Couch to 5k programme

I used to run all the time and I used to really enjoy it. But about 3 years ago it started to be more of a habit than an actual hobby. I was going to the gym to run for 25 minutes, purely so I could say that I had been for a run. My thoughts started to get quite disordered with it too, where I started to think that if I went for a run, I was then allowed to have that chocolate biscuit for dessert. If I didn’t run, I was only allowed x amount of calories, or I was only allowed a ‘healthy’ meal rather than what I actually wanted. My runs started to become a bargaining move, rather than something I did for my health and overall well-being. As someone who has previously struggled with an eating disorder, it started to feel like a very thin line I was walking.

I started running because I wanted something that would improve my health, but also allow me to get out of the house and to just have some me time. I have never really tracked how fast I am, or how far I could run. I would have my routes that I would run, and I would usually decide on the day where I felt like going. When I joined the gym, it was nice to have a constant speed, so I could zone out on everything and just enjoy the movement. I would put my music on and in a way it felt like dancing. It was nice to have a proper break from my racing thoughts and everyday stresses of life, and just focus on putting one foot in front of the other.

Lockdown then hit and any chance of me going to the gym was squashed. I did a few runs during our allocated one hour of outside time, but other than that I tried out some different workouts: HIIT, yoga, barre, dance. It was nice to try movements that were actually fun, and made it seem more like a game than an actual challenge.

But a year later I missed the routine. I missed having that little hour that was just for me to focus on me and what I was doing. So once gyms were allowed to reopen, I signed up and decided to truly commit to an actual training programme. Before, I had always just sort of winged it, making it up as I went along. I have done so many workouts in my lifetime, and know enough about fitness that I know the basics of what you do to work each muscle group. I could make up little routines that would do what I needed them to. But I have never really followed a proper workout plan, so I decided that I shall commit to one and just see how it goes.

Enter Couch to 5k. I used the official app created by the BBC to encourage people to become more active, and I have heard so many say that it was a really good introduction to running. Now I knew that I could run for 30 minutes without stopping (if i really put my mind to it), but I thought I might as well just start as an absolute beginner and see if I can just enjoy the process. The app is really simple, but it does exactly what you need it to. You can also chose from a group of celebrities to be your voice guide as you run – I chose Sarah Millican (an comedian here in England) who has the thickest Geordie accent so was automatically way more entertaining. She also had the cutest little pep talks (I may even calling people flower and pet more often!) and being naturally funny means the runs were a lot more relaxed and more enjoyable.

You start really small – 60 seconds of running, 90 second walking – on repeat for about 20 minutes. Each run also starts with 5 minutes of walking, and ends with 5 minutes of walking to give you a proper warm up and cool down. As you progress each week, these intervals go up until you can run for 30 minutes solidly without any walking breaks. The programme is 9 weeks long, but you are able (and sometimes encouraged) to repeat weeks if you feel you need a bit more practice or are not ready to step it up just yet. Personally, I think I may have been better to repeat weeks 7 or 8 before I finished week 9, as the jump from 60 second walking breaks to none at all for 25 minutes was actually a bit jarring on some days. It is also designed to only be 3 runs a week, and it states that you should try to leave one day of rest between each run. Which is actually really good advice. In most plans I have seen before, they seem to want you to run 4-5 days a week with ‘active rest days’ (a day where you maybe go for a long bike ride or walk, rather than actually resting) which I have always found to be unsustainable in the long run.

If you have ever wondered about running and whether it is for you, I would definitely recommend this app. It starts off very easy, as it is designed for people who have never ran before in their life. It builds slowly, yet allows you to see real progress as you go through. There is also no leader board or competitive aspect to it: you can’t add friends so they see your progress, or compares your times to those of other app users. It is purely for you to run for you. To allow you to see your progress and no one else unless you wish to show them. I found this refreshing, as I have never been a competitive person so being forced to compete just makes me feel inadequate and uncomfortable.

This app also allowed me to enjoy running again. It built up in such a way that even after a 25 minute run, I didn’t feel too gassed and would actually have been happy to run for a bit longer. In the later weeks as well, you do start to recognise what your comfortable pace is and also when you hit that rhythm, you fully understand the elusive ‘runners high’. I did a 5k run as my penultimate run in week 9 and actually beat my goal! I had wanted to see if I could run 5k in under 40 minutes (as I say, I have never been a fast runner so was not expecting anything ground breaking) and I managed it in 39 minutes! It may seem small, but when you start running you realise what a massive difference a few seconds can make to your entire mood. Also for someone who hasn’t run properly in about 2 years, it felt so good to enjoy running again.

