Who Needs a Personal Trainer? (Samsung Mob!lers)

So, a few weeks ago I was saying how we increasingly find ourselves using mobiles phones in every area of our lives. Well, guess what? I’ve found something else to use mine for.

I’ve never been a fitness freak but in recent years I’ve developed (or, more accurately, rediscovered) a love of swimming. I go at least twice weekly, it gives me a buzz and hopefully helps to counteract the less healthy bits of my life. Not to mention turning my stomach on the odd occasion, but I try not to let that put me off.

I’ve always felt at home in the water but my lessons stopped when I finished school (and most of them seemed to involve waiting for the boys to stop pushing each other in or watching my friend go into full blown panic because she had water up her nose) so I’ve never had chance to hone my style as an adult. I’ve seen posters advertising adult lessons at the pool but they tend to be for people who can’t swim at all (*laughs and points*) rather than people who want to enhance their techniques. Step forward then, the Go Swim app (a companion to the website) which provides tips and instruction, as well as photos and films, to help swimmers of all abilities improve their strokes.

I’ve found it incredibly useful, especially the pieces on warm-ups, which I never considered doing but now seem obvious, given that I often swim full pelt for over an hour at a time (yes, I know it doesn’t look like that’s possible but I promise you I’m quite a graceful beast in the water, like those ballet dancing hippos in Fantasia!).

Obviously you can check out the website when you’re online at home but it’s great having the videos on your phone to study the examples before or after your swim – I’d suggest NOT trying it during but if you’ve got an underwater phone, who am I to stop you?

A Glazed Look In My Eye?

I am very much looking forward to October.

There’s something exciting and quite momentous on the horizon.

Something I’ve been waiting for a long time.

Something that will make myself and N very happy.

Krispy Kreme are coming to South Yorkshire!!!!

*Fireworks*

*Confetti*

*Party poppers*

*EPIC HAPPY DANCE*

If you read this and thought “What’s Krispy Kreme?”, may I direct you to their website by clicking the link above.

It’s very simple, they make doughnuts, really nice doughnuts. And, until now, the only outlet in Yorkshire was somewhere in Leeds. Well now they’ve decided to open up in Meadowhall, which means I can recreate my Manchester Selfridges meal of a Yo!Sushi pogathon followed by a doughnut or three. I am not ashamed by this, guilt is a very corrosive emotion which I neutralise with custard filling and chocolate sprinkles (and maybe a few extra lengths in the swimming pool).

Apparently most people go to Meadowhall to shop for clothes and other stuff. Freaks.

Love your Ladygarden (with a Mooncup)

I’m sure some of you may have strong feelings of admiration for your iPod or mobile phone, well I’ve got the same kind of awe-struck, ‘don’t ever leave me, I can’t live without you’ respect for my Mooncup . I heard about the product a few years ago and, intrigued by the ecological, financial and health benefits, I picked one up from Boots. It is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best things I’ve ever bought.

Contrary to knee-jerk opinion, Mooncups are not just something exclusive for crazy hippy types who live in tents, eat only bark and have a tendency to call their children Badger or Acorn. They are a workable, environmentally preferable and (perhaps most importantly) physically safer option.

A lot of my friends have grimaced and muttered ‘Gross!’ when I’ve mentioned my Mooncup use. A bit of your own blood (yeah, blood, there, I said it!) in a cup is gross? Really? OK, then take a moment to consider the facts. In her lifetime the average woman will use 11000 pads or tampons which will end up in either in landfill or the sea, whereas 1 Mooncup will last for years. Tampons are bleached, can cause dryness (possibly leading to the dreaded ‘T’ word) and leave fibres – the Mooncup is made from medical-grade silicone and is latex free, containing no dyes or toxins. Now, you tell me which is gross(er) – pouring away a few millimeters of blood down the toilet or putting potentially harmful chemicals into your body then clogging up the world with the waste? If you don’t care about the environment, that’s your call but if you give a damn about your own body, Mooncup is a must-have.

And if you don’t care about the planet or your own body, you’ve got to care about money, right? Costing around £20, my Mooncup paid for itself within a year. Using a quick bit of maths (NOT my strong point), if I were to spend £2 a month on sanitary products for the next 25 years, I’d be spending £600. As it stands I’ll probably need to buy another one, maybe two, Mooncups before I finally say goodbye to ‘the red plague’ forever. Hmmm, a £60 expenditure compared to £600, let me think. Additionally, I never have to worry about running out of tampons (or have them embarrassingly fall out of my handbag in the middle of the pub) ever again.

Being totally honest, it took me a couple of cycles to truly ‘bond’ with my Mooncup, just the same as with learning any new skill, but it’s totally worth it. There’s definitely a knack to using the cup but a bit of practise is all that’s needed (tampons weren’t exactly easy to get to grips with either if memory serves). I realise and acknowledge that some women really don’t like the idea of getting up close and personal with their monthly issue but if someone like me (who has a track record for fainting at the sight of her own blood) can do it, I’m sure you can too. It’s not gross, it’s totally normal. I mean, it’s not exactly pleasant (most of the stuff you do involving a toilet isn’t exactly something you relish or would be prepared to do at the dinner table) but it’s not horrific or gross or dirty or messy or any of the things I’ve heard people say about the idea. In fact, it’s a great deal more hygienic and there’s certainly no risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome.

Of course, I’d rather not have to go through the stupid process once a month but as Alice Cooper said, only women bleed and it’s something we have to do, like it or not. The Mooncup is simply a cheaper, safer and more environmentally responsible way of dealing with it and, far from making the whole palava more complex or tiresome, it simplifies it. It’s actually very liberating. When I was at school I remember the ‘Tampax Lady’ coming to visit, if only it was the ‘Mooncup Lady’ who visited schools, perhaps the idea wouldn’t seem so alien and unpalatable to some.

