Week In Review – Yoga, Yoga And More Yoga!

Confession: my name is Allison and it has been a week since my last run.

Having decided last weekend to take a time out to allow the tightness around my ankle to resolve, I reached this past weekend feeling like a could run, but with the Disneyland Paris half marathon next month I’m taking no risks, so decided to give it a few more days to feel 100% right rather than risking an injury. Just call me Captain Sensible lol!

I still managed to keep myself busy though – plenty of time playing with the kittens (and watching them sleep since they’re so gosh darned cute!), reading, working out in the gym and yoga, lots and lots of yoga:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – 30 mins bike, brief swim and SUP yoga
Wednesday – 30 mins bike
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – Vinyasa flow yoga
Saturdayparkrun SUP yoga
Sunday – 1 hour bike

I’ve reached that point in the holidays when I’m gloriously relaxed and all the days kind of merge into each other (in a good way) so I actually just had to check my diary to try and remember what I did with myself on Monday. The answer was that I had some errands in town in the morning then a good friend from work visited in the afternoon. She said it was so we could have a catch-up (and we do normally try to meet in the holidays) but realistically she wanted to meet the kittens. True to form, the kittens put on their best display of cuteness, including purring, grooming each other and sleeping all curled up together, so she got the full effect!

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Their latest hidey-hole!

In the evening I had my Hatha yoga class, the first of several yoga sessions in the week, and I enjoyed continuing to build strength and stability. I’m definitely seeing how this is improving my yoga when I’m on the paddleboard and I’m still convinced this benefits my running too.

On Tuesday I decided it was time to get my butt in gear and do something that would work my cv system a bit more, so I walked down to the gym and spent half an hour on the bike. Steve had suggested that the movement would likely help my ankle and it was good to get my heart rate up a bit. I used the time to read some of my book on my Kindle (multi-tasking for the win!) which helps the time pass quite pleasantly even when I’m working reasonably hard.

Since I had some time, I headed down to the pool and swam a few lengths to see where I was. Surprisingly it was ok given that I haven’t had a swim in some time, and I remembered once again that I probably should swim a bit more often if I can.

In the evening I was booked into a SUP yoga session. The weather was a bit cooler and I suspected some rain in the air (nothing like last Saturday’s monsoon, thank goodness!) so I wore Steve’s full length wetsuit so I would be warm enough. It was a great class and with the conditions a bit better I was able to stand up on my board to paddle back in after the class again. I really want to keep building my confidence with this as I’m definitely feeling much more confident on the board in general these days (famous last words, right!).

Since I wasn’t running on Wednesday, I walked back down to the gym for another half hour bike session. This week was the first time I’d really been on the bike for a while and my poor rear felt a bit tender after two sessions in a row! I skipped the swim this time since I couldn’t be bothered with washing my hair, but did treat myself to a sauna before getting changed to head home. The remainder of the day was spent between time with the kittens, a bit of reading and some catching up on tv.

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4vzgY4IuTkWK886SH46YsAThursday was really chilled again. Steve suggested a trip out the farm shop to get some eggs and have a coffee, so I met him there and watched the ducks while I was waiting.

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U5RuRAFmQzOTyOKAXXhS+AI also decided that I need ALL of these!

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The rest of the day was spent mainly at home until it was time to head out to Ashtanga yoga. It was quite a busy class but since we are now including headstand in the session on a regular basis, I had a chance to keep working on it. I’m still working with my teacher on hand to spot me, but am just about able to move into it by myself now, and might actually be able to do more than I realise if I just had the confidence to try. I’ll keep working on it.

I was back in the yoga studio on Friday morning as there was a taster session of a new Vinyasa Flow class happening. The teacher was a guy we knew from when he worked at the gym I go to (Steve was based there before he had his own studio) and we both fancied giving it a go. The style of yoga was new to me, but the basics were very much what I knew, so although it was a challenging workout, I really enjoyed it and will likely go again at some point when it’s the school holidays.

Again, the rest of the day was pretty chilled – I even got a little time reading in the garden before a big cloud blocked the sun – and the kittens continued to work their cuteness!

