Frenzied February

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How is it possible that January lasted about three months and February only felt like three days?! Jodie Whittaker, stop messing with the space-time continuum!

The best day of February (and possibly of the year - it's going to be a hard one to beat) was our Animas team outing to the Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. - that's Science Training and Tactical Intelligence Operative Network for those not in the know!
If you've been thinking about going along then don't delay any longer - it is AMAZING! Especially if you're going during the week in term time and it's EMPTY! We literally had the run of the place and we definitely made the most of it.
One of the advantages of having the place to ourselves was that we could all have several attempts at the Hulkbuster game. We may have got a little competitive with the scores, but Laure proved her love for Iron Man with an epic Ultron hit count of 79!

One of my favourite parts was Bruce Banner's lab. One of the staff must have had a sixth sense, or I might have been silently shaking with excitement, because he asked if the Hulk was my favourite character. I proudly whipped my mini Hulk mascot out of my bag while neither confirming nor denying.
Without a doubt my absolute favourite part of the exhibition was sitting on the actual bike that Captain America sat on. My backside has been on the same seat as Chris Evans. Stan Lee also owned it before donating it to the exhibition so he probably sat on it too. I mean, wouldn't you if you owned it?!
I reluctantly got off the bike and we wandered around the rest of the exhibition where we tried to lift Mjolnir, followed Hank Pym's ants, explored Wakandan technology and tested our reflexes against some of Marvel's dangerous villains.

Of course no trip to an exhibition would be complete without a trip to the gift shop, so picked up a Baby Groot Bobblehead and Deadpool t-shirt which I've practically lived in since. I should probably wash it really...

Seriously though. BEST. DAY. EVER!

February also brought my dear friend Carol-Ann down south for her first talk in London - Mental Fitness: The Key to a New Mindset. I've seen Carol-Ann do her thing at various events in the past and watched snippets of talks that she has done at The Elite Network, but this was the first time I'd seen her do a whole talk so I was really excited and proud!
I've been a member of her group The BAGEL Club since it launched in January 2018 and hearing her talk about how taking five simple steps each morning can boost your mental and physical health reminded just how far I have come over the past year or so.

What are these magic five steps I hear you ask? Well, they are to take five deep BREATHS, choose an empowering AFFIRMATION, list everything your are GRATEFUL for, EXERCISE for at least 20 minutes and go up to a mirror, look yourself in the eye and say how much you LOVE YOURSELF. 

Carol-Ann goes live at 7am every Monday, Wednesday and Friday so if you want to welcome this morning routine into your life and have some accountability then let me know and I can give you the details of how to join. 

February, of course, brings the joyous occasion that is Valentine's Day. (*rolls eyes so far back that there is a momentary fear that they may detach*) 

I've never been a big fan of Valentine's Day. I guess like the sentiment behind it, but I think it's become too commercial and lost its meaning (yes, I know this is coming from the woman who would have two months of Christmas if she could!) I just think that when you are in a relationship, anniversaries mean more than a random day in February.

However I was introduced to "Galentine's Day" this year which, I have to say, I rather like the idea of - celebrating the awesome friendships in your life! I was surprised to receive this lovely card from one of my running friends and a few little gifts from another running friend, including this Captain America keyring which has become my talisman when I run. It's just confirmed to me that runners are the loveliest people and that unexpected mail can brighten the dullest of days!
If you thought you were going to get through this blog without something running related then... sorry!

February saw me attend parkrun for the first time since New Year's Day, not once, but twice. And both times I managed to get a new PB. GET IN!!! Work, guiding and various other things that bring joy to my life prevent me from attending parkrun as much I would like to, but that just means I enjoy them even more when I do get to go.

The last weekend of the month brought my second 10k of 2019. Having weighed up the pros and cons of public transport vs driving, I got up early on the Saturday morning, donned my running gear (including my new Alzheimer's Society running vest) and jumped in the car for a very low-visibility road trip to Richmond.

