Monday, 29 January 2018

Why I love British Military Fitness

This might sound like a sponsored post but I promise it's not - I just really love BMF!
Phil and I on our four year anniversary which fell on a Wednesday so we obviously spent it at BMF...

My requirements for all forms of exercise has always been threefold:
1. I have to be able to do it alone
2. I don't need to go anywhere to do it
3. I can do it in the morning.

This is how I fell in love with workout DVDs, running and at-home yoga - I can do these on my own, anytime, and in the comfort of my own house (or at least, outside of it).

So how did I end up falling in love with a group fitness class that we have to drive to, that takes places at a scheduled time in the evening?

What is British Military fitness?

If you haven't heard of British Military Fitness it's basically a kind-of bootcamp class, run by ex-military. It's a mix of cardio and strength in a high intensity interval style (exercises interspersed with sprints) and lasts an hour.

Every single class is different.

There's a bit of a misconception that you're going to be crawling through mud and yelled at by instructors, but it's not like that at all. Okay they're not afraid of making you do burpees in the mud and you'll never see a class cancelled because of rain or snow, and you are there to push yourself, but you are never going to be pushed beyond what you're capable of. 

It's challenging, you have to push yourself, sometimes more than you think you're capable of, but more than anything else, it's FUN.

My first BMF classs

It all started last summer when I was on my "off-season" from running (I tend to run two big races a year - Spring and Autumn, and I start training about 4 months before, so I have a small gap between May and July, and another between November and February) and I usually find myself simultaneously bored and restless during this break and also so bloody sick of running. I'm a person who craves routine and being told what to do, so while I'm always exhausted and relieved to be done with training, I can find it hard to stick to a new temporary routine.

Phil had done British Military Fitness classes years ago and had always fancied the idea of going back, but I'd always bemoaned that it would interfere with my training, but during this summer break he floated the idea again - "we could go to a free class on Sunday and see what you think?"

We were living at my parents' at the time, so we were a bit restless and in-flux generally, so this seemed a perfect opportunity. Plus your first class is free anyway, and we managed to find a deal where we got the first month free too, so we thought, why not?

We are quite lucky near us that there are four parks nearby that do classes, and they do them on alternating days, so you could pretty much go every day if you wanted to (not that you'd ever want to!). Our local park has classes on Sunday mornings, Monday nights, Wednesday nights and Friday mornings, so we went along to a Sunday morning class.

On your first session you need to choose a bib colour which corresponds to your fitness group - green is the toughest, then red, then blue. Phil had always been a red before and we decided this was probably about the right level for us both. You are able to progress through the colours over time as your fitness improves.

My first class was bloody awful! My upper body strength is rubbish and I remember one part running with a tyre over my head, barely being able to keep it over my head and coming dead last.

But even from that first awful class, I was hooked!

What I love about British Military Fitness

What I both love, and hate, about BMF is that it pushes me. It challenges me. You can phone it in a bit when you're doing an at-home workout if you don't want to do that extra burpee, but when you've got 20 people watching you, you have to dig deeper. There are no excuses. 

It also makes me feel that kind of sore of a really great workout. I'm a typical runner in that I usually just run, and it's good to feel soreness in the muscles I don't normally use! I absolutely hate tricep dips and I'm a bit rubbish at push ups, but whenever I'm doing them I remind myself the more I do them the easier it will get!

I love the variety - I'm not exaggerating when I say every single class is different. Some days you might use equipment like kettle balls or bags or ropes, some days it might be nearly all cardio, sometimes you might be doing pull-ups on a climbing frame. The instructors nearly always plan the session on the spot, so you never know what you could be doing next! 

I personally love being told what to do, and I like that for an hour I can completely switch off from whatever happened in my day. I don't have time to worry about that work project or think about what I'm making for dinner next week - my focus is on burpees and runs and press ups and I think it does a lot of help for my always-fizzing brain!

I also love the flexibility. We're very lucky where we are that there are a few parks near us that offer sessions on alternative days - we usually do a Wednesday nigh and a Sunday morning, but we can do a Thursday night at a different park, or do our park's Monday session if we miss Sunday. I know this isn't the case for everyone, but for us it ensures we never miss a week if something unexpected comes us!

