Fitbitches - The January Run Down

I struggled so much in 2016 to find my headspace when running after coming back from a three month break due to injury and a diagnosis of arthritis in my knees. In March I rejoined our local community Couch to 5k programme, revisited my volunteer role as Group Leader for a few months and then took the personal decision to spend the winter running for me to try and find my sweet spot again in our Progression group (5-10k).  I ended up with a couple of personal best times - just shaving a few seconds off here and there - and started to fall back in love with running again.

For 2017 I have three goals and they are not 'time' related.  I need to take that particular pressure off myself but I'm sure that if I stay injury free, the better times will come in the long run (no pun intended but you can have that as a bonus).  So my goals are manageable and achievable and which, I hope, will keep me motivated month after month. They are:

  • A medal a month
  • To run 1000k in total before the end of the year
  • To create a small but meaningful online running community

A Medal A Month

Official races can be expensive and I only really enter local ones. I have no desire to run anything further than 10k - my half marathon dream is over - so finding appropriate races that are close by and that aren't going to break the bank can be difficult. Toward the end of last year I stumbled across the Virtual Runner community which provides real medals for challenges that can be completed within an allotted time on your own doorstep or even a treadmill. All you have to do is enter and pay for your chosen challenge, capture your run data (easy peasy when you have running watches or fitness apps), submit your evidence before the cut-off date and, a few days later, a nice shiny medal appears through your letterbox!

Fitbitches - The January Run Down
So for January, I chose an easy-to-achieve virtual race of running 10k within the month of January but my own mini-challenge was to do it in the first week of January.  This was for the Unicorn medal and it's beautiful - very girlie and a bit of fun.  I easily did the 10k in two parts with my running group but it got me hooked!! So I've now got a virtual race/challenge booked for March and I had already registered for the 1000k in 2017 (more on that in a minute).

Then I remembered I had registered for the East Lancs Hospice 10k. I marshalled this last year, it was freezing cold and in the middle of nowhere! I'm still not sure what compelled me to sign up for it but I'm sure it was something to do with the euphoria of those aforementioned personal best times...

Anyway, this one was today (Sunday 15th January) and it was, once again, freezing cold and raining (but not extreme weather like we've been having) and the course was muddy and 'undulating' (sidenote: in the running world the word 'undulating' usually means 'fucking great big hills').  I laced up my trainers and prepared for the worst.

Fitbitches - The January Run Down
It was definitely as bad as I thought it was going to be but after the first couple of miles, instead of mincing around the puddles and slipping on the mud, I decided to go headlong through most of them. The hill was a tough nut to crack and it formed part of the loop back, so you had to run up the hill, round the park then down the hill but the best thing about it was all the support shown for everyone and by everyone on that section of the run. The front runners coming down were shouting encouragement to those of us going up and those of us going up were calling out the same to those on their way down.  It was also the place where I saw friends who were not running the race, half way up that hill, giving out cheerleading chants, hugs, jelly babies and taking photos.  It was the exact point I needed to see them and really spurred me on.

I ran all of the race with a friend from my running group. She's much faster than me and had only registered for the race last week but stuck with me through it all, providing that 'push' when I needed it, chatting about mundane things like work and our past (when we could catch our breath).  She's now sick of hearing me thank her for doing that but after my lonely run at Lytham, it was a game-changer for the whole event for me.

As an aside - a huge thanks to all the organisers of the East Lancs Hospice 10k - it's lovely to support a local charity - plus all the marshals today were smiley and enthusiastic which means an awful lot when you're soaked to the skin, can see that you're not really near the end yet and feel a bit rubbish. Also, because I've marshalled that course, I know it's a long and cold day for those standing around. You may think it's hard to be happy and encouraging but when you see the effort the runners are putting in you just want to give them a yell and a cheer and it gives you a positive experience in a totally different way.

To Run 1000k In Total In 2017

So what am I going to do with all these medals? Why push myself to do something each month when I can just go out and run with my crew three times a week? 