When I got there is was about 6℃ and so foggy that I was worried that a herd of deer would charge at me and I wouldn't see them until it was too late. Luckily no such thing happened. In fact just 3km into the race, the fog cleared and the temperature jumped to about 18℃, effectively destroying my dreams of a sub 1:30 10k and PB!
As I finished my first lap, I ditched my hoodie and soaked up the vitamin D. When I saw the photographer, my initial instinct was to keep my head down and shuffle past him, but then I heard my friend Katie's voice in my head saying, "Head up, tits out and SMILE!" So that's exactly what I did.
Not far into my second lap I was joined by a very friendly paramedic on a bike (I'm terrible - I didn't even get his name!) who informed me that he'd be keeping me company the rest of the way. I was officially the slowest on the course! Oh well, someone has to be so it might as well be me! I finished at a very respectable 1:32:26 and was immediately told off for apologising that I'd kept everyone waiting. When I looked up the results later that day I found I was only 6 minutes behind the person before me. That may be a long time in the running game, but not for me.
Weirdly I don't think my main memory of that day will be from the race itself. It will definitely be my drive home wearing sunglasses with the window down and playing Mr Brightside while driving through London. It was like a beautiful summer's day! On reflection it's rather scary to consider the implications of what that weather in February might mean, but at the same time, I can't deny that I loved the warmth of the sun on my skin.

And here we are at the end of the month ready to spring into March (did you see what I did there?). Just scanning through my calendar I can already tell that it's going to pass by in a blur of outings, catching up with friends, talks, a wedding and, of course, more running. I hope you'll join me for another round-up, but in the meantime here's to another fantabulous month! 

Jubilant January

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Last year I said I would blog more regularly. I blogged once. ONCE!

This year I vow to do better. In fact I hereby pledge that I will write a minimum of 12 blog posts. One for each month of the year. If I write more then that's marvellous, but 12 is an achievable target I feel. Although I'm already regretting the alliterative vibe I've decide to go with for the titles. We'll see how long that lasts!

And so onto my round-up of everything that January had to offer...

January is a weird one, isn't it? It seems to go on and on and on, seemingly forever. Yet it only finished last week and already feels an age away.

I spent New Year's Eve curled up on the sofa under my blanket, coughing my lungs up. I started feeling ill on Friday 21 December. I remember because I started to get that little tickle in my throat about an hour before I finished work for the festive period. The Law of Sod does not take a holiday! I still have that cough today as I type. It's gradually going. It will disappear for a few days, maybe even a week, and then it will reappear as if to say, "Surprise! Like I would leave you. You're my favourite!" It's been around so long that I'm starting to think it needs a name. Sheldon could work. It's as annoying as him!

Anyway, I digress... I don't know what time I decided I was going to bed on New Year's Eve but whenever it was, there was definitely an audible sigh of relief from my mum who was also flagging. So at the stroke of midnight I can safely say we were both in bed sound asleep. Happy New Year!

The extra sleep served me well as I rose on New Year's Day, wide awake and ready to take on Bromley parkrun. Good thing too as I'd agreed to meet my friend Claire there, so I couldn't back out. It was slow and it was by no means pretty, but I ditched the Couch to 5k app and had one of my best runs yet. I really fricking enjoyed it! I think the pre-run agreement to go for cake afterwards probably helped, but still... I enjoyed a run!
Doing parkrun on New Year's Day kind of has that ring of New Year's Resolution reverberating around it. Like if you do the first parkrun of the year, you'll do them all. Lucky for me that I don't make New Year's Resolutions anymore because not only have I not managed to do every parkrun this year so far, but I haven't done any additional ones yet. Maybe this weekend...

However I have achieved a couple of running firsts for me. One of my goals - not resolutions, goals - of 2019 was to run a 10k. I decided to aim for the Petts Wood 10k in the autumn. Plenty of time to work up to it so I could complete it in a respectable time without dying!

Less than a week into the New Year and my friend Claire (a different Claire to parkrun Claire - lesson is don't become friends with people called Claire or you'll start getting fit and shit) posted this in a running group on Facebook:

Anyone doing this? There’s a 5k, 10k and Half Marathon. Location - Manchester. I’m doing the half.

Well, what's a girl to do when she finally has the chance to meet up with a groups of friends that she has only, until this point, known virtually? I could have gone for the 5k, but that's a long way to go for equivalent of a parkrun. So I signed up for the 10k! I still couldn't run parkrun continuously and yet here I was signing up for twice the distance. Yes, I am fully aware that I am stark raving bonkers!