Phil and I have a nice little routine now too which makes it a lot easier. On a Wednesday we always have dinner from the slow cooker, or something out of the freezer, which means as soon as we get home I can quickly whack something in the microwave and toast some pittas and dinner is on the table in 5 minutes, which is entirely necessary at 8.30pm! I don't have the time, energy or inclination to cook when I get home from a tough session and it's really made me appreciate my slow cooker!

It's also really nice to do it with Phil. We're nearly always in the same group (we're both reds - the middle group - but my park quite often split the reds down the middle, half with the easier group and half with the harder group, and we're nearly always together in the harder group!) and sometimes we partner up, sometimes we don't, and it's nice to have that time together doing a hobby, and laughing on the way home about how hard it was and how sore we are the next day.

It's really social too. Phil and I aren't really in the "in-crowd" and don't want to be either, but we know people to chat to and I always try to learn my partner's name if I get partnered up because it's nice to remember people's names when you see the same faces every week! There's a really active Facebook group for our area too so you do get to know people which is really nice. There's nothing quite like bonding over being absolutely exhausted and then finding out you have to do another 10 burpees!

Finally, you get out of it what you put in. It can seem a lot for unlimited membership at £37 or once-a-week at £28, but the more you go (obviously not if you're on limited) the cheaper it is and the more you get out of it. I'm notoriously tight and I don't mind spending the money because it's cheaper than most gyms and you get the motivation and focus of having a personal trainer or doing classes.

I couldn't recommend it more - plus your first class is free and there are quite often deals on like get £50 each if you bring a friend or free month trials. It's painful, it hurts, and it pushes you, but it's such a laugh and you feel so good afterwards, and I never, ever thought I'd be one for group fitness classes!

I am always keen to talk about BMF, so if you have any questions, drop me a line on Twitter!

Charlotte x

Monday, 8 January 2018

2017 Favourite Books, Films, Podcasts etc.

I've read some truly amazing books this year and it made me really want to write a post on them! Then I thought back over the brilliant films, TV shows and podcasts I've enjoyed this year and thought it would be fun to do a little roundup of my favourite things this year.

I'm rubbish at writing reviews, so this is just a list of my favourite things in 2017. Nearly all of these books/films etc did not come out in 2017, I'm just super late to the party.

I have no real aim of this list except it gave me great joy to reflect on my favourite things of the year and relive the enjoyment of reading/watching/consuming all these wonderful things, and it makes me excited for my books and films and podcasts in 2018! It's also a reminder to me of all the awesome books and films out there that I am yet to explore.

So here we go!

Books I loved in 2017

I read 43 books in 2017 and these were my absolute favourites (follow me on Goodreads for the rest!). In no order except the order in which I read them:
  • The Easter Parade by Richard Yates
  • My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
  • The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
  • How to be a Grown Up by Daisy Buchanan
  • The Other Mrs Walker by Mary Paulson-Ellis
  • Skippy Dies by Paul Murray
  • Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strour
  • My Shitty Twenties by Emily Morris
  • The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain
  • The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero
  • I know this much is true by Wally Lamb
  • What I loved by Suri Hustvedt

Favourite films at the cinema in 2017

Phil and I have Cineworld Unlimited cards so we go to the cinema at least twice a month. These were my favourite "new" films in 2017. In no particular order:
  • La La Land
  • Manchester by the Sea
  • Hidden Figures
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • Moonlight
  • Wonder Woman
  • The Disaster Artist
  • Baby Driver
  • Get Out
  • Dunkirk
  • War for the Planet of the Apes
  • It
  • Wonder
  • Battle of the Sexes

My favourite films I saw the first time in 2017 that I definitely should have seen before:

Phil has a list in his phone called "Films I'm embarrassed Charlotte hasn't seen". He is constantly educating me in all the films I never managed to watch growing up! Here are some of my favourite new-to-me films I watched in 2017:
  • The Exorcist
  • American Werewolf in London
  • The Birds
  • Annie Hall
  • Let the Right One In
  • Minority Report
  • The Room 
  • Speed
  • Deadpool
  • Lars and the Real Girl

The best podcasts I discovered in 2017

I'm kind of addicted to downloading hundreds of podcasts every month and then I never listen to them all! Some of these were new in 2017, some were new-to-me, but these are the podcasts getting me through my long runs last year:
  • What page are you on?
  • The Guilty Feminist
  • Beautiful Anonymous
  • Made of Human
  • Hello Friend
  • And then what?
  • Sincerely X
  • Dirty John