Well, one of the other virtual challenges I have registered for is to run 1000 kilometres before the end of the year.  A simple task for many endurance athletes or those marathon training but this focus means that I have to stick to an average of 20k per week and use additional races to soak up the gaps.  The 'medal a month' plan will help me focus on this goal and I know I will want to push myself slightly to ensure that I'm generating enough distance each week.  Again, it's not about times or training for a half-marathon, but about giving myself a goal which feels attainable over this period of time.  Fingers crossed that I don't come a cropper and end up with a twatish injury that will stop me in my tracks (ho, ho, another pun for you there - I'm on a roll now).

To Create A Small But Meaningful Online Running Community

Hello Fitbitches!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, and again, and again. The running community we have here in Blackburn is unique. It's run solely by volunteers, it's altruistic, it has many arms, there are countless opportunities which lie within and beyond and it brings together people whose paths would never normally cross in real life. I've never seen anything like it before and I'm so proud to be a part of it as one of their volunteers.  I've seen the way that the people within the community (and beyond) support each other - that proved itself today - and I've seen people achieve goals they thought were way beyond their reach just a few short months ago.  A lot of this support takes place within Facebook groups as well as out on the roads.

Fitbitches - The January Run Down
I want to take some of that positivity that I've been experiencing for the past two-and-a-half years and share it with some friends that find following Couch to 5K on their own difficult, or struggle to get motivated to power-walk for half an hour a day, or feel as though there's no-one cheering them on when they come back from a run to a house of chaos. So Fitbitches has been re-born.

Fitbitches started out as a podcast a while back but, once again, time constraints put it on the back burner for a bit (you can hear some old podcasts on YouTube).  I'd like to restart the podcast again. I'd like to support a charity. I'd like to organise my own virtual race and let my friends-inside-the-computer feel the elation of achieving a goal and having some bling to show for it. The plan is half-written and I have the support of two brilliant people who are my sounding board. It will be a while before it becomes what I want it to become but, in the meantime, you'll see me hashtagging every running update and photo with #Fitbitches and there are people benefiting from the idea in a small (but perfectly formed) Facebook group.  If you want in, just let me know, but I'm accepting active members only - people who can really invest in providing support and encouragement to each other, regardless of the differing goals and fitness levels. As soon as it starts growing bigger, you'll definitely be hearing about it anyway!

I'm going to publish a Fitbitches-style blog post like this every month to help me re-cap the previous few weeks and to focus on the upcoming month.  Yes, the January one is early but there will be nothing much else to write about as I'll just be running my usual three times a week for the rest of the month.  In February, I've entered the punishing Winter Warmer 10k organised by Blackburn Road Runners which includes my nemesis, Buncer Lane (read more about that hill here) so I'll be working towards that for my February medal.

And now I'm off for a well-earned lie down and maybe a glass of wine!  By the way... did you spot the third free running pun? Have another look at the title.  I'm done now... promise... 

Soundtrack To My Life - Motivational Songs For The New Year

Soundtrack To My Life  - Motivational Songs For The New Year
Soundtrack To My Life has taken on many forms over the years. It's a place for me to write mini-listicals about my favourite types of music and it's also a place where friends can share their own favourite songs that take them back to a specific moment in their life. Anyway, I'm always wanting to keep ideas fresh so this year I'm going to publish twelve personal Soundtracks To My Life (one a month), each with a different theme.

I'm not one for new year resolutions but I do think it's good to start a new year with positive affirmations and goals that feel achievable.  I've pulled together five songs that currently inspire me -they are from all different eras and their lyrics spring to mind for different reasons. I wanted my choices to be spontaneous rather than over-think this because, otherwise, I would have ended up just linking you to the music section of YouTube and being done with it...

So here are my motivational songs for the new year. Let me know what songs motivate you.