I had given myself just three weeks to get 10k ready. Two days later I went along to Petts Wood Runners' training evening and tagged along with the slowest group. Bloody loved it, didn't I! Actually, loving it might be taking it a bit far, but I did really enjoy it and it was cool to be in a small group of runners who were all of a similar ability to me as opposed to parkrun where literally everyone overtakes me.

10k training was rudely interrupted the week before the race as I had the London Winter Walk to contend with - my first official training walk of the year for the upcoming London 2 Brighton Challenge. I can still remember how much my feet hurt from wearing my walking boots last year so I decided to ditch them and wear my new running trainers instead. (Side note: if you run or walk regularly, go and get your gait anaylsed - best thing you will ever do!)
I made it to the rest stop with no issues (already an improvement on last year) and only started to feel it in my back during the last 5km. It helped massively that at the rest stop I bumped into the lovely Julie who had kindly given me a lift to the event. We walked the second half together and even in the silence as we concentrated through the aches, we found company in each other.

Once we made it across the finish line I had the obligatory photo with Dave, biggest talker of shit for the longest time possible (that is his official title) and I finally got the chance to have a photo taken with Chloe and Francesca who rescued me when I dropped out of the London 2 Brighton Challenge last year. 
So for those of you not in the know, I completed the London 2 Brighton Quarter Challenge in aid of Mind last year. After dropping out due to the heat, I decided that I still wanted to walk 100km for charity, but it might be more sensible to do it over several challenges. With that in mind I did the Halloween Walk back in October and will doing the Easter Walk and London 2 Brighton Second Half Challenge in addition to the Winter Walk. I plan to raise £1,000 for the Alzheimer's Society so if you have a couple of quid going spare, you can sponsor me here.

But back to January...

Once I'd walked 20km for the Winter Walk, running 10km (even at a snail's pace) seemed quite achievable. I drove up to Katie's on the Friday evening and we watched Venom (how have I only just seen this film?!), then spent a lovely Saturday morning walking around Sherwood Pines and munching on McDonald's before driving to Manchester for my first proper race ever (insert screaming face emoji here). We then had a lovely evening carb-loading before trying to get some sleep.

The day of my first race and my first 10k soon arrived and we made our way to Heaton Park. Now I should point out that it was only after signing up that I noticed that it described the course as "undulating". This is race organiser speak for f***ing hilly! And boy was it hilly. And cold. And windy. Oh. My. God. THE WIND!!!
But I did it. I was slow and swore at Katie the whole way (she says I didn't, so it must have just been in my head), but I BLOODY DID IT! Before the event Katie said we'd aim for finishing in 1:30 and we did it in... drum roll please... 1:31:32. Not bad for a lazy cow who did minimal training and insisted on walking part of the most evil hill out of the three big ones we encountered! For me the best bit of the day wasn't crossing the finish line having run 95% of a 10k race - it was meeting these awesome people. I loved meeting them so much that I've signed up for another 10k in Wilmslow at the end of March!

OK, so it appears that this blog has turned into more of a sports round up than anything else, but I promise you I do have a life outside of walking and running. In other news, here's what I did in January...

The first thing of note that happened in the early part of this year is that we now have a driveway where the front garden used to be. On Wednesday 2 January, my mum noticed that no. 60 were having their driveway done. By Friday ours was finished! As you can probably tell, when my mum has her heart set on something, she doesn't hang around. Cue a couple of days of chaos and a solid hour of thinking the front of the house was going to cave in while the garden was being dug up. I have to say it looks very nice and it does mean no more gardening so, yay!

While people were still wandering around wishing everyone they encountered a "Happy New Year," I delivered my first Girlguiding training of 2019 to the leaders of Swanley District. I've been out of touch training wise the past couple of years. I was feeling anxious at the thought of doing them and that resulted in me not putting myself forward for any that came up. When the new programme was announced last summer, it gave me a kick up the arse and I realised I missed it. 2019 will see me doing more training. It's time to stoke the fire!

