Too many hobbies?

I struggle to sit down and do ‘nothing’. My gran likes to tell me that I’m a ‘do-er’ like my mum. Relax, she says. Don’t look for things to do. But I always need something to work towards and I can never decide on one thing…

A hobby: ‘an activity, interest, enthusiasm, or pastime that is undertaken for pleasure or relaxation, typically done during one’s own time’. My problem: some of my ‘hobbies’ spill over into not being enjoyable or relaxing – sometimes I have so many that they can feel like a list of chores! #firstworldproblems

Is that just me? Much to my boyfriend’s amusement, I am always working on a project or trying something new. I am one of those people who has a home littered with lists of things they want to try and places they want to visit. Maybe I have too many hobbies..

Dance – top of the list and the most spontaneous activity. I dance almost every day. Even when I feel physically tired after work – I can’t resist the adrenaline buzz that comes from movement. And listening to music. It’s my favourite way to unwind. I’m also trying to work towards getting and improving my flexibility in general, which leads me into…

Pole fitness – Since taking this back up just before Christmas, I’m still loving pole. I always look forward to my class on a Thursday evening – even though it can take me an hour to get to it. And YAY – my X-pole arrived yesterday so now I can get extra practice at home!

General fitness – grouping both my cycling and running here. I’m aiming for once a week each but getting back into cycling after the winter lull is proving mentally challenging. I do the local ParkRun most Saturdays, incentivised by the attendance of  friends/family – and bacon afterwards. I’ve already got a charity fun run, charity cycle and a Monster race lined up this year so I really need to get the miles in…

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Piano – I have been playing on and off since the age of 7. After 2 years away from home at university, I missed having a piano so much that I saved up for an electric one which has now moved through 6 houses/flats with me (not without difficulty!). Long (and miserable) story short, I now can’t play for very long without triggering a tendonitis flare-up. I will always love playing though.

Writing/blogging/photography – I love writing, although admittedly I haven’t written much for pleasure since my teens – there never seems to be time! But it’s part of the reason I started blogging. I love the whole creative process of putting a post together, including taking photos. I have a pretty decent camera on my phone and I really enjoy searching for the perfect ‘shot’ when I’m out and about. I’ve toyed with the idea of getting a DSLR for a while but it’s potentially a big commitment both in terms of finance and in terms of time spent learning to use it effectively. And blogging – the biggest stalling block is having to sit down with my laptop. I’m not completely desk-bound in work but I still want to avoid being sat in front of a screen for too many hours of the day. Also, using a mouse is a trigger for my tendonitis so unless I’m careful, blogging = wrist pain!

Reading – there’s seems to be a common theme here – things I did before and after uni! I have always been a voracious reader. I can pick up an average-sized paperback, zone out and finish it in a day. That’s come in handy since joining a book club last year!

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DIY and interiors – I just spent a fair chunk of the bank holiday weekend either wielding a drill, a can of spray paint or moving furniture around…

Learning languages – here’s where we start to move into ‘because I think I should…’ territory. I studied French up to A level and over the past 9 months or so I’ve been trying to pick up the language again using the Duolingo app. This free app allows you to practice key words and phrases in chunks, monitoring your progress. I go through phases – some weeks I’ll be really keen and fit in lots of 5 minute practice slots. Other weeks, despite the daily reminders, I struggle to find even 5 minutes of quiet time. Unless I have an incentive, such as an upcoming trip to France, I think I’ll struggle to maintain my progress on this one. The Duolingo app is great though!

Maybe I should focus on one or two activities. But how do you choose when you enjoy them all?!

H x

Exploring Clean Eating

The Clean Eating phenomenon has swept the UK over the last few years and I’ve watched with interest as it’s spread around social media. My introduction to these diets came when I was given Deliciously Ella’s first book back in 2015. Since then, clean eating has continued to increase in popularity  but there has also been some backlash against a few of the more high profile figures in this movement, questioning the facts behind these lifestyle ‘crazes’ and branding some as unaffordable and even dangerous…

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Out and About: Christmas shopping in Bath

Yes, we were crazy enough to go shopping in Bath on the Saturday after Black Friday, and yes, it was BUSY. But that’s what happens when your uni mate comes to visit and you happen to live just outside the town you went to uni in. Here’s a few snaps from my weekend, featuring Bath’s Christmas market (wintry sun, mulled wine, shopping…) and my friends’ little dog Ella (who looks like a cross between a fox and a baby deer).