IMG_8464I was originally to be a pacer at parkrun on Saturday, but my gut was telling me not to run just yet so I withdrew (where did all this common sense come from?!). That gave me a bit more time to myself in the morning before heading over to the activity centre for SUP yoga. It was another fantastic class and everyone there had been to the majority of the sessions so we were able to move into standing warriors (a little wobbly as there was some wind). I actually came the closest I ever have to falling in whilst moving into warrior, but I somehow managed to regain my balance and continue into the posture. I don’t think I would have been able to do that before so either my balance is improving or my core is getting stronger. Or both.

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Happy paddle board yogis getting ready to head out on the water.

I was able to stand on the board to paddle back, although the wind did mean I overshot the jetty and had to manoeuvre my way back! We also needed to help each other to take the boards out of the water as the wind was catching them like kites. It made me realise how used to it we’ve become – when we first started that would have been really intimidating, but now we happily work with the equipment and pitch in as we have a better idea of what we’re doing.

After the session we went for a lovely lunch in the cafe by the centre. They do really nice sandwiches and the weather was good enough to sit outside – although there were quite a lot of wasps around!

qpycGD0zSOuRkNHSsoM0JASince I was still not running on Sunday (the ankle had continued to make significant improvements but I was still playing it safe) I headed back down to the gym to have a longer cycle. This time I was on the bike for an hour (with my Kindle, of course) then headed home so we could get on with the rest of our Sunday chores. I’m rather hoping to be running again next weekend, so keep your fingers crossed. In the meantime, KITTENS!

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What’s your next event?
Have you tried Vinyasa Flow yoga?

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Book Review – Tricurious

Laura was a self-certified couch potato. Until six years ago she couldn’t run for more than a few minutes at a time. Since then she has completed eight marathons and is now a committed triathlete. But Laura couldn’t have achieved what she has without her mentor and friend Katie. A life-long runner, fair-weather cyclist, and born-again swimmer, the more experienced Katie helped Laura through the ups and downs of training for a triathlon. Their triathlon journey gave them the opportunity to break boundaries while forging a life-long friendship. Tricurious tells Laura’s and Katie’s story, with energy and humour. Filled with anecdotes and advice about the trials and tribulations of preparing for a triathlon, this inspiring book will leave you hungry to experience the joy (and pain) of swim, bike, run.

You may know Laura Fountain from her book The Lazy Runner which documented her journey from couch potato to marathoner. As with many runners, Laura asked herself, “what next?” and the answer was triathlon. While triathlon may not (yet) be on the cards for me, I enjoyed reading about her journey towards the iron distance from being a complete beginner.

What drew me to this book, apart from my knowledge of Laura from her previous book and her blog, was how accessible the it was. When trying something new we all experience fears and doubts, we convince ourselves that everybody else was somehow born knowing how to do it and that we are going to make complete fools of ourselves. This book takes us through the process of getting to grips with each of the disciplines (including learning to swim pretty much from scratch – usually the most intimidating aspect of triathlon for beginners) and is filled with amusing stories of mishaps and mistakes, as well as answering all those questions that we’re too afraid to ask, about the things no one ever tells us.

Throughout the book we get Laura’s perspective as a beginner, as well as Katie King’s perspective as the more experienced triathlete, so those with a triathlon or two under their (race) belts can still get something from this book. We get a glimpse into training for iron distance events as well as some advice on how to ensure a balance between training and our “real” lives.

We are also shown, crucially, that it’s ok not to succeed the first time – whether that’s swimming a length, clipping into our bike pedals or making the cut-off time in an iron distance event. A great example of this was Laura’s first iron distance tri in which she didn’t feel great during the swim and lost too much time. As a result, she didn’t make one of the bike cut-offs and her race ended. It would have been easy to wallow in self-pity, but instead Laura set up her own personal event not long after. With no fanfare, just her watch to give her the distance markers and the support of her loved ones, Laura completed the iron distance triathlon she had trained for (her “Iron Person”) and did so within her own meaningful cut-off times – completing the swim within the session times at the reservoir, being off her her bike before her nieces went to bed and finishing the run in time for last orders in the pub! Amazing!

I loved the interplay between the two writers and the “turn about” approach to chapters. I also loved the honesty, sense of humour and practical advice they both give. I’d say it’s the ideal book for women keen to try triathlon, and should I ever decide to give it a go I’ll be re-reading this book as it shows quite clearly that anything is possible.