Then there was my mum's birthday. After last year's epic surprise party where I somehow managed to get 60 of her family and friends into a room without her suspecting, I promised her no more surprises. I even wrote it in her card - "No surprises this year!" That might be why when we walked into The Lion that evening she didn't notice my dad and step-mum sitting right in front of her. Sorry Mum, I just couldn't resist a teeny tiny surprise for you.

One surprise that we did pull off though were the leaving drinks for our Commander in Chief, Nick Bolton. Very soon he will heading off to live on a canal boat and travel around the UK so we decided to send him off in style by surprising him at a London wine bar one chilly mid-January night. Having only just started with the company it felt very strange to be saying "au revoir" to someone that I've only met a handful of times, but it was a lovely evening and I know we'll see him again soon.

I can't believe that I have now finished my second month working for Animas. December was a blur of training and Christmas parties and meeting new people. It was intense and it didn't help that I spent most of the month ill. But this month I am loving it. I have my routine and it just feels right. I wanted a job where I could work from home and do something that I love that aligns with my values and that's exactly what I have. I work with an amazing team and I am so confident that 2019 is going to be my best year yet!


Saving Minnie Mouse

Allow me to tell you a story about this little weirdo. She loved her Minnie Mouse swimsuit and wore it a lot, but oddly enough she didn’t wear it to go swimming often because she couldn’t swim. Her mum had tried to teach her, but she wasn’t a strong swimmer herself so instead she invested in swimming lessons for her daughter. Now this was a long, long time ago, but the little weirdo can still remember one lesson in particular very clearly.

One week the class was learning to float on their backs and the swimming teacher knelt down by the edge of the pool and said, “Try and keep your belly above the water. You don’t want Minnie Mouse to drown.” Well, the little weirdo tried her hardest, but she just couldn’t keep Minnie Mouse out of the water. She felt useless and knew she’d never be able to swim.

I can’t remember how many lessons I had in the end (yes, I’M the little weirdo), but I made up my mind that I couldn’t swim and that was that. Even when we had lessons in primary school, I accidentally touched the bottom of the pool when I was being tested for my 10m award and felt guilty that I received the badge. I didn’t deserve to get it. I found it a few months ago and still had that feeling of guilt and uselessness.

I’ve never been afraid of the water as such and I’ve always enjoyed messing around the pool (play responsibly kids!). My dad and step-mum have a pool so many a weekend has been spent playing catch or having water flights and even partaking in night time dips in the rain. I’ve also had two great holidays at Centre Parcs with my friends where a big part of our days would be spent chilling in the various pools, doing a swimming style conga down the rapids and daring each other to go in the freezing cold plunge pool.

One thing I wouldn’t do very often though would be to go down the flumes or the slides. I’ve never liked the sensation of getting water up my nose and I’d definitely panic slightly (OK, a lot) if I suddenly realised that I couldn’t touch the bottom of the pool. So I would stay clear of anything that might put me in those situations.

I think our trips to Centre Parcs were what made me take swimming lessons again in my last year at uni. I signed up for ten weeks and I didn’t miss a single one. I wasn’t great at the end, and felt a little embarrassed when I heard my friends cheering me on in my last lesson, but I felt proud too. I’d done something to take control.

Fast forward 12 years and at the beginning of June I signed up for the Summer Shape-Up at my local leisure centre. Three-month all-inclusive membership for £99. Bargain. But only if you use it! I’d signed up in the past and always wasted the opportunity. Not this time! I wasn’t going to put pressure on myself to go to the gym every day because I knew it wasn’t realistic and I’d get bored. Instead I’d go to the gym twice a week and go swimming twice a week. It was time to learn to swim.

I still remember going the first time and thinking after what a waste of time it would be. My technique was appalling and I could only swim for about ten minutes before feeling worn out. But I didn’t stop. At first I worked on swimming half lengths. I was still very nervous about other swimmers splashing water up my nose which would lead to me flailing about and panicking that I couldn’t touch the bottom. I told myself that when I was able to swim 20 half-lengths, I would have the stamina to attempt a full length.