TV shows I loved in 2017

Phil and I suck at watching TV shows - we still haven't watched the new season of Stranger Things and we've not caught up with Peaky Blinders yet, but these are the TV shows we did finish this year:
  • Mindhunter 
  • The Handmaid's Tale
  • The US Office (we finally finished this after starting it over 2 years ago!)
  • The Night Of
  • The People vs. OJ Simpson

The recipe books I loved in 2017

I don't even want to count how many new recipes books I bought or received in 2017, but these are the ones that I keep using over and over:
So those are my top favourites in 2017. It's like Oprah's favourite things list except I don't get to give you a car.

I'm excited to see which of the books on my 200+ to read list will be on 2018's list, or which films I'm excited for, and which podcasts I will discover. Only time will tell!

Also please please please hit me up if you have any recommendations for me based on my favourites (ESPECIALLY book recommendations cause I loooooooove book recommendations!).

Charlotte x

Saturday, 6 January 2018

December Life Lately

Ahh I know it's already the 6th December and I'm super late to the party, but with the end-of-year blog posts I wanted to write I've found myself a bit behind with this one (and I'm still only half way through another 2017 post!) but I love writing these posts and reflecting on my month so I thought better late than never!

December feels an age away now but I swear I always feel like that at the start of a new month. There are some things on my list where I think, wait was that only last month?

So I promise I won't detail everything to do with our engagement again (I am still milking it for at least another few weeks on Instagram though!) or go into loads of detail about Christmas (because it feels forever ago!) but this is what I got up to in December...

What I've been doing

On 29th November I handed in my final piece of coursework for my marketing diploma, so to celebrate Phil and I took a few days off work. It was absolutely love to have a few days to go to the cinema multiple times, go for lunch, see family and friends and have the kind of weekend I haven't been able to have for a very long time! 

One of the things we did as part of our time off was explore The Light which is at the new leisure complex in Stockport, Redrock. As I've written before, Phil and I are both Cineworld Unlimited card holders and go to the cinema at least two or three times a month (and sometimes a lot more!) but while we were off we thought we might go and see if the grass is greener!
The first thing that pique our interest was a showing of Gremlins on 1st December - just when I was starting to get in the festive spirit! - which included a Q&A with Zach Galligan who played Billy. We couldn't resist watching one of our favourite Christmas films and the Q&A totally sold it for us. The cinema is absolutely gorgeous with so much legroom (even Phil, who is 6'5" could stretch out!) and while we were waiting for the film we found out they were offering Unlimited card holders a week of trying out the cinema for free - sold! Gremlins was brilliant and I got to ask Zach what he thought of the "dead-Dad-stuck-up-the-chimney" storyline which has always haunted me, and we got to meet him after! 

We ended up going to The Light twice more in December which I'll go into in my "watching" section!

This month we also booked my Birthday trip to Bruges which I'm so excited about! We're going to London to see Hamilton (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) finally on the 29th March, and my Birthday is the 30th which happens to be Good Friday. So we're getting the Eurostar across to Brussels then travelling to Bruges and having a long weekend there before coming back on Monday. We've been talking about booking this trip ever since we booked Hamilton tickets a year ago so I'm really excited!
We've done a lot of work on our house in December too. A few weeks ago we finally painted the bathroom after buying paint samples in August so it's no longer bright Barbie pink.

And then we spent two days between Christmas and New Year stripping our living room, stairs and landing wallpaper so we can start afresh with something new for 2018. So far we've got about as far as picking paint colours, and we're going to completely change up the room and make it ours which is really exciting so stay tuned for that over the next few months!
Of course we also celebrated our 5th Christmas together with our traditional two-Christmas-dinners, and I was completely spoiled as usual! Highlights include a tofu press, a cast iron pan, new slippers and a new dressing gown, and from Phil I got a print of Duluth, which was my home in Minnesota for a year while I was at uni, and a print of the building we lived in in Manchester from the 1920s. We had a drink early last year in the pub underneath our old building and they had this old photo on the front of the building and I loved it and said we had to find a copy for the house. So Phil spent ages looking through the library archives before emailing the pub to ask for a copy. It's so amazing to see that old building nearly 100 years ago!
And yes, if I haven't milked it already, on Boxing Day we got engaged in Lyme Park, and you can read the full story of how it happened in this post. That was definitely the biggest surprise in December!
We brought 2017 to a close quiet(ish) with a board game night at Phil's parents. However I'm not sure we've all quite recovered from the fall-out over Codenames!

