level, grab a scrap bit of paper and tick each day off as you do it.
  5. Reward yourself. You have to be careful with this one, because I think it’s important to want to do the goals or set up the habit for the right reason, not because you promised yourself an Xbox at the end. But there’s no harm in saying if I achieve this, I will treat myself to this. I think it’s better if the things aren’t related so one doesn’t derail the other (ie. if I lose this much weight, I’ll eat an entire sponge cake to myself) and smaller, more regular rewards can be better than waiting endlessly for one big one.

These are the tips that I’m trying to remember and stick to as I take on some new challenges. This time of year can be annoying for endless talk of improving yourself, but it can be a good time to reset, refresh and start something. Starting is the key to everything but these five tips will hopefully help with sticking with it.

Staying in for coffee

I’ve never been a coffee drinker. I’ve enjoyed the smell, but never liked the taste. For a long time, I just never had coffee, but I must admit to occasionally being pressured to find something to drink in a coffee shop and opting for the sweetest, most caramel-enhanced, beverage the menu has to offer.

I have a feeling that’s all about to change, as the festive period brought with it a new Tassimo into our house. Two days in, two Costa coffee lattes later, and I’m converted. Who knew coffee could actually taste nice?

I’ve had drinks from a Tassimo before, but always chosen hot chocolate or tea (which is nice but ends up with frothy milk which is kinda odd). Now, I can’t believe I’ve been missing out this whole time. I know these machines come in for a lot of criticism, but having that fresh coffee smell in the house for the sake of putting a pod in the top and pressing a button is the kind of convenience I like.

So 2018 is off to a pretty good, and somewhat energised, start. Lattes now, but check back in with me later and I’ll likely have worked up to the espresso!

2018 goals

It’s this time of year that people start talking about making resolutions. I’m guilty of it too, and I always have those thoughts rolling around my head for New Year: eat less, move more, write more, do more, be better.

This year I was all ready to get specific again, and then I realised, it’s not about those measurable goals. Sure, I have plenty of things I want to achieve in 2018 but the overarching thing that I, and the world, needs is not a list of my boring plans.

Instead it’s about the simpler things.


Be nice.

Be thoughtful.

Be kind.

 

Talk, but listen more.

Learn and grow and change your mind.

 

Be proud. Life is hard, but you’re making it.

Be awesome. The world needs awesome people.

Be fearless. You are loved, so take a chance.

 

Most of all, be you. Glorious, wonderful, flawed, beautiful, complicated you.


 

Mr C’s top five songs of 2017

This annual tradition has had its ups and downs. Initially, Mr C enjoyed the process of selecting his top five songs and films of the year gone by. Then he started agonising over the choices and gradually began to hate this time of year. But I care not! It’s a tradition and we’re doing it for 2017 just like all the years gone by. This time, to appease him and because we really weren’t inspired by cinema so much, I’ve said just songs, not films.

So here they are: Mr C’s top five songs of 2017.

1- What About Us, P!nk

2- Green Light, Lorde

3- Right Now, HAIM

4- Plot Twist, Sigrid

5- Hard Times, Paramore

A quick word from the man himself on the state of music this year:

“A year dominated by female artists and exceptionally good albums. Every song on the list is backed by an equally good album. We lost the iTunes music festival which, in previous years, was the go to place. But we had Glastonbury and a lot of documentaries – Beats 1 put out a lot of strong content – that gave us context that we’ve been missing previously. Albums and songs got to mean more rather than just existing in a vacuum.”

Mr C would like me to mention that Kelsea Ballerina had the best album of the year, but none of the songs were strong enough in themselves to make the top five. She has, in fact, become a better Taylor Swift than Taylor Swift is these days.

Finally, the shortlist that he worked from to come up with this top five. I suspect it was the biggest shortlist to date, so goodness knows what will happen next year.

Previous years available here: 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010

On the record 2017 – wrap up

I’ve been dreading this moment pretty much from the second I hit publish on last year’s round-up of my musical adventures.

Now it’s time for me to pick not only my top five albums of the year just gone but also update my top ten albums of all time. Naturally, this only includes the ones I have listened to in the course of this album adventure nonsense, so it’s actually the top ten albums of all time out of 200 options. But that’s double last year, and the more I listen, the more I learn.

It’s worth a moment here just to remind everyone, and myself, what this album adventure is all about. Each week, myself and Mr C choose an album for me to listen to. I get to choose current stuff, so this year or the previous year. Mr C has the rest of musical history to choose from. I try and listen to each album twice, because sometimes they need a moment to grow on you.

This goes on for 50 weeks, and then I spend the remaining two weeks trying to fathom how to make a top five and top ten list. So, here goes nothing, the top ten albums of all time:

  1. Come On Over, Shania Twain
  2. Something to Tell You, HAIM
  3. Songs in A Minor, Alicia Keys
  4. Pet Sounds, The Beach Boys
  5. WALLS, Kings of Leon
  6. Evolve, Imagine Dragons
  7. With His Blue and Hot Guitar, Johnny Cash
  8. Native, OneRepublic
  9. Tracy Chapman, Tracy Chapman
  10. Camino Palmero, The Calling

It’s interesting to compare this to last year – OneRepublic and Tracy Chapman have drastically dropped down the order, whilst my love for Shania’s classic album only increased with her return to the music world. Kelsea Ballerini dropped out of the top ten altogether, despite creating another album that I love to pieces, whilst Johnny Cash stormed straight in to number seven, with the start of what could be a big obsession.