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Dealing with dark days

Literally, dark days. You know the story…it’s dark when you get up and dark when you get home. #northernhemisphereproblems…

The lack of natural light in winter can affect some people quite acutely. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression linked to the winter months. The symptoms include lethargy, persistent low mood, anxiousness, loss of interest in activities – which then tend to improve in spring/ summer.

I’ve always noticed a change in my mood and a general loss of enthusiasm around November/December but until a few years ago I had never heard of SAD. As you might guess from my blog title…I love sunshine and I soon find myself missing the bright mornings! Despite experiencing 26 winters, the darkness always comes as a surprise to me. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve felt unsettled, restless and more tired than usual. Mornings are difficult.

Here are some of my strategies to help alleviate the winter blues…

Firstly (and most importantly!): get outside!

Yep, it’s a struggle if you work 9-5 in an office (or like me, in a windowless lab).  Last winter, I tried to get out for a run at least one lunchtime a week – I’m going to do the same this year (haven’t started yet though…maybe next week, better late than never  🙂 ).  Walking would do – anything than gets you out in the fresh air! Exercise in general is a great boost for anyone struggling with low mood.

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Autumn at Westonbirt Arboretum

Daylight bulbs

As the name suggests, these light bulbs mimic daylight. It’s bright, white light – very different to the yellow light we typically have in our homes. My daylight bulb (an Amazon purchase for under £10) has moved through 3 different houses and is still going after 5 years of almost daily use. I love it! It’s so bright that my old housemates used to call my room the magic box. It’s currently in my closet so that I get my daylight fix when I’m getting ready in the mornings.

So, does it work? I’ve had mine for so long that it’s difficult to notice changes but I think it helps kick start my mornings and makes me feel more alert.

It’s s a cheap and cheerful option and as an added bonus, white light apparently causes your eyes less strain than yellow light…

 

Daylight bulbs continued….my Phillips Lumie Bodyclock

I first came across this daylight alarm clock a few years ago. I struggle to get up in the mornings and this product claims it can ‘keep your sleep cycle on track, boosting mood, energy and productivity levels all day’.

The premise: you set a rough time to be woken up and the Lumie gradually illuminates to mimic the sunrise, waking you gently. There is science behind this – waking slowly keeps your levels of stress hormones low and has also been linked to increased alertness during the day!

Does it work? Yes – in that it wakes me up. Opening your eyes to a bright room instead of pitch black is a nice feeling and definitely a more peaceful process than being jerked awake by a phone alarm! But I’m still quite good at ignoring the light and going back to sleep so I always set a back-up audible alarm…

I might be more effective if I used it regularly but my boyfriend does NOT appreciate daylight at 6am. No one likes being woken up earlier than they need to be and on a hair-washing morning I have to get up a full hour before him! (I have been trying to re-introduce this over the last few days so maybe I’ll be able to post an update!)

Of course this is just scratching the surface and I’m not an expert – just sharing in the hope that this is useful to someone. Do you have any tips for dealing with the dark winter months?

H x

If you think you have SAD and it’s affecting your life – or if you have any other type of depression – don’t suffer alone. There is always someone who can help  🙂

Not Going Out

At the grand old age of 27, I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that my days of partying like a carefree teenager are over.

Now that my boyfriend have moved out of the city, nights out are logistically more difficult. When we go out together, someone usually ends up driving -that someone is usually me. If one of us goes out separately, it’s a case of an expensive solo taxi ride or begging the other half to pick you up past bedtime.

I complain to my boyfriend on a regular basis about my lack of party action. One of the reasons for leaving our central city flat was that didn’t go out regularly enough to justify the location. But any time that I’m stuck inside cooking dinner on a Saturday night, I’ll listen to Radio 1’s dance anthems and invariably get FOMO. Sometimes I feel like I’m running out of time to enjoy myself before I have to ‘properly’ settle down.