What I've been eating
After really loving Meera Sodha's Fresh India, I bought Made in India last month after borrowing it from the library and deciding I needed it! Highlights so far are the green beans, the dal and the chana masala.

Also this month I finally learned to make amazing poached eggs, so I've basically spent the last few weeks eating poached eggs at every opportunity. (I use this recipe!)
I'm currently working through the Winter/Start of the Year second of The Modern Cook's Year (read my Autumn review over here) and so far my favourite thing has been the cauliflower-topped puy lentil pie.
And finally, Phil made this excellent lemon meringue pie for New Year's Eve and I am super impressed with his egg white skills!

What I've been loving
Ooh lots of lovely things this month!

One of my goals for 2018 is to look after my mental health and I started this in December with the Happyfeed app. Every day I have to write about 3 things that made me happy that day. I like to do this the following morning as it gives me time to reflect on the previous day and it really makes you think about the little things you might have forgotten!
At the start of December I decided I wanted to buy a few new nail polishes, and I always buy Essie. While I was picking colours I noticed Superdrug had an Essie Advent Calendar for only £25, which had 7 full-size colours and lots of smaller colours and other nail products. I got one for myself and one for my Mum! We both absolutely loved having a little nail polish treat every day of December!

One of my favourite people, Cate of Cate in the Kitchen has started a podcast and it's absolutely brilliant. It's all about food and cooking and food culture and food memories and ah, it's just lovely. Go download it now!
Every Christmas I make Phil's parents and my Nan a hamper, and this year I got one myself! My friend Riven made us the most amazing hamper, containing two books, homemade flavoured gin, two kinds of biscuits, two kinds of condiments, chocolate, SHARK name but a few! It was so lovely and thoughtful and everyone has been amazing so far!
Finally, I got myself a Buddy Box this month so I could get a copy of their Self Care book and it was really lovely. If you haven't heard of Buddy Boxes they're a subscription box from mental health charity, The Blurt Foundation, full of treats to help your mental health. I got a copy of the Self Care book, lovely socks and lots of other lovely things this month.

What I've bought
On top of Christmas presents, just two small things this month! A new bullet journal because I've finished my first one (and I'm still in the process of moving everything over!) and World Vegetarian which I got for a few quid second hand and I'm using for the first time this weekend.

What I've been watching
A bit of a mixed bag this month! I absolutely loved everything we saw at the cinema this month - Wonder, Battle of the Sexes, The Last Jedi and The Disaster Artist.

But films we watched at home, not as much. This month we watched Glengarry Glen Ross and The Game, which were both a bit disappointing!

Finally, Phil and I are completely obsessed with Love it or List it, the Kirstie and Phil programme. As we're redoing our living room we're kind of obsessed with home programmes and instead of catching up with Peaky Blinders or Stranger Things 2, we're really enjoying watching mindless episodes of this!

What I've been reading
I've read 5 books this month, my absolute favourite being What I Loved, which has instantly made it's way into my favourite books list. I read Siri Husdvedt at uni but hadn't read any of hers since, and I'm really excited to work through all her books.

I also really enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine at the end of the month, and am glad to hear it's won a Costa award.
Other books this month were Fever Dream, which was a surreal and bizarre but interesting read, Fingersmith which I was super into but then got a bit bored of towards the end, and You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine which I'm still trying to decide how I felt about!

What I've been reading online
I absolutely adore Louise and she is one of the people I'm so glad I "met" in 2017. All her blog posts are brilliant, but I love this one on Why your dreams don't have to scare you.

Google's A Year In Search video gave me all the feels.

And The Pool's post on Matt Damon completely summed up how I felt.

So there we go - better late than never right? In January I am looking forward to a quiet month, choosing paint for our living room and playing with layouts and maybe starting to plan our wedding!

Hope 2018 is treating you well so far!

Charlotte x