That being said, there were definitely days where running felt like death: my legs felt like rubber, my feet felt like cement, I was tired and stressed and couldn’t think of anything worse than going for a run. But I found I genuinely felt 10 times better after I forced myself to go for a run. I felt lighter, and more awake, and I also felt like I had accomplished something that day. Some days I was clearly faster than other days, and some days I definitely needed longer to recover my breath at the end, but I never regretted going for a run. It was also a good kick of extra endorphins to see myself completing a new run, and actually progressing through the programme. Once I hit my rhythm, and fell into the flow of my run, I could actually let my mind wander: sometimes I would plan what I was going to buy with my next paycheck, other days I would plan out whole new story ideas. But sometimes I couldn’t think about anything at all. I would just listen to the music, and let my body move as if on auto pilot, and just watch the people around me whether in the gym or on a run outside.

I know this is a bit of a different post to what I normally do, but I am so bloomin’ proud of myself for completing not only this programme but also my first proper 5k in 2 years! I feel I got myself out of my little funk and I am now actually quite inspired to keep it up. Maybe I will try now to work on my time, to see if I can complete a 5k in under 30 minutes. Maybe I might also sign up to do a charity fun run, where I can push myself that little bit further while also raising money for an important cause.

I thought I would therefore share my experience because I know I can’t be the only one who has found this last year and a half a bit challenging. Here in the UK, we are still not really able to go on holiday (well we are but it comes with so many conditions it feels like it’s more stress than simply staying at home) and many places are still restricting how many people can come in at one time. Making plans is also quite stressful, as everything now comes with the added stress of a potential ‘pinging’, meaning you have to self-isolate and potentially cancel more plans moving forward. Everything is still very uncertain, and while you try to do your best, sometimes you do just wish things could go back to normal. Perhaps I am just feeling a bit emotional (endorphins are so great omg) but this little app genuinely gave me a goal to work towards that depended purely on me: I didn’t have to rely on anyone else to make it all happen, I just had to go outside and run.

There are also a number of Couch to 5k apps available, so it may be worth trying one that suits your goals. I have seen there are a few that actually track your run, so you can see each week what your time and pace is like if that is something you may want. I went with the BBC version purely because it is the most popular here in the UK. Moving forward, I may even repeat some of the weeks as part of an interval training programme. But have a little search around to find one that works best for you.

Overall: 50/10. Even if it running ends up not being for you, this is such a great programme to give a try. You will most likely surprise yourself.

T xxx

Squeaky Bean falafel

I tried so hard to choose a healthy snack and….it just did not work.

I have never gotten on well with falafel. No matter how hard I try it is always so dry and tasteless for me. I have only ever had one good falafel and that was at a turkish restaurant in my town called Opuz. Their food is AMAZING and their falafels are literally to die for. They were soft and yummy and didn’t suck all of the moisture out of my body while trying to chew it. So I thought maybe I should try a new brand of falafel, one that was a little bit more expensive, in the hopes that it would be better quality.

Nope. It wasn’t. Falafel tasted good, these were actually very yummy. But it also took me half a tub of humus to be able to finish even two little balls. Plus a whole glass of water! I just don’t get how such a tiny bit of food can require so much water?!

Needless to say, not a fan. I think I just need to accept that falafel is not for me. I always love the idea of it but then the actual having of it just depresses me. If any of you guys have tried a good, non-dehydrating falafel please do let me know in the comments.

Overall: 0/10. Curse this pallet of mine.

T xxx

Kingdom Hearts 3: Worth the wait?

I know this may be a bit late to the game (no pun intended) as it did release in January this year. However, I am only now getting to the end of the game and thought now is as good a time as ever to discuss my thoughts on this game.

Slight disclaimer: I have only ever played Kingdom Heart 1 and 2, so chances are the majority of the characters in Kingdom Hearts 3 and the majority of the story is also very much lost on me. So if I sound like I don’t know everything about the franchise, that is because I don’t.

The good

Do not get me wrong, I LOVE Kingdom Hearts. I love Disney, so the chance to play an action packed RPG game that explores the various Disney worlds is my kind of game.

The worlds in Kingdom Hearts 3 are actually really well done and really immersive. The previous games made the worlds small, usually based around one route that you could take so that no matter what you were always heading in the right direction. The worlds in Kingdom Hearts 3 however are large and interactive: You can actually explore your surroundings and can actually spend quite a bit of time just wandering around the various worlds. It is the stuff dreams are made of!