But I’ve never been known as a wild party animal and maybe I only want to go out because I think I should be. I LOVE to dance and I’m partial to a few cocktails, but I also associate bars and clubs with unwanted male attention and being jostled by sweaty drunk people while I’m trying to get down to Rihanna. I’m also not a big drinker due to a combined fear of hangovers and feeling out of control. My goals on a night out are catching up with friends and getting some dance action; other seem to go out with the sole aim of getting completely smashed. Not my idea of a good time.

Most of my friends go ‘out’ a lot less now anyway – they have busy lives, more responsibilities and less time for hangovers. With the expectation and excitement of a rare ‘big’night out, it seems to be easier to get carried away – and the night will end with someone in bed before midnight, drunken arguments and/or an exhaustingly long journey home.

So these days I’m learning to be content with casual nights at the pub – although if next year is anything like this one, there will be plenty of weddings and hen dos for me to get my party fix! #latetwenties!

H x

Fitness Highs and Lows: A Charity Cycle and an Unexpected Half Marathon!

A bit of a long one – I talk about the two sporting events that I’ve just taken part in and how they didn’t exactly go to plan!

The Charity Cycle

16th Sept: I undertook a charity cycle with work colleagues. 170 miles over 2 days.

I’d been training for this for almost 6 months. I took part in the same event last year so I already knew that I was capable of the challenge. Despite this being a more demanding ride (more miles and more hills), I was relaxed with my training. I mostly cycle with my boyfriend, who pushes me hard. I like to dawdle and look at pretty landscapes along the way, but he is solely focused on getting from A to B in the quickest time possible (maybe it’s a male thing!).

Before the ride, I could cover 70 miles at a reasonable pace and barely feel it in my legs the next day.  We’d also accidentally covered a number of ‘worst case’ scenarios – getting lost and not having enough food or water. But a group event like this is a very different experience and you can’t plan for the weather….

Day 1: We had 25 punctures. 25!!!! Storms and flash floods the day before had covered the roads in flint and debris. Our skinny road bike tyres didn’t stand a chance. Only 4 of the 27 riders survived the weekend without suffering any punctures at all.

I was forced to quit the ride and jump in a support van near the end of the day after discovering a huge hole in my tyre. Before that, I’d been having a great day. I unintentionally found myself in one of the fastest (all male) groups and was pleased to discover that I was able to keep pace.

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Day 2: I decided to hang back in a slower group and ride with friends. That didn’t go so well. The temperature had dropped. The wind had picked up. I didn’t eat enough the night before. I didn’t get a good night’s sleep. I could go on with the reasons – I have spent hours over-analysing this already.

Basically, I didn’t have enough fuel to keep going. I became so cold and exhausted that I felt close to fainting. When my vision starting blurring I knew it was time to put myself in the van before I held up my team mates!

I was really disappointed not to complete the whole distance. It was still a great achievement but I have a tendency to set high standards for myself. I knew I was capable of doing it. I was a relatively experienced cyclist compared to some of the team. I was annoyed at having played the nutrition game so wrong. Also, this was a team event and I felt so out of it that I couldn’t really connect with the enjoyment and celebrations at the end of the ride.

But the important thing is, we’ve raised over £10k for Asthma UK! 🙂

My first half-marathon

27th Sept was the Bristol half marathon. 4 days before, this message appeared on my phone: ‘Well done on the cycle! Don’t suppose you fancy running the half marathon this weekend?!!’ A friend’s friend had dropped out due to injury and a free place was up for grabs.

My immediate reaction was NO WAY. Despite supporting various friends running the Bath Half for 6-7 consecutive years, I’ve always said that I’d never run 13 miles. Excuse no.1: I find running a bit boring. I can’t be arsed with all that training. Excuse no.2: My granny knees can’t take said training.

But then I thought again. I’m probably the fittest I have ever been right now. Certainly fit enough to run a half decent time without dying.  I had all the cycling training behind me and I run (a little bit) anyway. My friend, an experienced long distance runner, was happy to take the course at a relaxed pace. So we went for it – going in with no preconceptions about time or ability. Just to enjoy it.

And it was great! We did it in 2hrs 6mins – a time I am very happy with considering I hadn’t ‘trained’ and in fact, had never run further than 6k (3.7miles) before. Although the last few miles were a bit of a struggle, I had enough energy to chat to my friend (and generally mess around) throughout the course. And we managed a sprint finish too!!

