Thursday, 31 May 2012

When the apocalypse comes, beep me!

It would be easy for you to assume I must be a fan of horror films. I'm not. They scare the absolute bejeezus out of me. My brain doesn't seem to accept the logic that they're not real and there's nothing to fear. Instead, it leaps straight to "holy crap, this could really happen, what the hell am I going to do?, I'd better keep all the lights in the house on as a warning to any vampires/demons/evil spirits/mass-murderers etc to keep away".

Zombies are pretty much at the top of my "things that scare me" list. I think it's because they're so single-minded. You can't negotiate with them or appeal to their better nature. If they get you, that's it, game over.

And lets face it, it's not going to be a quick death. They'll rip lumps of flesh from your body using their dull, unsharpened teeth and you'll feel every single bite until you die from shock or blood loss.

It's not like it even ends there. You'll then have the joy of reanimating and trying to eat your family and anyone else that crosses your path.

Overall, it's not an experience that'll ever be going on my bucket list.

So how did I get here? to a point where the reason behind my desire to get fit is to avoid becoming zombie fodder? to a point where I'm having regular zombie apocalypse survival discussions on twitter?

It started when I found out the computer game "Resident Evil" was being adapted into a film. I'd never played the game myself, or had any desire to, but I was really excited about the film, as I'm a huge fan of Milla Jovovich who had been cast in the lead role of "Alice". I even ventured to the cinema on my own to watch it!

Although the films in the Resident Evil series tell the story about how the zombie apocalypse begins and what happens afterwards, they're all about the action rather than the deep thinking so I never thought any more about the subject until I came across what, in my opinion, is one of the best tv programmes to have been made in recent years; The Walking Dead. 

Focusing on the relationships, conflicts, and dilemmas faced by a small group of survivors of the zombie apocalypse, The Walking Dead is very much a programme that asks how you keep your humanity in inhuman times and it makes you question what you would do under the same circumstances.

I'm not the only one that started thinking about how I'd survive in the event of a major catastrophe; the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions also got into the act with their zombie preparedness campaign. It may have been tongue in cheek but it definately helped them to connect with a new audience and as their director, Dr Ali Khan, notes "If you are generally well equipped to deal with a zombie apocalypse, you will be prepared for a hurricane, pandemic, earthquake, or terrorist attack". Good to know.

So like many, my fascination with the zombie apocalypse isn't to do with the zombies themselves, or driven by any desire to scare myself, it's about how I'd survive if society and life as we knew it collapsed. Will I be able to keep myself alive? What will I be prepared to do to achieve that? How much of my humanity will remain intact? What am I willing to sacrifice? 

Am I ready? I've made a start but I've a lot more to do, including a beginner's Archery course in the Autumn. Because no zombie apocalypse would be complete without a woman with a crossbow.

If it's good enough for Buffy, it's good enough for me!

How prepared are you? I'd love for you to share your thoughts with me.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The ultimate 5k playlist

Welcome to another in my series of guest posts; this time by Ben (or The Fool Tweets as he's known on twitter).

Ben writes a blog over at Mutterings Of A Fool and has this to say about himself: "You are what you eat which most likely makes me a sausage. Crazy runner type, dad to the beautiful Matilda and owner of the craziest English springer spaniel".

If you're familiar with Ben, you'll notice straightaway that he wrote his bio before his wife gave birth to their second child; a little boy they've named Henry. Please do pop on over to his blog, or send him a tweet, to congratulate him. You can even take a peek at the newest addition to his family.

And now for Ben's post...


Music can sometimes be the difference between finishing a run and not. The right song, at the right time has the ability to get you through the wall when you’re really up against it. I have to be honest and say that if I’m running out in the countryside or along a trail then I don’t tend to listen to music, mainly because I enjoy taking in the scenery and in a somewhat sadistic manner quite enjoy the sound of my puffing and panting in the still dawn air.

So here, especially for you, is the ultimate 5k playlist, it’s about 30 minutes long which is a good marker to aim for and would see you doing roughly 10 minute miles (yes I know we should use metric but I honestly can’t visualise what a 6 minute kilometre feels like).

But of course if you are aiming for a longer time then just chuck a few more tracks in the middle to bulk things out. You need something that is relatively calm with an even beat, but not something too mellow that slows you down.

In my mind a good playlist starts relatively easy as you’ll have enough adrenalin pumping at the start of a race without high tempo music also. Then moving into songs with a good beat that distract you and keep you motivated. Finally it should pick up the pace at the end to help keep those legs turning and maybe even a sprint finish.

1.       Robert Miles – Children

2.       Black Keys – Gold On The Ceiling

3.       Doves – Black and White Town

4.       Stereophonics – More Life In A Tramps Vest

5.       Pendulum – Slam

6.       Journey – Don’t Stop Believing

7.       Arcade Fire – Wake Up

8.       Queen – We Are The Champions

A mix of music there but of course it won’t fit everyone’s taste, but if you don’t like some of those classic tunes then quite honestly you have no taste! But whatever your running or fitness challenge is, make sure you enjoy it and set goals that are realistic and achievable for you. If music is the thing that will get you through that challenge then spend some time getting your playlist right, it’ll be worth the investment.