The Year Of Me!!! – July Update

I can’t believe July is over. It’s my favourite month of the whole year (no work, a couple of weeks spent on a sun lounger in Florida, lots of relaxing…) but I suppose all good things must come to an end. Meanwhile, The Year of Me continues (as my birthday creeps ever closer!) and this is my monthly check-in with how I’m getting on with my goals to add positive habits and value to my life.

1.Run 1000km (621 miles)
I ran 4x per week when we were in Florida, however they were mostly runs of less than 4 miles and since getting home I’ve hardly run thanks to a slightly niggly ankle. As a result, my mileage is down a bit at just 41 miles for the entire month, however with 521 miles completed this year so far, I’m now just 100 miles from achieving my goal. This one has been all about consistency and hopefully the ankle issue will resolve quickly so I can get back out there.

2.Commit to a minimum of 5 minutes of yoga on at least 5 days of the week
I’ve been able to turn my attention back to this one, especially since getting home and having the opportunity to go to more SUP yoga sessions, so I think there was only one week in the month when I didn’t manage 5 yoga sessions. I love how much stronger I feel as a result of this and it’s amazing to note my own progress within certain postures, especially on the paddle board.

3.Read at least 30 books
Absolutely storming it on this one! I read on both my flights, on my sun lounger, in my garden when we had good weather, in my comfy chair in the evenings, and have added 5 complete books to my count for the year (with a couple of others on the go alongside them). Getting involved in some online book groups has really motivated me to find more time to read and this, in turn, has helped me to ignore distractions such as social media (see point 8 below) and focus on something far more valuable.

4.Be in bed by 10pm at least 3 times per week
I’ve probably not been so good with this one this month since I’ve been on holiday. That’s not to say I’ve been staying up late, indeed I’ve been making sure to keep to a fairly consistent schedule, but there has been no need for really early nights so for now I’m happy with my consistency as it means I haven’t become nocturnal or developed bad habits during my time off!

5.Watch at least one Ted/Ted X talk per week
I seem to have let this one go a bit, which is a pity. Shortly after arriving in Florida I actually sat and watched several Ted talks and fully intended to find some time to watch one every day, however the changes to my routine with being away then getting the kittens means I just never got back on top of this again. Such a shame as I really enjoy watching talks and following the suggestions that come up, so this is one to try and sort out as we head into August…

6.Listen to at least 8 podcast episodes per week
I think I’ve mostly been managing this one. I suspect that while we were away I maybe didn’t quite reach 8 episodes one of the weeks (I didn’t particularly count) and without a commute I haven’t had the same dedicated time to listen, yet I still feel like I am using my podcast player every day so would probably be surprised if I counted things up. I even found a couple of new shows to listen to, which is always fun!

7.Respond to at least one WordPress prompt per month
Not quite as last minute as some months, but last week I responded to the prompt Animal.

8.Be more mindful in my phone/social media use
In June I refocused on this one after letting things slide a bit, and of course things changed again in July. A bit more time on my hands meant more scope for idly picking up my phone and scrolling for no reason, but I have tried to keep myself in check on this one by making sure I have my book or Kindle nearby so that rather than picking up my phone, I pick up my book instead. Much more productive and enjoyable!

 

While July is my favourite month, it’s easy to lose all notion of routine during school holidays (not necessarily a bad thing!) and then things slide a bit. That said, I’m pleased with my month, especially my reading, and am looking forward to getting everything back on track.

How have you made the most of your month?
Read any good books lately?

The Year Of Me!!! – June Update (Half way there!)

Wow! Half of the year gone already! That means I’m half way through The Year of Me, adding positive habits and value to my life. I’ve been checking in every month with an update on how things are going.

1.Run 1000km (621 miles)
Looking at my Strava stats, I’m still ahead of the game on this one. I’ve really been enjoying my running this year and certainly haven’t been “chasing” mileage, so it’s pleasing to feel that I have been consistent through the first half of the year.

2.Commit to a minimum of 5 minutes of yoga on at least 5 days of the week
I am doing much more than 5 minutes of yoga (classes are an hour and home practice in the region of 15-30 minutes) however throughout this month there have still been a couple of times that I just haven’t managed to practice on 5 days. I’m putting that one down to everything else getting in the way and am looking forward to refocusing on this one during the summer holidays.