Rag'n'Bone Man - Human

"Take a look in the mirror and what do you see
Do you see it clearer or are you deceived in what you believe
Cos I'm only human after all, you're only human after all
Don't put the blame on me"

Colbie Caillat - Try

"Wait a second, Why should you care, what they think of you
When you're all alone, by yourself
Do you like you? Do you like you?
You don't have to try so hard
You don't have to give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don't have to change a single thing"

La Roux - Bulletproof

"Tick, tick, tick, tick on the watch
And life's too short for me to stop
Oh, baby, your time is running out"

Daft Punk - Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger


Queen - The Show Must Go On

"The show must go on
I'll face it with a grin
I'm never giving in
On - with the show -
I'll top the bill, I'll overkill
I have to find the will to carry on"


Soundtrack To My Life  - Motivational Songs For The New Year
Well done for reading down this far. Soundtrack To My Life is an occasional series on this blog where I talk about music that's influenced my life or I invite people to talk about the same. Read/Listen to all the previous Soundtrack To My Life entries here or follow the dedicated Pinterest board. Find out more about participating by >> clicking here <<

Luxury Holidays And Latest Tech Are The Top Big Ticket Shopping List of 2017

A tumultuous 2016 has not put Brits off spending big in 2017, according to credit score and report site ClearScore. 82% plan to splurge on ‘big ticket’ items next year, with holidays abroad topping the wish list for nearly half of UK adults (45%). “Staycations” follow close behind for 38% and high-end tech, such as MacBooks and SLR cameras will be snapped up by 20% of shoppers.

In an ideal world, 69% of Brits would prefer to save up to afford big purchases, such as jet-setting holidays next year. However, the average cost of a British family holiday is almost £5000 and nearly a third (30%) will use credit to foot the bill. 47% say they will use credit to fund at least one of their big ticket purchases in 2017; the most common reason being to spread the cost over a number of months.

Luxury Holidays And Latest Tech Are The Top Big Ticket Shopping List of 2017
ClearScore found that credit cards and personal loans are the most popular forms of credit used to pay for big ticket purchases, accounting for 51% and 28% of purchases respectively. While holidays topped the list of popular big purchases, people were most likely to reach for their credit card if they were planning an home extension (56%) or buying a car (52%) in 2017. As many as five and a half million Brits (10%) have turned to pay day loans and the rent-to-own sector, which charge much higher interest rates than other forms of credit, to cover the cost of big ticket purchases in the past.
All consumers planning to make big purchases on credit could save significant amounts of money by improving their credit score. A top credit score could save an average Brit £20,452 over a lifetime on the interest repayments for credit card debt alone.
  • 5 most popular big ticket purchases for 2017
  • A holiday abroad
  • A holiday in the UK
  • Consumer electronics, such as a laptop, TV or digital camera
  • White goods
  • New large furniture, such as a sofa

Justin Basini, founder and CEO of ClearScore, said, "When it comes to making expensive purchases; both luxuries and those things we just can’t do without, many of us turn to credit to help with the cost. That’s why it’s vital to manage and build your credit score so that you can get the best deal on your borrowing. Big ticket items cost enough, without saddling yourself with needlessly expensive interest repayments on top.” 

This is a featured post. For more information please view my disclosure policy 
Photo credit : Clearscore

Life Hack : Easy-To-Make Origami Box

Life Hack : Easy-To-Make Origami Box
I get bored easily so was hunting around for new skills to learn and stumbled across origami boxes. It's a brilliant way to recycle magazines or brochures (I'm using my Woodland Trust seasonal magazines at the moment) and the boxes are really handy for collecting up vegetable peelings or tea bags or as temporary holders for your latest craft project. I've even stored some unopened boxes in a box so they are ready to use!

I've uploaded a handy YouTube tutorial for you to follow and have written the instructions below - just five steps to follow!!

  1. Fold your piece of paper into half and then half again
  2. Fold down the corners to form a triangle on both sides
  3. Open the flat sides and fold the corners in to the middle fold on both sides
  4. Fold up the edge twice on both sides
  5. Open out and push the bottom down to create your box.

Let me know if you give it a go and tell me what you use your origami boxes for.

The 12 Days Of Cystmas

Here's a little festive gift from the Cysterhood to you. It's a collection of my favourite cyst-bursting videos. Hopefully there are some you've not seen before and the inclusion of a few old favourites.