Friday, 25 May 2012

A hell of a half marathon!

Today, I'm welcoming one of my favourite twitterers to my blog, Posh Bird aka Bryony.

Posh describes herself as a "40 year old mum, wife, animal lover, social commentator, world class runner (I can dream!) and all round good egg!".

But even more than that (and she'll be embarrassed I'm saying this), Posh is kind, thoughtful, funny and supportive and when she calls you "pet", it's like receiving the biggest, warmest bear hug! Okay, I may not have actually met her in real life but her sincerity and genuineness (is that even a word?) shines through her tweets. I heartily recommend you follow her on twitter.

Posh Bird writes a blog called Views from the Lounge Window so pop on over and read more of her thoughts once you've read this post.

And now for the main attraction...

I have been given the opportunity of writing a guest post for a 'Hell of a Woman' aka Rhiannon! Seeing as she is undertaking her couch to 5k challenge, I thought what better than to write about my couch to half marathon experience!

This epic journey (well it was epic for me!) took place way back in 1997, when I was a mere 26 year old new mum to a terrifying toddler. The first Harry Potter book had arrived! I was watching Titanic and dreaming about being in a freezing sea clinging to the divine Leonardo and to be honest, I thought Tony Blair was a hottie! Well compared to John Major, you see my point right?

At the time I was a knackered (no surprise there!) slightly depressed fledgling mum, pretty disorganised wife! and fairly rubbish wannabe runner! To say I lacked motivation and felt overwhelmed with life is a fairly accurate statement. Having my first baby was a total shock to my system and the responsibility felt beyond huge to me, coupled with the fact I was a southerner recently moved oop north! My world had been rocked and I needed to reclaim just a little piece of the old me back again. A piece which didn't involve a confrontational toddler and suffocating family in law. I'm used to them now btw!

I had always enjoyed running, jogging or plodding (well mostly plodding!) and being married to a 'good' runner was bound to rub off a little on me. My hubby and I both joined the local running club and babysitting was organised as a priority twice a week so we could escape the demands of a grisly toddler. We were able to meet our mates, go for a run and sneak in a quick drink before heading home.

These Monday and Wednesday nights became my saviour if I'm honest, and gave me a chance to breathe (even if it was in a gasping fashion as I tried to suck in as much oxygen as possible!). I could  be myself again for a while and talk uninterrupted to my hubby. The running was enjoyable for sure as I got to catch up with my friends and gossip. Our rule was that we never ran fast enough to get so out of breath that we couldn't talk! An excellent rule if you and ask me and one which to this day I STILL haven't broken!

We would choose routes of about 5 miles and at a 10-minute mile pace with a warm up and cool down; this gave us an hour's worth of chat. These hours we filled with gossip, advice, laughter, problem solving, parenting solutions, marriage guidance and general bitching sessions if needed!

Our little running group was a diverse mix of ladies of varying ages, backgrounds and life experiences. I knew we could say anything we wanted, were not judged and whilst getting things off my chest I also shifted the stubborn baby weight that was still loitering with the intent of making me look frumpy! I still have a few ounces of it left to this day and my daughter is nearly 17 but I've decided to keep it to remind me of her!

So as the weeks and months went by our chats became longer. I'm not sure how this happened exactly, whether we got fitter so ran more miles, or we just had more and more 'stuff' to chew over; but for whatever reason, I decided along with one other lady, Cath, to run a half marathon.

I knew it was feasible. Others at the club including my hubby had done loads of them. I also knew I only wanted to plod around it and I certainly wasn't bothered about a time at all. It just felt like a challenge I had a pretty good chance of completely and at that point I thought I'd better do it before I got too old!

Oh how young and naive I was back then! My 26 year old self wasn't brimming with confidence or self esteem and as running was gradually improving both for me, I felt empowered by the idea or running 13 miles without stopping. Besides I'd been so very proud of my husband who had run 2 London Marathons and I wanted him to be proud of me too!

Training began in earnest and if I'm honest it was surprisingly easy! I happened to have a great running partner who kept me motivated, was both flexible and reliable when organising runs and she was undoubtedly hilarious. Many a mile slipped by without us even noticing, as we giggled our way along the cold, dark streets of Manchester, looking like 2 neon teletubbies in our high Vis running gear! We didn't need to be plugged into ipods cut off from the world, we simply enjoyed each other's company, nodded hello to other runners or dog walkers and when I ran, my life was simple and relaxed.

OK so it wasn't ALL plain sailing! There were the runs I had to do on my own to keep the miles up, the runs in the pouring rain, the runs when I'd had hardly any sleep and the 8 mile barrier that had to be broken through. I struggled with running even one step more than 8 miles for a couple of weeks, thinking at this point that maybe my body had reached its maximum running distance. Luckily for me however, my daughter was such a bloody pain in the arse one day that I reached for my running shoes as soon as my husband opened the front door and 'ran away' for 10 miles!

With my discman pumping out Oasis, Blur, The Spice Girls, U2, The Verve, No Doubt and Hanson's Mmmbop, I smashed my previous 8 mile brick wall. Well it was either that or throttle my toddler!