Image result for kingdom hearts 3You can even take selfies! Which can lead to some pretty pictures and funny interactions with the various characters

The combat is also super fun. Granted it is quite a bit of button smashing, but as a player who cannot aim a weapon to save her life, the fact that I can just dance around the arena and spam the buttons makes the game so much more enjoyable. Kingdom Hearts 3 also adds to this by adding new combined moves that allow you to bring classic Disneyland rides into combat: thunder Mountain, the Carousel, Buzz Lightyear’s Blazer Blast, the Mad Tea Cups and more. They may be super overpowered in combat, but they’re so bright and fun it doesn’t really matter. It’s also nice to have a little bit of a change after the usual button smashing we are used to.

You can also go to new worlds that haven’t been featured before, and a lot more focused on Pixar films. You also have new summons, including Ariel, Simba, Wreck it Ralph and Stitch to name a few. The summons also make game play and combat that bit more exciting, and while none of it is overly difficult anyway, it’s just…fun. It’s such a fun game that you almost don’t care about the bad….almost.

The bad

The issue I have always had with Kingdom Hearts is the incredibly complicated story. I was with it at first: Bad forces are stealing hearts to bring sadness and anger to the Disney worlds. You – or namely, Sora – is tasked with the job of travelling through the various Disney worlds to banish the evil in them, return everyone’s hearts to them and save the Disney Princess who is currently being held captive by the bad guys so that they can be the vessels of darkness (I have paraphrased slightly, but that is my understanding of the game). Sounds great! Travelling around all the Disney worlds, meeting all of my childhood characters and exploring their worlds to save the day!

But no.

The story gets so confusing that I cannot even begin to explain it. I understand that once a person loses their heart, they become a heartless. But their heartless body becomes a nobody. Right, I’m with you there. BUT OH NO. Nobodies can then become somebodies (who tend to become playable other characters as the stories go on), such as Roxas or Namine in KH2. But these nobodies can have their own hearts which…means they aren’t nobodies? But they are someone else’s nobody? That’s as far as I get before I get lost and sadly that is only the beginning.

The Heartless

So. Many. CUT SCENES. Game play seems to last about 30 seconds and then I have to sit through 30 minutes of cut scenes, which only add more and more depth to an already complicated story so much so that I am completed disconnected from it all. Which is also why it has made it so difficult to get through the game: I have watched at least 5 hours of cut scenes, none of which I fully understood due to the story line. Don’t get me wrong, it is very pretty to watch and the cut scenes are clearly well made, but GOOD LORD, GET ON WITH IT. I do not care enough about this story to sit and watch a feature length movie about it all, that usually just makes me even more confused than before. It is really hard to get through the game, when all you want to do is progress and discover new worlds, but for every hour spent on the game you spend 45 minutes of that hour just watching cut scenes.

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Final thoughts?

Sometimes less really is more. Get rid of the majority of the cut scenes, simplify the story that little bit and you would have a winner. Yes there are some die hard fans who lose their mind delving into the intricate details of the story, but for most of us we are here for the fun Disney aspect of it all: The characters are adorable, the game play is great fun and the story (at least at first) is enough to keep you guessing and tells a pretty concrete story. But when your ‘game’ is 90% cut scene, it might be time to rethink whether you are making a game or a movie.

What do you guys think about the new Kingdom Hearts game? Let me know your thoughts below!

T xx

Video Game of the week…

This week has been a tough one! From super busy schedules to super stressful work days, this week has felt like a crazy whirlwind of activities but also the longest week of the year. And sometimes no matter how hard you try, there are some things that not even a good work out can fix and you just need a complete dose of escapism from real life….and what better way to achieve this than with video games!

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp

Animal Crossing has existed in the world of gaming since 2001, first appearing on the Nintendo 64. It has since then had 7 games released across the multiple gaming devices. Pocket Camp is the latest instalment of the Animal Crossing world and is also the first to be used on a mobile device.

The transition

Adorable. There are no other words for this game except that: ADORABLE.

It follows the general aspect of Animal Crossing in that you play as a little digital person who spends their time building the perfect community. It is an RPG world building type game, where you can create and build whatever type of society that you please: For example in New Leaf, you are the new Mayor of a small town. In Pocket Camp, you run a campsite. Throughout the game, your fellow inhabitants are anthropomorphic animals, from elephants to hamsters and all other manner of animals in between. You carry out activities for the animals from planting certain plants to building certain features and adding to the overall success of your chosen area.