While all this was going on I had started having coaching sessions as part of my coaching diploma. I didn’t really know what I’d talk about in my required six sessions, but my coach Carol-Ann Reid has an amazing knack for asking you about your day/week/fortnight/month and picking up on a gesture or hesitation, digging a bit deeper and asking if you’d like to take the topic further.

And so one session I found myself telling her the story that I told you fine people at the beginning of this post. I told her about the little weirdo and her beloved pink swimsuit with Minnie Mouse wearing a burgundy, polka dot bow and I told her about that small, insignificant comment that my swimming teacher made all those years ago.

Except it wasn’t insignificant. I’d held on to those words for three decades. Together Carol-Ann and I worked through it and she helped me to realise why those words had had such a deep impact on me. To that little weirdo, Minnie Mouse was as real as her family, friends or some random person she saw in town. It didn’t matter that she was a cartoon character or even that she was just a representation of that character. If I didn’t float, Minnie Mouse would drown. Drown means die. If I couldn’t float then the only way to protect Minnie Mouse would be not to try to learn to swim anymore.

It was a revelation. How had I not realised this myself? I must be stupid, right?! That’s the power of coaching though. Sometimes it takes someone completely removed from the situation to shed some light and make things clearer. Carol-Ann didn’t stop there though. She worked some NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) voodoo on me and helped me to visualise that little weirdo learning to swim with confidence.

Well, that was a couple of months ago and this morning I swam 20 full lengths. Without stopping. That’s 660m! I can’t even run that far without slowing down to a walk at the moment. It’s not the first time I’ve done it – I think I’ve managed it twice before – but the fact that I go swimming twice a week and I ENJOY it is something I never imagined would happen.

The other week someone splashed water up my nose and two things happened. Well, three actually. The first was that I started flailing about like a loon. The second was that I realised I couldn’t touch the bottom of the pool, but it didn’t matter because I was treading water with ease. The third was that I blew the air out of my nose and the water came with it. Panic over. I’ve got this. I’m a swimmer, don’t you know!

I was telling someone this story the other day and they said, “You’ll be doing triathlons soon!” I pointed that I can’t ride a bike and they pointed out that I couldn’t really swim a few weeks ago. Touché! I guess that’s the next thing to tackle. But while I’m working on that, I might just take a closer look into the Swim Serpentine event that was in my parkrun newsletter. The half mile is only another four lengths, give or take...

I'll do another blog post soon about the power of coaching, but for now I'll leave this Instagram-post-turned-blog-post with the wise words of Marshall Mathers III - You can do anything you set you mind to, man. I'm proof! (That last bit was me, not Eminem!)

December Reflections: Softness

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When I lived at the flat I loved coming home from work and snuggling up on the sofa under Colin's super-huge, super-soft blanket. It didn't matter whether I was cold, ill or simply just tired; that blanket would be of comfort to me and I know it was its softness was the magic ingredient.

When I moved back home one of the things I really missed was the blanket and not because it was Colin's. I missed surrounding myself in its softness like a cocoon allowing me to rest and rejuvinate in comfort. Mum noticed that I was really fidgety, particularly in the evenings, and I mentioned that I missed 'my' blanket. 

Not long afterwards we had a day out shopping. We were preparing to have a complete overhaul at home and decorate most of the rooms so we were on the hunt for ideas. We found ourselves in Primark (as you do) and I honed in on the Home department. I saw a massive pile of throws and knew before even feeling them that they were just what I was looking for. 
Mum said she would treat me to one so I picked out this soft grey as I had it in my head that my room would be pink and grey when the time came to decorate it. Mum also decided that she would indulge and choose a lovely plum colour.

As a rule my blanket lives on my bed, folded over the end during the warm weather and completely covering it during the winter months. I love to snuggle down under my duvet and pull the top of the blanket over the top so that I can stroke it as I fall asleep. It also makes it down the the living room quite regularly. In fact it's wrapped around me as I type this. I have no doubt that I look like E.T. right now. (Yes, it's even over my head!)
I think it's so important that everyone has a set of tools that they can use when they need a pick me up or a moment of comfort. My blanket is most definitely in mine and probably the one I use the most. 

December Reflections: Biggest Change in 2017

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I've been sitting for days trying to decide what to write for this prompt and nothing was coming to me. 