I didn't look back from that run and the remaining few miles were added easily over the last few weeks leading up to the race. We even ran a couple of 15 milers just to give us the confidence that we had the distance in our legs. It was the perfect time of year for me too; training over the winter suits me better as I like nothing more than wrapping up on a frosty cold day to run. I even went for a small run on Christmas Day and all that training meant I could eat pretty much what I wanted over the festive season without worrying about gaining extra pounds!

When race day arrived it was freezing wet and miserable and I was both nervous and excited beyond belief! My husband and daughter came with me and cheered me on from a couple of different points along the route. At the time I remember feeling cold and sick and scared about whether I'd be able to run the whole way. I was getting out of breath simply warming up! This didn't feel like the calm, no pressure easygoing training runs! However I soon relaxed into my slow plod of a pace and started to thoroughly enjoy myself.

I ran with Cath until 9 miles but then we separated as she quickened up a little. I will admit this was a tough next mile for me as I adjusted to running by myself, and suddenly tiredness descended and my legs started to fill with lead. It soon passed though as the crowd helped to lift me and before I knew it I was at the 11 mile marker, which cruelly guided us up a hill! From the top however it was a gentle jog down to the finish and I even managed a teeny tiny sprint to the end.

Finishing this is still one of the best feelings I've ever experienced. I was chuffed to bits, had my medal, my goodie bag, my T-shirt and one huge warm bubble bath when I got home! I glowed inside for weeks afterwards with the sense of wellbeing and achievement and even now, years later (and even after I've lost the medal) I still feel proud of going from running a single mile to completing 13!

I still run these days and enter the odd 10k race. I still love running and the buzz it gives me and I know without doubt it helps keep insanity at bay!

So good luck Rhiannon with your challenge. We're all here willing you along your way. You won't regret taking part for one moment, I can vouch for that!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

How to create a great running playlist

Another brilliant thing about twitter, there's always someone who knows someone that can help you. And that was certainly the case when I tweeted my invitation for guest posts and mentioned I'd particularly like something about music and exercise.

I was pointed in the direction of Craig Daley; a fully qualified personal trainer with 5 years' experience and, in his own words, "life experience in zombies". Perfect!

Craig writes a blog called Comfort in Sounds, which is all about the daily rigors of life as a Dad in the 21st Century and everything else the universe may throw his way. Why not pop on over, have a read and follow it? You can also follow him on twitter.

Craig's guest post couldn't have come at a better time because as I mentioned in this post here, I've now reached a stage in my Grr Argh Challenge where I'm finding a good playlist is imperative to help give me that extra bit of focus and drive to complete each run. But how do you go about making one?

Over to you Craig...


Running, It's an essential thing for our human body to do. It's a natural instinct for us to run away from predators who wish to devour us and more importantly help us run away from the looming Zombie Apocoylypse this earth is soon to be threatened from. If we are able to run away from this threat then we can procreate, build an army and take back the world from either the Zombies or Robots that will no doubt one day attempt to take over our world (Think I'm joking? Shaun of the Dead and Terminator weren't movies they were documentaries sent from parallel universes) So get off the sofa and start RUNNING!!!

Running is one of my favourite things to do and although, admittedly, it's not something I've done much of recently, I do miss it. The thing I love about it the most is the feeling of freedom I get when I'm running.

Firstly, where possible I must run outside, treadmill running literally gets you nowhere, and I love the idea that if I run somewhere, I must be able to return. On a treadmill theres always that big red button screaming at you "PRESS ME, PRESS ME, I SAY STOP, I'M A RED BUTTON!!!!".

The main buzz for me is that it's my time, I can put my music on, let my mind go numb and just focus on putting one foot in front of the other repeatedly as fast as I can. If its raining its a bonus because that heightens the experience for me.

One important element is the music; mixing together a play list worthy of your ears to inspire you, to focus you, to drag you to the finish, to get the last 10% out of you on the run.

This can be a tough task and unfortunately there's not one set play list you could tell everyone to use and you'll be inspired, purely because everyone has different music tastes. For example we were shopping the other day and my other half picked up a copy of the new album, "Now that's what I call running". We looked at the back of the CD and it had the track listing, she quite liked it, I stated that the only thing that CD would do is inspire me to run away from anyone playing it. Again different tastes inspires different people.

There are certain rules you have to adhere to when making a play list for running, this is to ensure you stay focused and motivated.

Rule #1 : Selecting music that inspires you;

For me Rock and Roll music inspires me. How I select my music is on firstly if I like the song, simple. It must be something that's up tempo with a powerful chorus.

Favourite tracks for me are Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run, Oasis, F****n in the Bushes, Feeder Buck Rogers, The Killers Somebody Told Me. The reasons why is purely because of the guitars the drums and the beats. When they kick in it pushes me and makes me focused.

Plus listening to rock and roll music you can imagine things and I like to imagine beating a zombie to the finish line of the first ever Human/Zombie Olympics that will be held in 2020. Events will include head shot putting, Running away from zombies at 100m/200m/400m and marathon disciplines, and also zombie running away from human with a pix axe events, (thats the one I'll be entering)

With running to music I also set myself little tasks such as run until the end of the song, which I then know I’ll hear the next song and think, "oh I really like this song Ok I'll run til the end of this song" It's songs like this that are important to me so they pick me up just in the right time, that's then leads to the next important rule of making a play list for running....