In Pocket Camp you travel about the different areas and fulfil tasks for the visiting animals. In return, they give you certain supplies that can then be used to craft features and furniture for your camp site. Each time you complete a task for an animal you develop a better relationship with them which in turn helps level you up, and as you level up you can craft and build a bigger variety of items.

Interior design

On of the best things about Animal Crossing is the ability to create whatever environment you wish: In each game you are given you’re own little house which you can decorate however you like, and even the town itself can be moulded to look however you wish. In Pocket Camp, you are almost spoilt for decorating room as you have the main area of your campsite, where visiting animals can request certain items or pieces of furniture, as well as having your own personal camper-van which you can decorate as you own private residence. The game allows you to constantly change the campsite having different themes: You can build a tree house for the animals that love all thing ‘cute’ or a skating half pipe for those who love ‘cool’ things.

Challenges

Animal Crossing is a game that also uses real time in it’s game play: 24 hours in game is 24 hours out of it. The game also changes with the seasons allowing you to build little snowmen in the winter or celebrate Halloween in the fall. In the main games the seasons also change which animals or fruit you can collect throughout the year meaning that you have to play for at least a solid year in order to catch the hundreds of different creatures that the game has on offer.

Pocket Camp also uses this to release timed events during the seasons. Over the Christmas period you could collect candy canes to craft cosy festive items and in the New Year you could watch a firework display. The summer months brought summer festivals with fishing tourneys and flower challenges to create brightly coloured beautiful digital gardens and a little summer paradise. The upside to this is that you stay engaged with the game but the downside is that every item that is available for the limited event is also so darn cute that you become glued to your phone in order to get them all before the time runs out which is a whole new level of stress that only those who love collecting can really understand.

The Calm of Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing has always been a very calming game to play. Since there are no specific ‘quests’ that need to be completed, you can simply play the game at whatever pace suits you. The music is also calming as there is no real urgency for the game: It doesn’t matter if you want to play for 5 minutes or 5 years, the game ticks along as it needs to and you can spend your time with whatever activity you want to.

Pocket Camp is no different. As there are only 4 visiting areas, there are only 4 animals that have requests for you at any one time. Each animal has 3 requests to complete before they are satisfied, and depending on how much farming you’ve done before hand (catching fish or bugs or collecting fruit from trees and seashells off the beach) it will depend on how long it takes you to complete each task. At most, it can take about a half hour to finish all of the tasks (if that!) and I find this to be just the right amount of time to unwind: I can play it on my lunch break while I enjoy some food or even before bed instead of mindlessly scrolling through social media and making myself sad.

Outcome

This game is just as adorable as the others. The game is utterly charming, with each animal having their own style and wit. It is varied enough that you don’t get bored but also slow enough that you don’t feel any need to rush through the game. As there are no levels to complete you also don’t have to hit certain save points or checkpoints as the game just saves as you go on and each time you complete a task or change location. It is fun and calming and just utterly serene in every way.

Have any of you guys played this game? Let me know your thoughts below!

T xx

Easiest ways to help the planet

While this post is technically a day late, I thought it would be a good time to right a list of everything you can do on a daily basis to help protect the Earth. Whether you chose to believe in global warming or not, there is no doubt that our planet is not in a good state: Ocean temperatures are rising, coral reefs are being bleached into obscurity and the amount of pollution we are producing is not a maintainable standard of life. Therefore, in honour of Earth Day 2017 here is a list of how to be kinder to our planet.

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Recycling

This is probably one of the easiest ways in which you can lessen your impact on the Earth. In 2015, the EU made it mandatory to separate out all recyclable waste from normal rubbish, and for the most part it is pretty easy. But why is it good for the environment? For the most part, rubbish that is not recyclable just ends up in a land fill where it can be burned, but is usually just packed into the ground. Everywhere has their own method of dealing with it, but these are the most common solutions. Obviously, land fills are bad news: They are dirty, contaminating and not to mention a complete eye sore for anyone who happens to live near one. It’s not nice to look at and it is just using our earth as a dumping ground for all of our unnecessary stuff.

Recycling on the other hand allows us to reuse the things we need to throw away: In most cases, recyclable products such as plastic bottles, paper and tin cans can all be melted down to create new tin cans, new water bottles, and in some cases even make handbags, notebooks and shoes. By doing this, we can create a maintainable resource as we do not have to continually cut down trees to make new paper, nor do we have to make room in our countryside for unnecessary landfills. It is kinder on the planet, and a more resourceful way of making our products so that we don’t have to worry about the future of our planet every time we buy a bottle of water.