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The atmosphere was great and I would definitely consider running another Half in fancy dress, to get even more support. Sunshine and showers on the day made for reasonable running conditions. UK runners, if you’re looking for a half marathon for next year, Bristol is great – it’s a lovely scenic route and according to my friend (the more seasoned half marathon runner), it’s really good logistically too.

Before any runners yell at me, I am not advocating doing an event like this without training! My legs started hurting from mile 3. The day after, I could barely walk. I’ve had a sports massage today which has pretty much sorted them out.

So, there we go, the best laid plans etc….Anyone else got any big sporting events coming up?

H x

 

OOTD: Loving my (new) New Balance trainers

The past 2 weeks have been a busy blur. With the bathroom re-vamp ongoing (more on that when it’s finally complete) and preparations for the charity bike ride (completed (and survived) on Saturday – again, probably a separate post later) – I’ve barely thought about blogging!

Here’s a little OOTD post featuring my New Balance 373s, which I’m currently living in. When I say OOTD, this has been almost every other day for the past week or so!

I never used to be much of a fashion trainer girl – I own a pair of the almost ubiquitous white converse but tend to favour boots for everyday wear. Working in a lab, I can’t wear sandals (or anything where my skin is exposed) so my shoe collection is 90% boots.

This year I’ve finally branched out into trainers and I love mixing them into a smarter look. I got some Adidas superstars earlier in the year but rarely wear them in work – I think they push the already very relaxed ‘smart casual’ office code a little too far. But they are COMFY. At the grand old age of 27, with knees and feet abused by years in heels, I appreciate comfy. I’d been keeping an eye out for some other trainers in a darker colour and spotted these – I love the navy, grey and coral pink colour combination!

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I’ve worn them to work with dark denim and a white cotton shirt, but mostly I just pick up the colours with a simple grey t shirt and skinny jeans or leggings. Easy, and I love it. I was a bit too late for 90s fashion but I’m happy to go with the casual classics this time around!

H x

Growing up before the Internet – Do I wish I’d had YouTube as a teenager?

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When YouTube launched in 2005, I was 16. I can’t remember when or how I first came across it – 99% of my internet usage was MSN instant messenger, MySpace and Bebo (blasts from the past! Who remembers them?).

There is an unbelievable amount of content on YouTube now – and it’s not all funny cats.  There are tutorials for EVERYTHING. How to fix your car, fix your computer, do DIY, clip your dog, experiment with makeup, braid your hair. I’ve watched of all these and more (but, not gonna lie, I mainly watch cute puppies).

In fact, I was checking out an eye shadow tutorial earlier when the question behind this post popped into my head. What would my formative years have been like if I’d had access to the YouTube of today?

Growing up in a small village in relatively rural Wales, my world was limited when it came to beauty, fashion and style. The only ‘modern’ fashion store was a tiny New Look with an extremely narrow range. I once went to a birthday party where 3 of us were wearing the same Eeyore t-shirt…

I was never a very girly girl and I didn’t really get ‘into’ clothes and makeup until my late teens. I don’t have any sisters and they weren’t common topics with my mum or my friends. However, like any teenager, I remember stressing about my appearance. I felt insecure when socialising because I wasn’t confident about how I looked.

 

My point is, if I’d had a resource such YouTube at my fingertips, would it have made those years any easier? I think I could have done with a little more ‘life’ education. Maybe, with it’s power of connection to real people, YouTube could have expanded my horizons. Yes, it’s a largely one-way connection, but any connection is surely a benefit to a shy young person trying to work out their place in the world. Focusing on the positives, would it have helped me develop my own style or use makeup to help me feel comfortable in my skin?

Teenage years are difficult in any situation, so maybe not. But yay for Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube today – they have helped me experiment over the years. I could focus on the perceived negatives of social media here. That it’s making us insular and narcissistic. That it promotes fast, disposable fashion. That it tells you a ‘natural’ makeup look takes 37 products. But I won’t. I’m a grown woman and I use it, with a healthy dose of awareness, to help me make choices which suit me and make me feel happy and confident.

Wishful thinking about the past is easy. I wouldn’t change my upbringing. It was sheltered, but it was safe and very happy (and made me the person I am today, etc etc…). If I’d grown up watching beauty videos every day, who knows how different my life could have been!