Rule #2 Setting the running order:

Having all great tunes in your play list is one thing, but there's no point in having a song that motivates you to sprint and push yourself to the limits followed by a song that makes you want to sleep. Theres also no point in making a 60 minute play list when all you want to do is run for 20 minutes. You want to mix your songs up so at key points in your run your key songs kick in to give you the extra boost you need.

For me, when I create my lists, I also place my most inspiring songs at the end to push me through to the end of my run, (The song that inspires me most in running and gets the most out of me is Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run, so that always comes towards the end)

This running order is especially important as when running away from Zombies and Robots you can't ask them to wait while you stop to flick through your iPod to find the suitable track you wish to run too, I mean you could ask them but I'm not sure they have/been programmed with gentlemanly conduct yet, it would be rude of them to eat you while changing tracks of course.

Rule #3 Have back up plans:

Having just one play list designed by you will probably help you, but what happens if you go running 4-5 times a week? After around 6/7 times the music will become less inspiring and the effect will have worn off.

So, when creating your first list create a second or third list made up of different songs. Set it for a different  length of time to suit different runs you go for and try differing moods as when you often run you will feel different moods. You may one day have had an emotional day and need comforting music, whereas some days you want to hit it hard and train like Rocky (I suggest the Rocky soundtrack for intense training, its great)

Our emotions obviously dictate our running mood and our music will reflect that, so you never know you might be really fired up to run one day but your Zombie chaser might be a rather attractive opposite sex so you might want to instead run away from them have seductive running music. Although I'm not sure how the world would take to a Human/Zombie relationship yet!

Rule #4 chose a Guilty Pleasure song:

We all have them, so choose one for your play list. Why? you may ask, well it'll give you a good feeling and that good feeling in turn will make you work harder due to the release of the feel good chemicals in your body. Also as we are training to enable we can run away from the impending Zombie Apocalypse wouldn't it be nicer to be able to run away from the Zombies smiling singing Barbie Girl? It might just scare off the Zombies a little.

Alternatively if all this sounds too much work before you even start running, you could just press shuffle on your iPod, but beware of your choices!

I hope that these rules help you start running and start developing your fitness so you can successfully run away from Zombies and Robots. I didn’t even begin to mention Aliens. Basically as Humans, we are buggered.


Monday, 21 May 2012

A tricky 2 weeks

Week four : Begin with a brisk 5-minute walk then 3 minutes of running, 90 seconds walking, 5 minutes running, 2½ minutes walking, 3 minutes running, 90 seconds walking, 5 minutes running.

Week five : There are three different workouts for this week. They are as follows: Workout 1: brisk 5-minute walk, then 5 minutes running, 3 minutes walking, 5 minutes running, 3 minutes walking, 5 minutes running.
Workout 2: brisk 5-minute walk, then 8 minutes running, 5 minutes walking, 8 minutes running.
Workout 3: brisk 5-minute walk, then 20 minutes running, with no walking.

The last 2 weeks have been quite mentally exhausting and I don't feel out of the woods yet.

There was a gap of about 3 days between week 4 runs 2 and 3 as a sickness bug tried to sneak its way into the house leaving me feeling very queasy and out of sorts. At the same time, the baby's nighttime sleeping habits took a nosedive (not that they'd ever been that great anyway!) and I found myself struggling to get through the days.

In those 3 days, I could feel my motivation to run waning, not because I found the plan too hard and too much for me (as I did in this post "to quit or not to quit" ) but because I didn't have the physical and mental energy to put on my running shoes and get on the treadmill.

As if that wasn't bad enough, I could feel negative thought patterns about myself and my parenting abilities creep back into my mind. I started to withdraw into myself and began to feel more and more emotional.  I thought I'd gotten past this earlier this year but I guess not.

I know I'm sounding all doom and gloom but stay with me, there is a happy ending. I forced myself to do my final run of week 3 and the exercise definately helped to lift my head into a bit of a better place and gave my body an energy boost. I kept the momentum going by doing a quick stretching and strengthening workout the next day and was able to enter week 5 of the Grr Argh! Challenge with a sense of trepidation that, on the whole, was outweighed by an attitude of "bring it on!".

I'm going to be honest. Week 5 was tough but what really helped me this week was having a good playlist to run to. I hit moments where I thought "I'm going to have to stop running and walk" but then Iron Maiden would start to play and I was able to dig deep within myself to keep going.

Run to the Hills is one of my favourite Maiden tracks and the trademark galloping rhythm made it a perfect running tune for me:

The Week 5 plan culminated with 20 minutes of non-stop running and I am so very, very proud of myself for doing this. At the start of the year, I would never have been able to do this and I can't believe how far I've come in just 5 weeks.

And as for those negative thoughts? well, exercise may help to keep the demons at bay but nothing can beat talking about them with someone. Don't keep them bottled up or they'll slowly eat away at you. Bring them out into the light. Share them with someone - a family member, a good friend, your doctor. I know it can be so very, very hard but there's no reason to feel ashamed of the way you feel and the relief you'll feel simply by taking that first step of speaking up will be worth it.