For more facts about recycling and it’s benefits, have a look at this!

Reusable items

Something that links on to the above point is the use of reusable items: Water bottles, coffee cups, thermos flasks…the list can be endless and for most part of relatively cheap alternatives to buying one every day. Plastic water bottles are surprisingly expensive, especially when you can drink the tap water for free in almost every part of the world. Why spend £1 every time you need a bottle of water, when you can spend £5 and have a bottle readily available to fill up throughout the day as and when you need to. Personally, I drink a lot of water anyway but when it’s hot or I’m out and about a lot seeing friends or running errands, having a bottle of water on hand in my bag is a genuine money saver and life saver.

You can also do the same with reusable coffee cups: Most disposable ones are not recyclable, so if you buy a Starbucks or Costa coffee every morning on your way to work, then it is definitely worth investing in a nice, sturdy, washable travel mug that you can reuse each morning. You can pick up pretty good ones for about £3 or less on ebay, and they can come in so many pretty colours your main concern will be choosing your favourite!

Diet

It has long been known that red meat has been linked to climate change, but how so? Well, aside from the animals rights side of things, raising animals for food requires massive amounts of land, food, energy, and water. In a report by the Worldwatch Institute, 51% (at least!) of global greenhouse-gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture. Furthermore, most deforestation is caused by the demand for animal rearing land, where large areas of the rain forest are being cut down to make room for even more farmed cows to be raised and slaughtered. With less trees, more CO2 is released into the air and thus causes a rise in climate change, as trees take the CO2 and convert it into oxygen during photosynthesis.

Therefore, if you care about the environment, it is advised to leave meat, especially red meat, off of your plate. This however is also not considering the impact that even fish, chicken and pork have on your health and the overall impact it has on the environment: Chickens may not be as gaseous as cows, but they still take a huge amount of land, water and food to raise them so that they can become food themselves. Over fishing is now a problem across the world, with many ecosystems being negatively effected by the amount of fish that we are taking from the sea. Many other species of marine life are also being killed by mistake, including whales, dolphins, turtles and sharks, all because we as a species have such a high demand for fish meat.

Needless to say, cutting out meat from your diet is a huge way you can combat climate change without even trying to and in this day and age where more and more people are realising the positive impacts a vegetable diet can have on their life and their environment, there are so many new and exciting replacements out there that can make going vegetarian or vegan a very easy and straight forward process. I, for example, have been vegan for about a year and a half now, and have saved around 2,269,326 litres of water, 1,526 sq. metres of forest, 4,960 of CO2 and 545 animal lives. Even if you don’t care all that much about animals, you can’t deny that just by cutting out meat from your diet you are combating huge amounts of climate change.

Have a look at this website to see how much you can save by switching to an animal free diet.

A few extra tips

Next time you buy a kitchen appliance, get one that is Energy Star-approved, and only plug in electrical equipment when you use it often: Don’t leave them on standby, or leave your phone charging all night long.

Skip the pre-rinse when using a dishwasher and only run it when full as this can save up to 7,300 gallons of water a year!

Buy local, plant-based food to cut back on the distance it has to travel from farm to plate, as this will in turn reduce the amount of emissions caused.

Doggy bags or composting are the way forward: only order or make as much food as you can eat in one sitting to prevent waste. If you happen to have leftovers, store them in a reusable glass or stainless-steel container and compost any inedible scraps. Compost can then be used to grow your own vegetables and thus teach you how to be self-sufficient and with less chemical pollution in our soil and our air.

Organise a clothes swap with friends or work colleagues, or even donate unwanted furniture and clothing to charities. This way your trash doesn’t end up in a landfill anywhere but rather can become another person’s treasure. Most cities have clothing bins, but most charity shops are happy to take any unwanted clothing, furniture, books and china (provided they are all clean and still usable!). If there is no chance anyone else would want it, why not get creative and turn those old jeans into a storage box, or that old knitted jumper into a comfy pillow or even a throw? The possibilities are endless!

As you can see, there are many ways that you can help lessen the impact we have on the environment, and with scientific and technological advances being made every day, we as a society should be focused on moving toward a sustainable and healthy way of living so that generations after us can enjoy all of the wonders that this world has to offer.

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Do you guy have any environmental friendly tips too? I’d love to hear some other ideas!

T xxx