Last year there were so many changes in my life, many of which were not welcomed, that I struggled to keep up. At times everything seemed so overwhelming, but I had (and still have) an amazing support network around me that I found my way through and felt that I was going into 2017 stronger than ever.

On the contrary this year I feel as if everything come to a halt like I'm sitting in a traffic jam. Part of me has been becoming increasingly frustrated that I'm not reaching my desired destination, while the other part is enjoying the rest that comes with falling into a new routine. 2017, it seems, is a year of contradictions.

I am loving being back at home and enjoy spending much of my free time with mum. I no longer feel that I have lost my independence by moving back into my childhood home and I have accepted that it is highly unlikely that I will be able to afford my own home. Yet I am still plagued with thoughts of my dream home and how I would decorate and furnish it. To placate this feeling I have been working on making my own space as 'me' as possible. 

Work is still a pleasant distraction for me. I enjoy the variety that my role provides. I can hardly believe I've been there over two years and being part of a small team again reminds me of how I felt when I first started at Tropical ten years ago. I feel at home and the team are my work family. I still have much to learn and the thought of a new challenge keeps me enthusiastic on the days when pouring over spreadsheets numbs my soul.

The other aspect of my life that has always been a constant is my guiding. That is probably the biggest change of the year when I think about it. For the first time since becoming a volunteer, I am not attached to a unit. It is both liberating and saddening at the same time. I feel guilty for saying this, but I don't miss it. I do yoga on Mondays and in the New Year I'll be at running club on Tuesdays and choir on Wednesdays. Saying no to being with a unit has meant that I can say yes to giving myself an evening to rest once a week. I am currently feeling very conflicted about whether I am giving enough of myself to Girlguiding at the moment and it's new territory for me. It's something I know I need to explore further and discuss with fellow volunteers. 

Overall I guess you could say that the biggest change for me this year is my new-found acceptance of the turn I have taken on life's path. I am sure my counselling sessions have had a lot to do with this. Now it is the change for 2018 that I am excited for and as I feel increasingly more in control of the things that are to come, I can continue to accept what has already happened. No one knows what the future hold and for the most part our destiny is ours to shape. That is where the fun lies and I looking forward to moulding a future that may not be what I originally planned, but is certainly one that I want and love.

December Reflections: Green

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Back in May I went on a weekend retreat and totally forgot to write about it at the time. With day eight's theme for December Reflections, being 'Green', I thought now would be the perfect time to tell you all about the wonder that is Green Farm Fitness.

I first found out about Green Farm Fitness while reading Psychologies. Not long after I was out for breakfast with my friends and we happened to start talking about retreats and what we had planned for the following year. I can't remember who mentioned Green Farm first, but it turned out Claire had been before and loved it. She was planning to go again so she said she'd dend me the details so that I could join her. I didn't need to be asked twice!

What seemed like many months later we arrived at Green Farm one lovely Friday afternoon and Claire introduced me to Maryann and Kathryn who would be looking after us for the weekend. We were shown to our room at the very top of the house where we relaxed while waiting for everyone else to arrive before.
Dinner was amazing (every meal was home cooked and freshly prepared) and it was lovely to be able to chat to and get to know everyone that first evening. We all had a right laugh and went to bed (way past my bedtime) in good spirits ready for an energetic weekend.
Saturday morning we were all up bright and early for breakfast and then into the forest for cardio and strength circuits. It started off well and despite my level of fitness I was quite impressed with how well I was keeping up. But then came the step ups on, what I now attectionally call, the log of doom. I was just getting into a rhythm when I stepped up, slipped on the log, felt my ankle twist and fell on my arse.

Kathryn made me stick it up in the air few a few minutes so I just lied down on the ground feeling mightily embarrassed that I'd fallen not far from the first hurdle. I took it easy on the rest of the circuits and was happy when I noticed that it had started to feel better.