We all know the tune so sing loud and proud.
*clears throat*

On the twelfth day of Cystmas this sicko sent to me

The oldest blackhead ever
No need for anaesthetic
Operation 'Kill George'
9 miles of packing
A spider bite extraction
7 beach bums clenching
6 meters of squirting
Back yard party games 
3 miles of earwax
2 crackheads squeezing
and a cyst turned fully inside out







You're welcome. Happy Cystmas!

The 'Ho Ho Ho' Gives You More 'GO GO GO'

For this weekend's trot out I had registered to join the Blackburn 5k Santa Dash at Corporation Park. Round the corner from home, a free Santa suit and an under-12's 400m dash so my granddaughters could come and join in too. A perfect start to our family Christmas celebrations. 

The girls loved their 400 meter dash with the eldest winning the whole race and the other just happy doing her own thing and run in her own time and style! Afterwards, we were going to collect their medals and Amie said, "Nana, I won that even though I'm a girl..." so we had a little chat about positive language and the 'This Girl Can' ethos and she's now saying she won because she's a girl. One proud Nana right here.

It's the first time the 'dash' has been held but it was really well organised and marshalled. The course was a killer - three x 1 mile laps which had a great downhill section (with a dodgy, slippy corner) but then a slow and steady uphill section leading onto a flat run along the park Broadway. At one point I got lapped by the front runner but someone took a picture so it'll look like I'm right behind the lead runner and that might be the one that ends up as my Facebook profile picture... *ahem

I ran the first lap with all the other Santas then the girls wanted to join in so they both joined in with me on the second lap. By the third lap, Megan had had enough so it was just me and Amie for the third lap. She gives great advice to her 'slow running Nana'
"Nana, run on your tiptoes. It makes you go faster"
and wanted to know that if she did the same running as me, would she one day get a GroupRun t-shirt like me (lump-in-throat moment).

It would be great for this Santa Dash to become an annual event. A few tweaks are needed to the organisation but for a first time event, it was well attended and great fun. 

The 'Ho Ho Ho' Gives You More 'GO GO GO' - Blackburn Santa Dash

I Never Thought This Would Happen With My Tweet!

My daddy is a WHAT?,  I Stole A Photo And Went Viral On Twitter

I'll start this by admitting guilt. I saw a photo on a friend's Facebook timeline and asked if I could share it. She admitted that it wasn't her photo and, after a little digging, the source was still unknown. I saved it and re-shared it later in the day, first on a parent-humour Facebook page that I help administrate as part of a growing project and secondly on my own Twitter timeline.

It's really interesting to see how people react to shared media.  The Facebook post got hardly any attention at all (3 reactions and a low reach) but the tweet... well, that's a different story in itself.  On the same day I bemoaned all the images used in tweets now made the 'plain' tweets stand out more, this tweet of mine with a picture attached started growing in popularity. 

A friend of mine had a tweet go viral during Eurovision once and I'd always wondered how/when it would happen to me, if ever. The new 'everyone will be famous for 15 minutes' is definitely 'when will my social media update be picked up by Buzzfeed and shared by thousands?'  Every share brings it to a new audience and the likes/favourites ring in too.

Now, I love analysing everything; I want to dig deeper into the widening ripples of how media is experienced and what captures people's attention so what did I gain from having a tweet go viral? Let's start with the following: 

  • A timeline full of notifications alerting me to people liking and sharing the tweet (thank the Twitter Gods for Tweetdeck and the ability to separate notifications into different columns);
  • The occasional reply with just one word : GIANT - y'know... just in case I didn't actually realise;
  • The knowledge that a tweet that is not time-sensitive will probably 'ripple' further and for longer than something that is of the moment;
  • No additional followers and no adding to Twitter lists. All this wit and wisdom is wasted;
  • An understanding why people of note do not, and cannot, reply to all their @mentions. It's completely unsustainable especially if this happens every single day. They must use Twitter lists to see their friend's replies or just dive in and hope for the best!
I did have a dig around and look at the some of the people who were liking and retweeting and, oh boy, it's a small world. There's a huge crossover of followers and a very small amount of people who have no 'six degrees of Twitter' connection to me whatsoever. That in itself is fascinating and makes me want to follow more and more people on Twitter so I get to experience everything. The downside of following too many people is that you'll have too many updates to interact with and miss that one funny tweet that might be noteworthy one day. I'm constantly trying to find that happy medium between interesting content and personal interaction. Anyway...