(Almost made a pop culture reference to Sliding Doors there. Then I remembered I’d never seen the film. Just googled the trailer. Worst trailer ever???)

H x

Making an Effort

A little while ago I listened to a radio show discussion about young people, particularly girls, believing it wasn’t ‘cool to be smart’. In my mind, caring about being smart is closely connected to caring about working hard – caring about putting effort in.

I think I’m quite an earnest person. In my teenage years, in the minefield that was high school, studying the relaxed, ‘don’t care’ attitude of some of my classmates was practically an additional subject for me. From what I remember, enthusiasm or passion – shown by anyone –  often resulted in teasing. When did not caring get so cool?

I’m definitely not a teenager anymore, but sometimes I still encounter the same attitudes among ‘adults’. I’ve had a pretty exhausting/frustrating day at work which has also partly inspired this post.If you are someone who puts effort into (almost) everything they do, however insignificant or boring, it’s so depressing to deal with people who can’t be bothered. What’s the point in doing anything in life if you do a half-arsed job?

Anyway, rant over. Hard work does pay off and there will always be someone out there who appreciates what you do, whatever it is. Here’s to enthusiastic people!

Time for some positivity – I’m actually having a pretty good week! Bike training for September’s cycle ride (read what I’m doing here) is going well – cycling the 15 miles to and from work is feeling easier each time. I’m also looking forward to visiting some old uni friends this weekend 🙂

Hope everyone else is having a good week!

H x

Me and My Bike

Let’s talk cycling!

Due British success at the Olympics and in the Tour de France, cycling in the UK has never seemed so popular.  Around here, the cyclists have been out in force during these past few weeks of rare summer weather.

Growing up surrounded by quiet country lanes, with parents who loved UK holidays, I spent a lot of time cycling as a child. Apart from a very brief period where I was forced to cycle to work (I very quickly bought a car), as I got older my bike rides became more and more infrequent.

Then in 2014, I was persuaded (read: bullied) into purchasing a lovely road bike by my Tour de France obsessed boyfriend. But I was still a fair weather rider – the furthest I had ever cycled was 10 miles, and I hurt for days afterwards.

Until last year.

I took on the challenge of cycling 150 miles in two days, for charity, in an event organized by the company I work for. I enjoy exercise (honestly!) and previously considered myself fairly fit – but I was in no way an endurance athlete. This was TWO CONSECUTIVE DAYS spending 6-7 HOURS on a bike.

But I did it! And guess what – I’ve agreed to do it all over again.

The next ride is in September. To increase the challenge factor for those who rode last year, we’ve chosen a new, longer route: 160 miles in over two days.

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Taken last year, before my pedals were forcibly swapped for clip-ins…

So, cycling has once again become a regular thing in my life. Like training for any long distance event, it takes up a lot of time: fitting in ~100 miles a week training is not easy when you’re working 9-5! But call me a convert – these days I’m all about racking up the miles and checking my stats on Strava!

Among the colleagues taking part there’s actually a good male:female ratio – great to see.

Like so many sports, cycling is dominated by men and let’s be honest, cycling is not an attractive activity. Lurid lycra, padded shorts, sweating, flies in your face, pulling horrendous grimacing expressions while trying to tackle a hill. Then there’s the discomfort involved – I get stabbing neck pains from being hunched over the saddle and let’s not even mention saddle sores (hands up if you know all about chamois cream).

I’m not really selling cycling, am I? So why do it?

  • I got into cycling because of my boyfriend and it’s really nice to have an activity that we can do together. Despite the limitations of road bikes (dry, smooth roads only for me please!) it’s still a great way to explore the countryside around us.
  • It’s social! There’s a great group for our work ride that get together to train. We’re all about comparing the chain oil ‘tattoos’. There’s also plenty of cycling clubs out there…
  • It’s (relatively) cheap exercise! Yes, a decent bike and kit will set you back a bit (unless, like me, your boyfriend is not the most imaginative with presents and therefore constantly buys you bike gear). It doesn’t have to be a road bike – once you’re set up you are free to head out whenever you like!
  • It’s a challenge! Even if you come back tired and wanting to eat ALL the food in the house, completing a long ride feels like a great achievement.

Including my commute to work, I cycled 42 miles yesterday – but I felt surprisingly sprightly today which means my training is paying off 🙂

H x