My husband has been a real support since I spoke to him. It was hard to open up because I was aware some of my thoughts weren't rational and I didn't want him to think badly of me, or worse, think I was "crazy" but he managed to be just what I needed - a calm, loving, listening ear without judgment. I still have patches of darkness in my mind but I'm no longer feeling mentally overwhelmed and even if this shifts the other way, I know I don't have to face things on my own.

This makes a big difference.

I Want My Mummy

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Tots100 book club - Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

I'm taking a temporary break from thoughts of fitness and the zombie apocalypse to take part in the Tots100 Book Club, in association with Tesco Books.

Tots100 Parent Blogger Book Club

Reading is one of my big passions in life. Other hobbies have come and gone but my love for books has remained a constant.

With life being so expensive at the moment, I've found myself making regular visits to my local library rather than downloading books straight to my kindle. The whole experience of browsing book shelves and then flipping through some of the pages of a book before making my borrowing choices has actually resulted in my reading tastes broadening and I've tried books that I probably wouldn't have even come across if I'd carried on reading purely via my kindle.

This book is one of them:

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

You can read a synopsis about Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children here. What I want to talk about is why I liked it.

I was immediately drawn to this book due to its cover art and title. It exudes a feeling of eeriness (I wasn't sure whether I wanted to bring that type of "vibe" into my house) and it also made me very curious about what I would find within the book itself.

The story itself was like a modern, dark, almost-gothic, fairytale. There was something very charming and enchanting about it, in spite of its subject matter, and I found it a quick yet addictive read.

It wasn't flawless and there were a few times when I felt the author, Ransom Riggs (how awesome is his name?!), skimmed over things or wrote something that made me think  "hmmm, that was a bit too easy and convenient" but it didn't put me off reading. Anyway, there were more than enough positives to this debut novel to make up for any imperfections in the story.

What really made this book stand out was the many vintage photographs contained within it, all of which added to the atmosphere created by the author and made the story seem like a real-life fairytale rather than something conjured up in his imagination. The photographs are both spooky and fascinating to look at and if you're of a sensitive disposition or have a very overactive imagination, I imagine they could leave quite an impression on you.

According to Ransom's website, Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children has been taken on as a film project with Tim Burton attached as director and Jane Goldman adapting the screenplay. I really hope this doesn't change as I think they're perfect choices who will do the book justice and bring the story to life.

I'm recommending Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children to my best twitter friend, Liz who blogs at Margot and Barbara. I think she'll really appreciate the story and the way it's illustrated by the photographs.

I'm looking forwards to finding out what the other Tots100 Book Bloggers recommend. Why don't you come and find out as well?

Friday, 18 May 2012

Eating cake for breakfast

Today, I'd like to introduce you to a new blogger, Glosswitch, and what an introduction to her writing this post makes. It's emotional, personal and best of all, it will challenge you to really think about what being "healthy" means and why we seem to equate this with being thin.

In her own words, Glosswitch is "a mum of two who has recently started blogging. My main interests are feminism, body image and motherhood, but I'll rant about anything really, given half the chance ...".

You can follow Glosswitch on twitter and don't forget to visit her blog to read more of her thoughts.

Yesterday I ate cake for breakfast. Then I got into my car, drove to work and spent the day sitting at my desk. In the evening I drove home, ate a pitta bread for tea and watched some telly before going to bed. That is a typical day in the life of me. I’m super-healthy, am I not?

Of course, health is all relative. I have been much, much worse than this. Right now, relatively speaking, I treat my body like a temple. Don’t believe me? Allow me to offer a brief history of me:

1987-1993 I survive on 580 calories a day. I don’t know why I choose that number, but I do and that becomes The Rule. Not that I’d recommend it to anyone. I’m in and out of hospital and to put it mildly, it feels completely crap.

1993-1997 I don’t know how many calories I eat. I throw them all back up anyhow. It is not a very dignified existence but I manage. Hey, I tell myself, at least I’m not fat.

1997-1998 I am fat. I can’t be bothered to throw up any more. My thighs rub together, my tits are all chaffed, yet I feel more invisible than when I was tiny. So I eat more. There’s no reason not to. I eat and eat and eat and eat.

1998-2002 I am thin again. I smoke up to 30 cigarettes a day. At times I worry that it will kill me but then I think, it’s better than being fat. Anything, anything at all, has got to be better than being fat.

2002-now I muddle through. I no longer smoke. I am still not fat. Last year I finally persuaded myself that purging twice a week was not “a reasonable compromise”, not with the blood in my vomit and the pain in my teeth. I now eat cake instead of real food. Otherwise I’d eat real food AND cake. And then I’d be fat.

So here I am, 36 years old, not yet dead, not yet chronically ill, basically “healthy”. I think I am lucky to have done all the things I’ve done and come through relatively unscathed. Nonetheless, I’ve been left with a fear of “health”, and what it does and doesn’t mean.