3.Read at least 30 books
So happy with this one. Like my running, my reading has been really consistent and I’m pleased that I’m still ahead of schedule. I’ve read a fair amount of non-fiction but have some novels lined up ready. With a summer holiday coming up it will be interesting to see what I manage to add to the total in July…

4.Be in bed by 10pm at least 3 times per week
Although my end of term exhaustion may suggest otherwise, I have actually been pretty good with this one. It’s been good to get to bed a bit earlier, and on the mornings when I chose to go for an early run it definitely made a difference!

5.Watch at least one Ted/Ted X talk per week
I think there were  a couple of weeks when I didn’t fit this in, but I think in the main this one is going well – I even watched a couple with one of my classes as they are going to be doing some work using Ted talks next term! It’s such a great website full of interesting talks and also a great classroom resource for me.

6.Listen to at least 8 podcast episodes per week
This one I KNOW I’m doing well with. Left to my own devices I would probably listen to podcasts non-stop and now that I’ve caught up on the backlog from my favourite shows, I’m now catching up with a couple of other ones I enjoy. I just love listening to interviews with interesting guests and often learn something new from what I hear. Perfect!

7.Respond to at least one WordPress prompt per month
Ok, so I was a little bit last minute again, but in June I responded to the prompt Summer.

8.Be more mindful in my phone/social media use
I’ve made an effort to improve on this after feeling I was being sucked back in to using my phone too much again. I’m trying hard to leave it alone when I’m reading or watching TV and am trying to return to the habit of carving out specific moments during the day to check my notifications. Things will be different when I’m not at work, but already I feel so much better for doing this again.

Half way through the year and things are looking good. Now it’s time to refocus a little and see how things go in the second half of the year…

How are you getting on with your goals?
What habits make you feel happier in life?

 

 

The Daily Post – Summer

Given the glorious weather we have been enjoying, it seems fitting that this month I choose the prompt Summer to reposed to (although ironically, I nearly didn’t get this written as I was so busy enjoying the summer weather ha!).

I think summer is definitely my favourite season. I love the warmer weather and, as a teacher, the chance to have some time off to recharge my batteries. We finished the school year at lunchtime yesterday, and this first weekend is always filled with the promise of 6 wonderful weeks stretching ahead of me. So how will I spend that time?

Unusually, this summer has actually begun with some summer weather. I spent the majority of today outside and read more than a quarter of a book without anything to distract or interrupt me. Having time to sit down with a number of books and read them in a much shorter space of time is one of my favourite things to do when I’m not at work as it can easily be taken outside into the sunshine or, in inclement weather (much more likely in Scotland!) enjoyed from the comfort of my recliner.

Interspersed with the reading, at least for the first week or two, is sleep. I’ve said before that I’m a bit of a natural night owl, but my routines of late have seen me up and about quite early so I do tend to feel quite tired. Yet at this time of year when it never really gets dark in Scotland, I actually find it quite hard to sleep as my body isn’t getting the signals to wind down and drift off. When I finally stop working and slow things down, I do find myself dozing off a little more frequently – especially if I happen to be lying in the sunshine at the time!

Which brings me to the most important part of my summer – a holiday. As usual, I will be jetting off to Florida to spend a couple of weeks with my family. My parents have already flown out and my sister is just about to go, so Steve and I will be the last to arrive. When we tell people where we’re going, the first thing they ask is if we’ll be spending lots of time in a certain theme park, but actually the answer is no. We may have a day or two with Mr M Mouse, but in reality my plans are: run, practice yoga, sunbathe, enjoy some beers, read, snooze, go shopping, eat some great food. I’ll definitely be sharing these in my weekly reviews while I’m away!

Finally, there are the things I would do anyway. I’ll be running, but switching to morning rather than evening runs; practicing yoga on as many days as I can (there’s more SUP yoga booked for when I get home 🙂 ); working out at the studio and probably taking some nice walks. When I’m not at work I don’t actually use my car much as I prefer to walk everywhere. I feel so much better for it.

