17 July 2014

If You Could Give New Parents One Piece of Advice...


...what would it be?



My words of wisdom:

TEACH YOUR CHILDREN TO TIDY UP AFTER THEMSELVES

Seriously.

I don't care what you feed them, or how you feed them.

I don't care what time they go to bed, or whose bed they sleep in.

I don't care if you work inside the home, outside the home, or not at all.

I pass no judgement on your parenting.

BUT...

If I could offer new parents one piece of advice that will make their lives easier, and more pleasant in the long run, it would be to teach their children to tidy up after themselves.

Nobody told me that I should do this. They had plenty to say about birth, breastfeeding and sleeping, plenty to set me up to feel a failure as a new mother, but nothing that would improve my life.

I have failed at parenting. My house is tip. It is full-to-bursting. We can never find anything. The boys seem unable to play properly. Clothes are taken off and thrown on the floor. If I ask them to tidy, toys are kicked under the sofa. I despair.

So, new parents, save yourselves while there's still time.

Teach them to tidy.

I'M BEGGING YOU.

You'll thank me one day.

You're welcome.


Over to you. If you could give new parents once piece of advice, what would it be?




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14 July 2014

Book Review: The Last Day by Emily Organ




I was thrilled to hear that another of my friends had written and published a book. That is genuinely thrilled, not sarcastically thrilled.

I've written two chapters towards my novel, and that's all. Seeing friends get off their backsides - or rather stay on their backsides - and get writing makes me happy and inspires me too.

I met Emily Organ many years ago, through blogging. Her blog posts are always thoughtful, amusing and well-written.  As she is one of my favourite writers, I couldn't wait to read her first novel.

The Last Day is about a man called George. He has known the date of his death (12 September 1985) since he was a boy. As the novel progresses though this day, secrets are revealed.  We learn more about George, and the people in his life, as the plot twists and turns throughout the day.

The characters are all well-rounded and strong.  It took me a while to warm to George, but by the end I really cared what happened to him.

What I particularly loved was the sense of time and place Emily evokes. The 80's cultural references are spot on. Her descriptions of the town setting are strong and you can feel the impact of the environment on the characters.

The pace of the novel is excellent. You're kept guessing right up to the end. I couldn't put it down.

If you like Kate Atkinson's novels, I think you'll like The Last Day.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Last Day. Such a relief to enjoy the book when you know the author...


You can find The Last Day on Emily Organ's author page on Amazon.


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20 June 2014

Running Kit: Must-haves and Nice-to-haves




I recently wrote about how I started running. For those of you who are thinking of taking up running, or who have just started running, here are a few things you need, and a few things you want.

MUST-HAVES

Running Shoes
It is vital that you wear the right shoes when you're running, to avoid injury. Any decent running shop will do a gait analysis and recommend specific shoes for you. This will either be on a treadmill or they will watch you jogging around the shop. If you're not happy on a treadmill, tell them. Try on all the shoes they bring out for you, run around the shop in them. If they don't feel as comfortable as slippers they are the wrong shoes for you.  You will probably need a half size bigger than your normal shoes. Decent running shoes are expensive, but they are worth it. My running shoes are by Saucony. They were £80 and they have been excellent, right from the first step. I ran 16 miles in them this week. I love them.

Socks
Buy proper running socks when you buy your running shoes. Try them on together. Running socks are padded and designed to fit beautifully. The last thing you want is a blister. With my combination of shoes and socks I haven't had a single blister in over 150 miles of running. 

A Sports Bra
You need to minimise bounce when you're running to avoid damaging your breasts, and to stop jokes about giving yourself two black eyes. I like Shock Absorber bras, they are brilliant for (my) large breasts. They have to be tight, but comfortable. I use also mine to store my inhaler, phone, a tissue and my door key. I'm sure they're not designed for all that,but it works for me.

Getting them on can be tricky sometimes. Here is a photograph of me with a fat lip. I was putting on a sports bra and managed to punch myself in the face. Oops.




NICE-TO-HAVES

Specialist Clothing
Yes, yes, I know clothes are a 'must-have'. No one wants to see a naked runner. You can start running in leggings or jogging bottoms and a t-shirt, but once you start sweating cotton is too heavy. This is the time to invest in some Lycra. Material that wicks the sweat from your body will keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter. I wear vests in the summer, with cropped tights, and long-sleeved tops in the winter, with full-length tights. Supermarkets all carry their own sports ranges. I like Karrimor from Sports Direct. Look out for their frequent 90% off sales.

Jackets
A light-weight jacket is a must for running in the rain. When it's cold you'll need an extra layer to start with, but make sure it'll be comfortable tied around your waist

Baseball Cap
I wear a baseball cap if there's any chance of rain, as it keeps my specs dry. It is also useful to keep the sun off your head, and it keeps my hair out of my face.

GPS Running Watch 
You will probably want to start recording your runs, to see how you're pacing yourself and to keep track of all those personal records. I have a Garmin Forerunner 10. It's the entry level Garmin and I bought it in an Amazon flash sale for £60. I'm very pleased with it. I love looking at my stats on my laptop when I get home from a run. You can see your pace go down as you go uphill and follow your route on the map.