Once our circuits were complete we had free time so Claire and I went on a mission to find somewhere that sold magnesium sulphate for a nasty insect bite that I got on holiday. Nowhere seemed to have it so I ended up settling for antihistamines and hoping they would do the trick. When we got back I was under orders by Kathryn to keep 'log foot' elevated and for good measure I decided to do the same with 'bite foot' as well.
I was famished by the time we sat down for lunch and the soup and freshly baked bread that we had was exactly what the doctor ordered. After lunch we were all due to go for a walk in the woods, but while we were eating my ankle really began to throb. The adrenaline that has been pumping through my body during the morning session was wearing off and it was becoming obvious that my ankle was not OK as I first thought.

The walk through the woods was the part of the weekend that I had been looking forward to the most so I stupidly decided to ignore the increasing pain and go for the walk. Bad idea! We'd barely been out for five minutes and I was at the back of the group when normally I'd be holding my own pretty well. It hurt so much that I was fighting back tears and I was so annoyed because I thought I'd ruined my chance of doing anything else for the rest of the weekend. Looking back I'm still glad I went though as I got to feed the lambies!
Once we got back we had a short break before our core, yoga and pilates session. I really wanted to do it, but by now my ankle was throbbing so much that I felt physically sick. I took some painkillers and went up to bed so that I could stick it up on a few pillows. I tried to keep it elevated as long as possible, but the pain was so bad that I went on to plan B and decided to sleep through it. Needless to say I missed the afternoon session.

Claire woke me up when she got back, for which I was very grateful as I had booked a massage and there was no way I was missing that. Never had one before and now I have, I don't know why I didn't before. It was amazing and just what I needed to help relax.

Walking was a serious issue now and I tried to stay off it as much as possible, but the sessions for the day were now over and I just had to hope that a good night's sleep would sort it out.

The next day was much the same minus the woodland walk and the massage. After breakfast we ventured back into the forest for circuits where I point blank refused to do step ups on the logs. Nope! No way! Not doing it! I was glad that I was feeling up to doing the yoga session though. Love a bit of yoga, I do. Kathryn was absolutely amazing advising would I should and shouldn't do and giving me suggestions of alternatives. This woman knows her stuff!

As well as the circuits, core sessions, walk and spa treatments that were available, we also had the opportunity to book a review session with Kathryn to look at our fitness and nutrition once the weekend was over. The weekend really was tailored to suit everyone's level and goals.

Despite my mishap, my weekend at Green Farm Farm was absolutely amazing and I would love to go again next year. And even if I don't get back to a fitness retreat as soon as I would like, I'll definitely be heading back to the spa for a massage!

December Reflections: Favourite Photo of 2017

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When I was looking back through my photos from this year (which didn't take long - sadly I don't take as many photos as I used to), there was a recurring theme as I picked out my short list of favourites. They all contained my little pickles, Benjamin and Scarlett. 

I have been very lucky to have spent more time with them this year than I have in previous years and have enjoyed babysitting them when my brother and sister-in-law have been off shooting weddings or Mayor's dinners (they're photographers, not Bonnie and Clyde, by the way). 

I love driving down to Bexhill after work on a Friday evening, giving the little rascals a big squish before they go off to bed, and then spending the evening with my big bro and his lovely missus. We usually just have dinner and watch a film, but as I didn't get to grow up with either of my brothers, any time I get to spend with them now is cherished greatly. Plus by brother has amazing taste in films!

Once the adults are out at work (I still can't quite grasp the idea that I, myself, am an adult), our day of fun begins! This year we've had lots of fun this year celebrating Chinese New Year, going out for pizza, snuggling up in the cinema to see Despicable Me 3 and getting Alexa to fart (sad, but true!) and then I got to spend a week with them in August too.

The photo I have chosen though is not from one of my babysitting escapades or even from our summer holiday in Spain. It is from a day out at Blackberry Farm in Sussex. Gigi and Grandad (aka Caroline and Dad) had been looking after the kids for the weekend and we all decided we wanted to get out of the house as it was a beautiful spring day.

When my brother found out we were taking them to the farm, he made us swear that we would cover them in antibac gel so that they wouldn't pick up any bugs. When we arrived at our destination, I couldn't resist setting up a photo to send to Simon and Abi so show that we had taken their request seriously. It didn't come out quite as well as I'd hoped, but we got a few laughs out of it and it's a reminder of a wonderful day spent in the sunshine having fun.
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