I’m sure there will also be a few fun experiences in there too and some time spent with friends, but the most important thing is to reach the end of the summer feeling rested and ready for the challenges of the new school year to come.

Let’s do this!

What are your summer plans?
What are your favourite things to do on holiday?

The Year Of Me!!! – May Update

I’m a little later with this one than I wanted, but better late than never! 2018 is the Year of Me! A year of adding positive habits and value to my life. Each month I’m checking in to see how it’s going, so today it’s my May roundup.

1.Run 1000km (621 miles)
Despite beginning the month with a couple of weeks off to recover from the Stirling marathon, I’m still ahead of schedule with this one. I may have only run about 27 miles, but by the end of May I had brought my total to 404 miles for the year, keeping me ahead of the pace.

IMG_67082.Commit to a minimum of 5 minutes of yoga on at least 5 days of the week
I’ve written frequently about how much I’m loving yoga and in May I added SUP yoga to the mix. But despite that there were definitely a couple of weeks in May when I only managed to practice yoga 4 times in the week. It sounds so easy to fit in just 5 minutes, but some of my work commitments really interfered and I suspect this may continue into June. I’ll need to think about how I can address that since yoga really helps to calm my mind when things are busy so it’s even more important to try and carve out time in my day to go to my mat at those times.

IMG_65553.Read at least 30 books
My reading dropped off a little in May and I’m fairly certain this is what happened last year too,  however I did still read a further 2 books, bringing me to the halfway mark of this particular challenge ahead of schedule. I’m really looking forward to having a bit more time to devote to reading from late June through the summer and have already got a reading list prepared!

4.Be in bed by 10pm at least 3 times per week
I’m still very conscious of getting to bed early, however I definitely find this one harder in the summer months. Even when I’m tired exhausted, the lighter evenings mean that my body just isn’t getting the signals to wind down and sleep. With work getting increasingly busy, I must make more of an effort to get to bed early more often to balance this out.

5.Watch at least oneTed/Ted X talk per week
I’ve kept up with this one well and watched a variety of interesting talks. I only wish I could find more time to watch talks and this is another thing I’m looking forward to in the summer as I can probably watch a talk most days. Bliss!

6.Listen to at least 8 podcast episodes per week
I was concerned that without the lengthy runs of marathon training that I might not keep up with this one, but I still found plenty of occasions to listen to podcasts. I listen when I take my morning walk, in the car home at the end of the day and while doing chores (as well as when I’m running). I’m now totally up to date with my favourites and have listened to one or two episodes of other podcasts that sounded interesting. To be honest, i’d happily listen to podcasts all day if I could.

7.Respond to at least one WordPress prompt per month
I returned to a written post with my (rather last minute!) response to the prompt Volunteer.

8.Be more mindful in my phone/social media use
I really don’t know what to say about this one. I’m trying not to use my phone so much, especially in social situations and when watching TV, yet I have a nagging sense that it’s creeping back in a bit. I think I’m needing to take a step back and try to find better ways to keep up to date with the groups I’m involved in and the social media for this blog. Probably I need to set aside particular times of the day for this, however at a time of year that can feel a bit chaotic, it’s difficult to impose a bit of order on things. This is one I really think I need to focus on a bit more as the school year draws to a close.

Despite some slips, I continue to think the Year of Me is going well. I can’t expect to meet all my goals every single day/week/month and need to accept that there will be times when things don’t go exactly as I would like. What’s more important is to keep on doing these things I’m enjoying and look for more ways to fit then into my life.

How is your 2018 going?
What positive habits add value to your life?

The Year Of Me!!! – April Update

Another month gone in what is shaping up to be an awesome Year of Me! 2018 is all about the process rather than the outcome and how I can add value to my life. I’m checking in each month to keep myself accountable and see how I’m getting on, so here’s how things went in April.

1.Run 1000km (621 miles)
Another successful month of running, culminating in the Stirling marathon. I did rearrange things a bit one weekend so I could watch the London marathon on tv, but I still completed all my runs. I finished on 127 miles for the month and 377 for the year so I’m over half way there. That said, May will be a lot lighter on miles as I’m taking a couple of weeks off and when I start running again it will be pretty low mileage so it’s good to have a bit of a cushion built up.