If you’re even slightly tempted to try this product, do it! And if this blog hasn’t convinced you, perhaps this video, part of the Mooncup team’s ‘Love Your Vagina’ campaign, will.

Return of the Snack

I’m the kind of person that can eat nothing but clear soup and fresh fruit for a week and lose just a pound, but if I have a Chinese take-away I put on half a stone. The problem is, I love my food so chances of cutting out all the tasty stuff is pretty much non-existent. If someone told me I could never eat bread (lovely, lovely bread!) ever again, I’d probably cry, or push them over, run away and barricade myself in the nearest bakery until they changed their mind. I’m not a huge snacker (either in size or appetite) but I’m not averse to tucking into a big bowl of something crunchy (NOT cucumber sticks!) while watching a movie so I like to keep a look out for reasonably healthy nibbles. I say reasonably because, despite what some manufacturers would like you to believe, unless you snack exclusively on fruit or veg, anything you eat between meals is going to be surplus to requirements and, the nicer it tastes, the less healthy it will be for you, that’s just the way it works.

Recently Penn State Snacks were kind enough to send me a selection of their pretzels, including the newly re-launched (it was discontinued in 2009) ‘Worcester Sauce’ flavour. I’m going to hold my hands up here, I’d never tried these snacks before, I guess pretzels just weren’t on my radar – crisps, popcorn, nuts, yes, but not pretzels. Having sampled them, I’ve no idea why because they certainly tick all the boxes. Crunchy? TICK. Moreish? TICK. Tasty? TICK. As for healthy(ish), well yes, actually – go on, have another tick. The RRP for a 30g bag is 60p (£1.29 for 175g) and contains 131kcal (the Sour Cream and Chive is two calories more). The average bag of crisps (unless you count Quavers, which I don’t because they’re mostly air with a sprinkling of cheese dust) is usually around this mark. In addition to this Penn State pretzels are baked, not fried. Not exactly ‘guilt-free’ but certainly ‘less guilt-laden than most’, which is, frankly, good enough for me.

I also like the fact that the packs clearly state they are produced in a ‘nut free factory’. Luckily I don’t suffer any allergies but having lived with a girl who did have ‘nutty issues’ (alas, she never required me to stab her in the heart with her ‘magic pen’ despite my interest in recreating the scene from Pulp Fiction) I have an insight into how difficult and restricting the condition can be. SO many foods say ‘May contain nuts’ or ‘Produced in a factory that also handles nuts’ or ‘Our manager might have had a Snickers this morning, so best give these a miss’ in an effort to cover their backs for their own sloppy provisions so it’s nice to see a snack so well labelled.

These are being stocked in ASDA, Boots and Superdrug (among others) so I’ll definitely be picking up more when the mood takes. The 30g bag is perfect for snacking on the run or adding to a lunch box, while the larger bag is great for sharing, either during a quiet night in or as something for guests to munch with drinks before a dinner party.

So, while I haven’t yet found my perfect snack (that would be a deep fried shredded crispy beef flavour pizza at 1 calorie a slice!), these little guys will certainly do nicely for now.

To strip or not to strip?

I swim at least once a week – it’s the only exercise/sport I’ve found so far that I really enjoy and that I’m any good at (unless you count snooker or Wii golf, which I don’t). I’ve been going to the same pool for a few years now and get to see the same faces most weeks. However, much to my consternation, it’s sometimes a lot more than faces that I end up seeing.

I’m far from an exhibitionist, but I’m no prude either. The human body is a wonderful, beautiful, natural thing and I’m not ashamed of mine or anyone else’s. That said, I draw the line at whipping my bits out at the slightest provocation. My post-swim showers (which, at this pool, are communal with no option otherwise) involve soaping up under my cossie and a quick rinse down with a scrunchie sponge. Not so for one of my fellow regular pool goers, who likes to bare all and wander around, without so much as a reddened cheek (on her face, you mucky lot!), often while trying to engage you in pleasant chit-chat about the weather or holidays. The fact that this lady is well into her 70s makes it all the more….. well, I don’t know if it makes it more shocking or more worthy of admiration. She clearly doesn’t give a damn, so why should anyone else I suppose. Part of me admires her unabashed disposition and thinks “More power to her!”, but the other part of me, the part with eyes that don’t quite know where to look thinks, “Arrrghh, old lady muff, make it stop, make it stop!”.

What say you? Fair play or no way? Do you wave your bits in the air like you just don’t care or do you go for the stealth option like me? And does the sight of a fully naked OAP send your brain into momentary spasm while it convinces itself everything is fine but FOR THE LOVE OF PETE don’t look below the neck?!

As an aside – at some point last year a sign went up in the changing rooms saying something to the effect that ‘Proper swimming attire must be worn in the pool. If customers are unsure, please consult a member of staff’. It had me scratching my head as to what exactly constitutes ‘improper’ attire and what event had transpired to warrant the sign being put up. I’ve seen women swimming in leggings and t-shirts, ill-fitting bikinis and even half wetsuits along with elderly gentlemen in horrendously snug  ‘budgie-smugglers’ and they’ve all been left alone, so the mind boggles as to what someone must have sashayed down the poolside in to cause such a kerfuffle that it required a sign. A Borat mankini maybe? Or perhaps someone went the full monty to save on washing. If they’re happy to throw caution (and everything else) to the wind in the showers, why not the pool itself? Most pools already do ‘Ladies Only’ sessions, perhaps ‘Naked Only’ ones would catch on too.