So often “being healthy” is used as a euphemism for “being thin”. Manage your blood sugar levels (so you’re not fat). Eat a balanced diet (so you’re not fat). Take regular exercise (so you’re not fat). These are the messages I hear. How do I know what people really mean? Do they want me to be healthy or do they want me to be smaller again?

No one even talks about diets any more. It’s all “going on a health kick” or “cutting out the bad foods”. And yet, scratch the surface, and what people really talk about is under-eating. Cutting out fat or carbs can drive a person insane (I mean this quite literally, as you start to create all the crazy rules which will get you through the day without the sustenance you need). And yet we’re advised to do this so casually, so flippantly. By the way, just stop nourishing your stomach, and your heart, and your brain. You’re not going to notice any difference.

Facing the great health challenge is, to put it mildly, a minefield. But since we’re in it, what more can we do but our best? I’d like to do better. I’d like to run marathons, build muscle, think of myself only as big and strong. The trouble is, all that scares me. And right now, there’s cake to be eaten and, with luck, some sanity to be preserved.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The keynko zombie survival plan!

When Mary Key responded to my request for guest posters to say her family has a zombie escape plan, there was no way I was going to let her get away with keeping it to herself. So if you haven't yet started to think about what you'll do in the event of an end-of-civilisation-type catastrophe, I'm sure you'll find plenty of (non-human) food for thought here!

For those of you who aren't familiar with Mary, here's a bit about her family in her own words:
The Keynko Collective is a family with odd and eclectic tastes and pastimes. The crafting section is spread over 3 generations of mother, daughter in law and granddaughter. There is also a geek section, an outdoor mountain range branch office in Aberdeenshire and affiliate members spread around the country. Feel free to join us in our blundering attempts at parenthood, being adults, education and life in general. Looking forward to meeting in the ether!!

You can follow the Keynko Collective on twitter and keep up to date with their crafty (and other) shenanigans here on their blog.

Over to you Mary...

To really understand how and why we came up with our plan, you probably need to understand how the Keynko Collective works.

We have friends and family spread far and wide across this great nation and so many hours of holidays are spent in traffic jams and thundering along motorways with nothing much on the radio. On trips as far flung as South Wales and Inverness, when we are bored of singing, we plot and plan the future - how would we spend a huge lottery win? If we could go anywhere in the world where would it be? How we would organise our own country if we owned one? Did Cromwell have the right idea about the monarchy? Does anyone actually like Bruce Forsyth? How would we survive the zombie apocalypse? and so on and so on.

When a family comprises of geeks, wargamers, Sci-fi enthusiasts and children with vivid imaginations - these discussions are long and complex and sometimes involve diagrams!

So the zombie plan....

Allowing of course for our survival during the initial onslaught, (would love to throw my neighbours to the horde, retribution for the drilling and drunken rows at all times of the day and night but we may not be that lucky!) we plan to move our family and selected friends to a better location for longer term survival and rebuilding of society - Mad Max-ish but without the drunken behaviour and antisemitism.

Our advantage, I hope, comes from the fact that we live in a house full of hobbies. Therefore a wide selection of medieval weaponry and armour is available for defense. We also live in a terraced house (hence the neighbour issue) so it is possible to move from house to house without leaving the building by simply going through the loft and past the frankly shoddily built fire wall. We then have access to other peoples larders and exit routes! All supposing of course that the locals have been bumped off - and to be fair they're pretty stupid so it’s not hard to imagine!

The plan is really to head for in laws house. They have an easily defendable position and being rural, less population etc. This is also the meeting point for those other members of the group before phase 2 begins.

Once at in laws, stock up on supplies, tools (as father-in-law has a huge collection of tools (aka weapons) if needed) and a chain saw and head for the river which is fairly close by.
With a large population of London barges close on hand we make for the sea and away from the zombies. To be honest none of us have any sailing experience, but how hard can it be? I’m also figuring that Zombie fear will be a great incentive to learn, and FAST!

Friends have been chosen for a variety of reasons, strength, skills - builders, engineers, nurses, fitness levels, aim with a cross bow etc etc.

We then head north - staying close to the coast so we can, if needed, go ashore for supplies and of course for navigation and after a brief stop at Aberdeen to collect my son and his university friends (rugby and hockey teams would be favourite) on we go.

We are heading for north of Inverness where we have friends. They have a good view of the firth from the house so we can signal our arrival. Once there, we have an easily defended position, a very small population (so less chance of being over taken), land to grow crops etc and a selection of people to protect us, build defenses, grow food, clothe us, nurse us, cannon fodder (rugby and hockey teams!). We also have an ex-royal marine commando - what more could we need???

I am being told at this point that dear husband has already informed the friends we are going to what the plan is and the signals we will give as we enter the firth so they know it’s us coming! Not that we over think these things at all!

The plan has evolved over many boring car journeys and several late night silly conversations and I’m sure will change again. Any suggestions are gratefully received as are applications to the new commune which will begin in Scotland.

On thinking about it maybe we should take more cannon fodder, do you think the cast of TOWIE fancy a trip to Inverness?????

But like my esteemed host here, I doubt I could out run them in the first place, and how would I manage the physical tortures of the boat trip, or hard life ahead. Whilst I have lost weight in the last year, there is no fitness or muscle worth talking of (other than in my texting thumb of course!), so inspired by her example I too am going for the C25k programme - in the interest of survival!