Now down to the business of 2017’s top five albums. It has been an EPIC year of music, so many fantastic albums from so many brilliant people – especially the girls, they’ve been killing it this year. Pink, Kelly Clarkson, Lorde, Shania, Miley, Kelsea, Demi, Katy Perry, Dua Lipa, the list just goes on and on. Narrowing it down was hard, although I had my top three spots picked out pretty quickly. Eventually I picked number four and then had a top five for all of a moment before switching out the final album at the very last minute.

45 of the 50 albums I selected this year were from 2017, which is up from 38 relating to 2016 last year. A lot of them I listened to the moment they came out, and others I was actively waiting for them to be released, which just shows I continue to be keen even after two years of this listening pressure.

Enough wittering, here are the top five of 2017:

  1. Something to Tell You, HAIM
  2. Evolve, Imagine Dragons
  3. After Laughter, Paramore
  4. Unapologetically, Kelsea Ballerini
  5. Who Built the Moon?, Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds

Interestingly, I’ve become so hooked on music this year that I’ve introduced several Beats1 shows to my listening schedule as well, and my podcast listening has drastically fallen off a cliff. I’m all about the songs right now, and so looking forward to year three of On the record.

Five star book report 2017

I post the majority of my book reviews to my Goodreads profile, but occasionally like to hand-pick those that have earned five stars to share here. I haven’t been as voracious in my reading appetite this year, and have indulged in some books that I’ve read before, but still there were some great highlights along the way.

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

I love Anna Kendrick a lot, so it was no surprise that her memoir was right up my street. Having said that, I was a bit taken aback by the book because it was basically like reading inside my mind – some of the anxieties, some of the anti-social tendancies, some of the obsessive compulsive stuff, you mean Hollywood stars feel like that too?

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

I thought it was really well written, and easy to follow despite the difficult timelines throughout. I also liked that some time periods were jumped quickly, whereas other times we got stuck in the one spot – Bridget’s flu or getting out of the Blitz alive.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

At first, I thought this was just going to be another book about a taciturn Scandinavian man – an older gentleman, grumpy at the world but with a strong moral fibre and deep down a good heart. It was that, of course, but it was so much more. The way the story is structured, gradually filling in the back story of Ove’s life, whilst also gradually giving him reasons to keep going in the future, was perfect.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

It’s a tragic piece, terribly sad in places, but equally full of hope – cancer is such a common disease now that these sort of stories and feelings will affect many people in their lifetime. Knowing that life can go on, however painful it may be, is a good thing, a strong feeling.

The Dispatcher by John Scalzi

The crux of a shorter work like this is getting straight to the heart of the ethical problems that arise. In this case, we’re talking about a world where if you are murdered, you get a second chance at living, so an entire industry is created around dispatching people. Plenty to discuss thereafter.

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

Love some of the concepts in here, such as the Queen treating all of her books the same as she does her subjects, with an equal attitude. Or that once the public get wind of her reading, they are suddenly presenting her with books as presents or their own works for a royal opinion.

Ten Birthdays by Kerry Wilkinson

Intially, the story is gentle – growing up is hard and Poppy isn’t sure what she wants to do with her life. But gradually, real life gets in the way, relationships change, and stuff happens. I really enjoyed the way the characters changed and grew but ultimately kept a big part of what was special about them from the beginning.

Sully: Miracle on the Hudson by Chesley B. Sullenberger, Jeffrey Zaslow

I found it inspirational to read about how he doesn’t consider himself a hero, but that working hard and diligently preparing for every eventually allowed him to land the plane successfully. It’s not always about being the brave hero, but sometimes being the one squirrelling away in the background doing the job well can also make a difference.

The Calling: A John Luther Novel by Neil Cross

It’s short, sharp, bristling with tension and anger, confusion, betrayal and generally a sense of foreboding and doom. It casts Luther as the bad guy – the one at the end of the horror film, calmly walking after victims knowing that he’ll get his way in the end. And yet, as we all know, flawed as Luther may be, he’s also brilliant.

Where Rainbows End by Cecilia Ahern

A story told in the form of communications between Rosie and her friends and extended family, this chronicles almost fifty years of love, loss, drama, tears and tantrums. It draws you in from the very beginning, and even though some of the letters or emails are a bit clunky (they have to be to get the story across in a less than natural form), it’s all very believable and readable.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

I love it for the simplicity – there’s advice and guidance, even a touch or two about grammar, but for the most part it is about writing for the sake of writing. The joy of it, the craft, the determination and will, and of course, the pride in the end result. Inspirational for many reasons, this book.