Run Planner
If I'm planning a new route I like to know the distance I'll be running. I use the G-Map Pedomter. It's free and super simple to use. I used it to plan my first 10k.

Heart Rate Monitor
My husband uses his heart rate monitor all the time. For him it is the best indicator of his efforts. I used mine a few times, to make sure I wasn't killing myself. I wasn't. 

Water
Unless it's super hot, or you're running over 10k, you don't really need to carry water. There are plenty of lightweight running water bottles. I have a small one from High5 that is easy to carry.

Gym Membership
I joined a gym last December when the footpaths were too icy for safe running. The treadmill is great for pacing yourself, but I find it pretty boring. If I go to the gym I usually go on the treadmill, cross trainer, bike and rower, and use the weights. This way I am working other parts of my body. The gym was a life-saver when I had a painful knee and couldn't run for a couple of weeks. I was able to keep my fitness levels up. Choose a gym that is near to your home or work, otherwise you won't go. I'm lucky that my local leisure centre has a small cheap gym. It's five minutes from my house and rarely busy.

Arm band
I have an arm band that holds my iPhone.


Have I missed anything?



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20 May 2014

The Small Things About a Big Weight Loss




I've lost a lot of weight, seven stone is a lot of weight by anyone's standards.

It has come off gradually, over eighteen or so months.

Losing a lot of weight has made a massive difference to my life. I can buy clothes anywhere on the high street (goodbye forever, Evans) and I have boundless energy, but I've also noticed other changes, smaller changes.

I'm no longer the biggest person in the room.

I can sit on swings at the park without fear they will collapse beneath me.

I can accompany my boys on the dodgems, and join them in the soft play (I didn't say that all changes were for the better...).

I've had to tighten my watch strap by five notches.

I can sit on the rickety chair without worrying that it will break.

I had to buy a cheap ring from Claire's Accessories to keep my wedding and engagement rings on. The ring I bought is size S. It's not tight either.

I'm not embarrassed going into McDonalds. Well, I am, I'm embarrassed that I let my children have Happy Meals as a treat. I'm not embarrassed about going in there as a fat person.

I can park anywhere, confident that I can get in or out of my car.

I no longer have to turn sideways to get through gaps.

My laptop now fits on my lap.

I run up the stairs to my hairdresser and don't have to pause near the top to get my breath back before I open the door and go in.

My skin is clear.

My entire wardrobe is a rainbow of colour, it used to be 95% black.

I hardly ever have a headache.

People who haven't seen me for a while walk straight past me.

I can get into child's pose for the first since I started doing yoga thirteen years ago.

I no longer get indigestion or heartburn.

My children can get their arms round me for a hug.



Actually, on reflection, these are big things.






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12 May 2014

How I Started Running




How do you start running?

Well, you just have to run.

I've always watched the London Marathon and thought that I'd love to be able to run. Being inactive and overweight pretty much my whole life meant that this was not a serious consideration. I'd call runners 'freaks' as I drove past them, one hand on the steering wheel, the other in a family bag of Maltesers.

In 2012 I had Cognitive Hypnotherapy and joined Slimming World. By September 2013 I'd lost around three stone, but was in a yo yo/plateau holding pattern. I was more active, choosing to walk short distances instead of taking the car, but hadn't taken that next big step: to exercise.

I mentioned to a school mum friend that I'd like to see if I could run. She suggested that I walk around the football field near the school and when I got to the short end I could try running - very gently - along that end. That was all, then I could walk back to the car.

I was nervous, in fact I was terrified. I had NEVER run anywhere ever.

I walked along the long edge of the football field. I turned the corner at the end of the field and started a gentle ambling jog. By the time I was half way along, I was out of breath This was hard work. I wondered if I'd make it to the end. I kept going. At three quarters of the way along I was struggling. I felt my whole body wobbling as I panted. The arms of my rain jacket rubbed rhythmically against my sides as my elbows pumped. Still I kept going. Somehow I made it to the next corner before I started walking again. Puffing and walking.

I had 'run' 100 metres.

I walked back to the car, triumphant.

What a buzz.

If I could do it once, I could do it again.

A couple of days later I went out for a walk with another school mum friend. She had a running app on her phone. I was going to try to run for 60 seconds, then walk for a few minutes, then run again. She was my personal trainer that day, encouraging me, cheering me on, keeping time. I managed almost 4 minutes of running that day.

I downloaded this Couch to 5k app onto my phone. This changed my life.

I followed the app religiously. After I dropped the boys at school, three mornings per week, I set off walking around the football field. I kept up with all the running segments. The sense of achievement from ticking off another run was huge. I went out rain or shine. I was hooked.

I sneaked a peak at later weeks on Couch to 5k. I thought I'd never EVER manage to run continuously for 3 minutes, or 5 minutes, or 8 minutes. The thought of running for 20 minutes seemed unattainable, but as the weeks went by I managed all of these. I soon left the football field behind and ran alone, or with a friend, around one of the smaller lakes nearby.

This is how I started running.

In December 2013 I ran my first 5k.

In April 2014 I ran my first 10k.

Maybe one day I'll run the London Marathon after all.



Blah blah never start an exercise programme without checking with your GP first blah blah




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