Maybe we should add her to the list of people we’re taking?! Slayer - can you sail a boat, or milk a cow???????

Saturday, 12 May 2012

You're beautiful...both of you

...and you always make me smile

I'm linking this post up with the "You're Beautiful" linky created by the Cheetah Keeper's Mum over at Cheetahs In My Shoes. Please pop on over and take a look at the other contributions to the linky.

Friday, 11 May 2012

The soundtrack to YOUR apocalypse

One of the things I love about twitter is the ease with which you can connect and chat with people who share the same interests as yourself and my guest poster today is one of those people.

Rob and I started out exchanging tweets about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which then progressed to other tv programmes and films. So when I decided to start my Grr Argh Challenge and temporarily dedicate my blog to all things fitness and zombie-related, I knew I wanted him to write a guest post for me. Lucky me, he agreed.

Rob blogs here and you can find him on twitter here and on facebook here. Just don't ask him about his views on twilight!

Anyway, enough from me, over to you Rob... 

Zombies. How can they be that threatening? I mean really, they're dead, so plus one for you straight away if you aren't one of them; they're rotting and falling apart and hopefully you aren't unless you are some form of leper. They don't possess the higher brain power that you, me and anyone else who hasn't appeared on a daytime chat show does so ideally we should be able to outsmart them.

But wait. They don't need to sleep. They're hungry buggers that's for sure, and I'm pretty certain a 6 Nugget extra value meal from MacDonald's won't satisfy them. They're relentless, and unfortunately, they're gonna have the numbers. Let's say you live in Leeds. Leeds has a population of 500,000. Then, 90% of the population get infected and become 'Dead Heads'. Those sheer numbers suck. That means you're gonna have to do an awful lot of legging it.

So this is where "Zombieland's" number one rule kicks in. Cardio. I'm a slight chunky monkey, therefore if I can do up a mobility scooter before the wrath of the undead are unleashed upon the world, I'll be good. However, if you like your survival chances to be a little bit more natural, a tad more predator/prey than shambling corpse + car = splat, then cardio is for you.

You're going to need to shift it between safe houses, shopping malls and possibly to a boat (Seeing as how being on a cruise liner in the middle of the ocean would prove to be a much safer place to be than say in the middle of the dales, with no petrol, no food, only a lighter; a half eaten snickers bar; a rolled up copy of the daily mail as a weapon and a looted copy of Twilight to keep you sane whilst the population of Blackburn is romper stompering after you for a light snack) and therefore being fit, having suitable stamina and an iPod full of zombie ass kicking and leg pumping tunage is a necessity.

Therefore, what would be your top ten, "Imma runnin' for my life from the walking dead" songs to get you from Greggs to JJB Sports to a safe place? Since this is me writing, I'm going to treat you to mine.

In at ten, like a banjo to a decomposing face, "Metallica - Seek and Destroy" with it's heavy riffs, James Hetfields gruff, gravelly vocals and neat Kirk Hammett solo, what better way to pummel your way through hordes of the great undead (or unwashed if you live in a University town) and pound some pavement than to 80's thrash?

Number nine on my Zombie Holocaust soundtrack for the end of days would definitely have to be "The Misfits - Scream". If I'm jogging for my life, which admittedly, would be the only time you would fine me jogging, and I'm pretty scared, I may as well express my fear through a song about being afraid.

Shuffling in at number eight, would have to be "Kernkraft 400's - Zombie Nation" with it's beat and punchy repetitive vocals of "Zombie" it would definitely serve it's purpose to get you a) doing your cardio and b) remembering you're in a zombie holocaust.

Urghhhhing around at number 7 is Harry Belafonte with Zombie Jamboree, yes that's right, some good ole Caribbean zombie beats. I mean, just because the dead are chomping down on the living and there's no internet or living TV to watch re-runs of Maury on, doesn't mean you can't break out the BBQ and get slightly lashed on Rum. In all honesty I think there's no better time.

At number 666 on the zombie survival playlist of magnificence (Nothing like being self important!) goes to those Ska loving, quirky punksters, The Aquabats with "Fashion Zombies", a song resplendent with quirky keys, quirky vocals, a nice quirky riff and quirky harmonies. In short, it's quirky, fun and cheesy as hell.

No zombie soundtrack would be complete without a nod towards a George A Romero film, so this is where The Murderdolls' "Dawn of the Dead" drops in at number 5. Yes, Schlock rock, with shoutyness, guitars and a tongue firmly planted in cheek.

"But wait Rob. This soundtrack seems to have a very rock/guitar/shouty/rahrahrah kind of vibe to it" I hear you cry! Well fear not intrepid reader, unless there's an undead ghoul drooling down your window holding a sign requesting you come outside for a cat scan, then fear away, but fear not! Number four on this list goes to none other than Michael "Shamone" Jackson and "Thriller". Yes, you can shuffle your way round the hordes of rotting monstrosities whilst simultaneously getting them to shuffle along with you, hand claps and all.