2.Commit to a minimum of 5 minutes of yoga on at least 5 days of the week
Still loving this one and feeling strong from regular yoga. Despite not having one of my classes to go to for a couple of weeks during the school holidays (it’s a term-time class) I kept up my home practice and easily fell into a daily routine using my favourite Yoga with Adriene videos.

3.Read at least 30 books
I’m doing so much better with this one than last year. Thanks to getting involved in some online reading groups (and my new-found school holiday habit of starting the day reading in bed with a cup of tea!) I’m still ahead of schedule with this one and still managing to find time to read more often. I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction and have been loving filling my mind with adventures and interesting facts.

4.Be in bed by 10pm at least 3 times per week
I was so good at this in the week before the marathon, heading to bed as soon as the “bedtime” function on my phone told me it was time for bed. I’m not always quite so diligent, nor am I keeping any kind of record, but I’m certain I’m getting to bed by 10pm quite often as it has become a great way to maximise my reading time.

5.Watch at least one Ted/Ted X talk per week
It has become my habit to watch a talk at the weekend, however part of my routine during the school holidays was to watch one every day. I loved this and only wish I had time to do this more often as for every one I watched I think I saved about 3 more to my list for the future!

6.LIsten to at least 8 podcast episodes per week
There’s nothing like the peak weeks of marathon training to provide a chance to listen to lots of podcasts. I’m pretty much all caught up on episodes of my favourites now and have a few random episodes of other ones downloaded to give them a try. I feel like I learn so much from podcasts and you never know when that knowledge might come in handy!

7.Respond to at least one WordPress prompt per month
Another photo prompt this month as I published my response to Rise/Set.

8.Be more mindful in my phone/social media use
It’s difficult to judge this one. Having time off work inevitably meant I used my phone more, and of course I used it a lot in my post-marathon euphoria, but the rest of the time I am being more careful about mindless use of my phone. I’m trying to be really present and focused if I’m watching tv, rather than getting sucked into a pointless scroll and missing things. I’m also trying not to pick up my phone so much when I’m with other people as I know it actually really annoys me to see groups of people “together” but all sitting silently staring at their own screens. The phone (and social media) has a place, but I don’t want it to replace actually living life and experiencing the world. Right now, this is probably still the one I need to be a  bit more conscious of.

Overall, I’m still pretty happy with how things are going. I’m creating positive habits and definitely feel like I’m adding value to my life through the routines I’m creating. The Year of Me is going well!

How are you getting on with your goals for this year?
Do you prefer to read fiction or non-fiction?

Book Review – The Pants of Perspective

“When I ran, I ran for pleasure. I didn’t run for times, to win, to impress: I ran for me. When I ran my bum cheeks rubbed together, so much so that if I was going on a long run I’d have to ‘lube up’. I maintained that I was not a ‘real’ runner – I just liked to run so that I could eat cake.”

Anna was never anything like those ‘real’ runners on telly – all spindly limbs, tiny shorts and split times – but when she read about New Zealand’s 3,000-kilometre-long Te Araroa Trail, she began to wonder… perhaps being a ‘real’ runner was overrated. Maybe she could just run it anyway? Travelling alone through New Zealand’s backcountry for 148 days, she scrambled through forests, along ridge-lines, over mountain passes, along beaches and across swollen rivers. Running up to 52 kilometres in a day, she slept wild most nights, and was taken into the homes and hearts of the kiwi people in between. The Pants of Perspective is a witty, colourful and at times painfully raw account of a journey to the edge of what a woman believes herself to be capable of. It is a coming-of-age story which will lead you on a roller coaster ride through fear, vulnerability, courage and failure. For anyone who has ever dreamt of taking on a great challenge, but felt too afraid to begin – this story is for you.

Back in the summer of 2017 I decided to explore the trails of the world vicariously. Whilst basking in the Florida sunshine I traversed the Appalachian Trail with Bill Bryson in A Walk in the Woods, joined Cheryl Strayed on her voyage of self-discovery along the Pacific Crest Trail in Wild, and finally I took to New Zealand’s Te Araroa Trail with adventurer and “mischief maker” Anna McNuff in her book The Pants of Perspective.