Okay, so blatant piece of cheese over and done with, number three on the list. And it's a return to the divine secrets of the Rahrahrah sisterhood with "Living Dead Girl" by Rob Zombie. Yes, the bearded lover of all things weird, wonderful and down right out there makes it into my list. And if you really get off on the whole zombie thing (anyone who has watched "Zombie Strippers" would agree) it could always be used for some zombie themed lap dance. If you're that way inclined. You freak.

Let's think carefully now. The population has been slightly decimated a little bit (complete understatement Rob I hear you say) and the streets a wee bit empty. There's no cars. No trains. No planes. No cyclists. No annoying teenagers listening to repetitive "umpcha umpcha umpcha" music on the backs of buses. Heck, there's no buses. Just the distant groans and moans of the living dead in the distance. It's almost like the place where you live is a... "Ghosttown" by the Specials. Yes, a lil bit of two tone for this playlist wouldn't go amiss. With a haunting trumpet and nicely punctuated brass section, you can skank your way through the city streets, contemplating nicking Sony Bravia's and watching DVD's of Friends, Seinfeld or Buffy whilst the minions of the underworld shuffle about the place in your own post-apocalyptic world. And people say I'm a pessimist.

Let's hear that drum roll, or a head roll if you're morbid. Number one. the song above all other's that's a pre-requisite for the Zombie Apocalypse. The crap has hit the fan. Life's a bit more brutal, perhaps shorter. But don't worry, always look on the bright side of life...

And it's with a whistle at my lips, a smile on my face and a sturdy cricket bat in my hands that I shall leave you. Use this list, or make your own, and when the zombies come, keep your wits about you. Good night, and good luck. (Insert evil Vincent Price laugh here...).

Rob Draugr is a Zombie nut, a 27 year old child with a liking for video games, movies, good quality TV shows and books. He's the size of a small elephant, with the bladder of a peanut. He currently resides in Yorkshire, but classifies himself as SouthernBrummieEastAnglianYorkshireman and quite enjoys a cup of tea and a digestive once in a while. If you enjoy his ramblings, then check him out at his Blog here and let him know what you think.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Run, run, as fast as you can

Today's guest post is from Jennifer who is mum to Harry (3) and Mia (nearly 1).

Jennifer's been blogging for almost a year about the things she gets up to with her family, and the things that go around in her head.

What I particularly like about her blog, which is simply but aptly named Jennifer's Little World, are the posts about the craft activities she does with her children. For example: how to turn a cardboard box into a vehicle, how to make pebble monsters and how to make a cardboard postbox and letters. There are lots more ideas of things to make and do and I can actually see me recreating some of them at home with my toddler; in fact, we've just started making a cardboard box bed for his favourite cuddly toy, Applecat.

Jennifer's maternity leave is quickly drawing to a close - something I can empathise with - and she'll soon be returning to her part-time, non-patient-facing job in the NHS. But she says she'll still have plenty of time to do fun things with her little ones (and blog about them of course!).

You can follow Jennifer on twitter, visit her facebook page and follow her on pinterest.

And now for her post...

I love pondering the aftermath of an apocalyptic scenario. I'm not obsessed about it, and I haven't made any particular preparations myself, but I love reading about stockpiling food and medicine, emergency grab bags, storing drinking water and so on. However it strikes me that the very best way to survive a disaster, once you've survived any initial catastrophe of course, is to be fit and healthy. If you are able to survive without a reliance upon medication, and you have the physical stamina to walk or run long distances, then you will be well ahead of a great deal of the population. I'm not even necessarily talking about a major disaster here, there are many scenarios where you will be in a better position to survive if you are fit and healthy, especially if you are also responsible for others, such as small, heavy children.

I try to keep fit by running, and this is often in the back of my mind as I'm pounding the streets. If I was running away from a predator, how long could I keep going for, and could I outrun them over a distance? I compare myself to people that I'm passing, and try and decide who would be an easier target, them or me. Of course I am really running to keep fit and to try and lose this last bit of baby weight, but I do feel secure in the knowledge that I am probably fitter than many others.

I really enjoy running as exercise, and the great thing about it (apart from the fact that it is virtually free and requires little equipment) is that you can really see your progress. A few years back I decided that I wanted to add running to my exercise regime, and I loved watching my time and speed increase week by week. I've followed a similar routine after the birth of each of my children, and each time have seen myself go from managing only a few minutes to being able to keep running for half an hour, covering 5 kilometres at a reasonable pace.

My method of building up to this was just to keep moving for 30 minutes. At the beginning you will need to alternate walking and running, perhaps doing just a couple of minutes of each until you've filled the full half hour. Gradually build up the amount of running you are doing, with shorter and shorter breaks for brisk walking. After a few months you will find that you are running for the full half hour. This is easier to manage on a treadmill because you can adjust your speed, but if you are out and about and end up a little way from home, the extra walking to get you back won't do any harm. There's no need or sense in rushing it, because ultimately each time you run you are closer to your goal.

This method has worked for me, both when I first started running and when I came back to it after long breaks during pregnancy and post-delivery. I'd really recommend running as a great way to improve fitness and to help prepare yourself in the best possible way for whatever you might encounter!

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