I first came across Anna McNuff when she was interviewed on the Tough Girl Podcast. I was drawn to her sense of fun and adventure, the way she wanted to speak to school children and inspire them to go after their dreams, so when I saw that she had written a book about her New Zealand adventure, I was quick to grab a copy and devour it straight away.

And I certainly want disappointed. Anna (it somehow feels right to use her first name rather than be all correct and write”McNuff”) is such an engaging writer. I mean, even from the title and cover art we can tell that she is going to have a sense of humour. There are certainly times when the going is tough, but we are rooting for Anna all the more because her warmth and enthusiasm come through on every page, fostering a connection with her. Reading the book almost feels like a catch up with a good friend.

We join Anna as she undertakes a 148 day run from Bluff, at the southernmost tip of New Zealand, to the lighthouse at Cape Reinga, 3000km away in the north. Yet this is not really a book about running, per se. For me, it’s more a book about the journey (both literal and metaphorical) that Anna undertakes and the unforgettable “trail family” she creates along the way. Despite her taking on what feels like an overwhelming challenge, Anna is very “real” and somehow makes the whole thing seem so much more accessible. We are shown that even with some oversights in planning, taking on an adventure like this is possible and through the cast of characters she bonds with along the way, we are reminded of the inherent good in people when complete strangers look out for each other and provide support.

Yet Anna also lays bare some of the low moments, the times when it is a struggle to keep putting one foot in front of the other because she’s exhausted, or hurt, or the weather is awful (or all three!). We are inspired by her mental strength and fortitude when fear takes hold, and we celebrate her successes along with her. At times I almost wished I was there, sharing a slice of cake (there’s quite a lot of cake/chocolate consumption) before hitting the trail once more in a pair of ludicrous leggings.

Yes, the leggings (or “pants”, used in the US rather than UK sense). We’re around half way through the book when the significance of the title is revealed to us:

“Setting my empty coffee cup down beside me, I rummaged around in my bag until my fingers found what I was looking for. Pulling out the mess of brightly coloured Lycra material, I laid it flat so I could see the entire pattern. Moments earlier, over another morning’s serving of cold porridge, I had remembered something. I’d thought in spending over five months on the trail that perhaps, just perhaps, I was going to have one or two days when I didn’t want to get out of my tent and run, and instead I might just want to curl up in a ball and cry. For this situation, I had packed myself a secret weapon – a pair of magic Lycra pants.
One leg was adorned with a unicorn, the other with a robot. Both were engaged in a fierce battle and above them was a star-spangled night sky. Naturally, across the sky was a bright rainbow.”

Basically, the “pants” are Anna’s mental safety net. She may not have planned every other detail to perfection, but she had recognised the importance of mental strength in undertaking a challenge like this and had found a way to give herself a boost when the going got tough:

“Everything around me, the facts, so to speak, would indicate that I should be miserable, but it was scientifically impossible to be miserable whilst wearing these pants. They were a sheer act of defiance, flying the flag of ridicule in the face of what should be a serious and grave situation. I laughed, and immediately felt more like me.”

I loved this idea, and as someone with a penchant for more “unusual” leggings, the discovery that I could buy my very own pair of THE pants via Anna’s website was fantastic. Yes, I did buy them (and got a very lovely email from the lady herself as part of the process!). As such, I can confirm that Anna’s right – you really can’t be miserable whilst wearing these beauties!

IMG_5334If you haven’t already read this book then I highly recommend it. Not only is Anna easy to relate to and engage with, but she is also a very good writer. Sometimes books about adventures can have a “detached” feel about them, or they read a bit like a series of notes. But not this one. This one takes you along on the journey (whether you have the pants or not!) and leaves you feeling like you’ve made a new friend. I believe Anna has been writing a new book about one of her other adventures and I, for one, can’t wait to read it.

You can find out more about Anna McNuff here.
You can watch Anna’s TED talk here.

The Year of Me!!! – March Update

It hardly seems like any time at all since I was setting my goals for the year – this year focusing on process over outcome and looking at ways to create positive habits and add value to my life – yet here we are at the end of March already! I’m checking in each month to keep me accountable and reflect on how I’m getting on.

1.Run 1000km (621 miles)
I have, once more, completed all the runs on my training schedule, but thanks to some pretty insane weather this month there were a few tweaks along the way – most notably when we were hit by The Beast from the East. Running in the snow seems to have made me stronger and has made some of my longer runs actually feel a bit easier! With increasing mileage I come in at 107 miles for the month and Strava tells me I’ve now at 250 miles for the year. That’s 97 miles ahead of schedule, but I’m not going to get over-excited about that since I don’t anticipate particularly high mileage in May as I take some time out to recover post-marathon.

2.Commit to a minimum of 5 minutes of yoga on at least 5 days of the week
I think this is the one I’m loving best of all. I’ve easily fallen into the habit of an at-home yoga practice on 3-4 days of the week (and go to a yoga class on 2 days). Far from the minimum 5 minutes, most of the home practice has been around 30 minutes long. Still using the Yoga with Adriene videos and having completed one 30 day journey, I went back and began a previous one so I maintain the consistency. I’ll confess to one week where I only managed yoga 4 times, but that was due to time constraints in a super busy week. Had I known, I would have planned around it better but one yoga session isn’t something to get worked up about and I can’t expect a perfect result with my goals all the time!

3.Read at least 30 books
Somehow I’m still ahead of schedule here with 9 books completed. This time last year I had read 8 books, however by the end of June I was only at 11 books and I never quite got things back on track. I’ll need to keep making sure that I set aside time for reading as the days get longer as I’ve really been enjoying my reading so far this year.

4.Be in bed by 10pm at least 3 times per week
I really didn’t expect to be very good at this one, but getting to bed a bit earlier is now becoming a habit. I’ve set the “bedtime” function on my phone to give me a nightly reminder and that usually galvanises me to head upstairs and get settled in to read a few pages of my book. Yes I feel tired from the combined effects of a busy school term and marathon training, but overall I do think I’m a bit better rested than usual. The real test will be to see if I can keep this habit up while I have my spring break as the lure of it not being a school night has tended to keep me up later in the past!

5.Watch at least one Ted/Ted X talk per week
This has been great! To fit in with my schedule I’ve been watching reasonably short talks (including one delivered by the author of a book I read – look at my goals crossing over!) however I’m hoping to find time for some longer ones while I’m on holiday for the first two weeks of April. Let’s see how that goes…

6.Listen to at least 8 podcast episodes per week
Having been quite far behind with episodes, I’ve now managed to just about catch up. I’ve generally been listening to a couple of podcasts every day across my morning walk, commute and training, then the longer training runs on a Sunday are often another 3. It’s great to feel a bit more up to date with the shows I listen to regularly and I no longer feel like I’m missing out on information being shared. I might even try listening to something different if I keep going like this!

7.Respond to at least one WordPress prompt per month
This month I chose a photo prompt and published my response to I’d Rather Be… I have a couple of others lined up too for the coming weeks so it’s so far so good on this one.

8.Be more mindful in my phone/social media use
I began the year really well with this one, however the weather issues at the start of March sucked me back in a little as this was where information was being shared the quickest. Since then I’ve noticed some slippage into random scrolling, however I figure that my awareness of it means I’ll be able to do something about it. I suspect I’ll use my phone a bit more while I’m not at work, but I’ll also be careful about making sure I don’t lose precious time to a mindless time suck. A lapse, but not a serious one and I can easily get back on track again.

Overall I’ve not been too bad at maintaining the positive habits I introduced in the early part of the year, even with some pressures on my time. I’ve spotted a couple of snags to iron out, but for the most part I’m really happy that the choices I’m making are adding value to my life and are worth continuing long term.

Which of your goals for the year are going well?
Any setbacks you need to overcome?

Weekly Photo Challenge – I’d Rather Be…

Today I thought I would respond to a Daily Post photo challenge. As this busy term rumbles on and winter continues to keep a tight grip, it’s easy to find myself wishing to be somewhere else, doing something else. But what?

To answer the question, I considered two things – WHAT do I like to do and WHERE do I like to be?

  • I like to run
  • I like to read
  • I like to practice yoga
  • I like to be in Paris
  • I like to be in the sunshine

So to respond to this photo prompt, here are some pictures that demonstrate the above things I enjoy (and would definitely rather be doing), sometimes in combination!


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UntitledWhat would your answer be…?