I've no idea what there is to gain from this experience other than the basking in personal guilt glory and still wait for that message from Buzzfeed to ask if they can use the tweet in their "Best Tweets Of 2016" round-up.... *ahem*


12.12.16 : Picked up by The Poke : Facebook link | Web link 

Sidenote: If anyone does know the original source of the image please let me know then I can credit it properly.

Finding My Stride

This weekend I took part in the Wesham 10k (organised by Wesham Road Runners). Its an important run for me to participate in as it's one where our running community come together to raise awareness and funds for Theo's Journey against Neuroblastoma.  As I'm sure you know, my own daughter was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma when she was 14 months old so it's a cause that is close to my heart.  As a team, we painted Lea Town and Salwick purple with our #TheosWarriors t-shirts!

Finding My Stride - Theo's Journey Against Neuroblastoma #TheosWarriors

Last year I finished this course in 1:15.21 and, after my new 10k personal best time in the Windmill 10k a couple of weeks ago, I wasn't really planning on anything spectacular - just to finish the course and enjoy the run.  I was almost looking forward to it, especially as the route had changed slightly - a revert back to an original course from a few years back.

The day was clear and sunny but cold and it was very frosty.  This course is a rural one so it was definitely going to be slippy underfoot in places. Apart from the icy bits, I'm finding that I am better suited to winter running as I suffer badly from hayfever in the summer so I'm usually streaming from my eyes and my nose and my chest is very tight.  Maybe this is another reason that I'm really getting into my groove with running again at the moment?

Finding My Stride - Wesham 10k - photo credit : David Wood & Wesham Road Runners
The one where the pensioner overtook me just after this photo was taken... then I overtook him during the 9th kilometer, then he sprint-finished past me during the final 50 meters.  THE SHAME! 

Finding My Stride - four photos to describe my run
So, the new course... many would describe it as 'undulating' but after pounding the streets of Blackburn, the hills in this area are like speed bumps.  There was a bit of a long uphill drag around halfway into the course and then another towards the end which is a bit of a killer but I felt good all the way around.  I hit my usual wall between 7k and 8k and really struggled with the 9th kilometer but I did feel very positive about the whole thing. 

And the finishing time... 

Gun Time : 1:12.31
Watch Time : 1:12.18
Actual 10k Time : 1:11.58
Another Personal Best!! YES REALLY!!  *faints*.  I'm really pleased with my time splits too and where I thought I struggled, I definitely slowed but nowhere near as much as I thought I had. 

Finding My Stride - Wesham 10k - photo credit : David Wood & Wesham Road RunnersI hardly ever share photos of me running as I'm usually captured with a frown on my face and hunched shoulders, battling against the world in the least flattering way but here's one of me actually smiling (still unflattering but, hey ho) - this was at around 5k. I truly believe that my run at Lytham and the support I'm receiving from my running community have everything to do with that - it's been a huge confidence boost.  The training routine is different, and the pressure is taken off me as I'm not leading any running groups at the moment. I made a promise to myself to make this winter all about me and it's definitely paying off.  

There were many personal bests achieved during this race and some demons that took over however everyone completed and I'm dead proud of my GroupRun community and the impact they make both with running and with supporting each other in so many ways.

A final mention to Wesham Road Runners and all their marshals for a brilliantly supported event - same time next year, guys?

photo credit : David Wood & Wesham Road Runners

The Ultimate Christmas Gift Guide 2016

One of our neighbours put up her Christmas lights last week (yes, really) so I thought it was time to start pulling my annual Christmas wishlist Gift Guide together. I've got everything from the unusual to the Secret Santa so let's make a start... 

Useful Gifts You Never Thought Of

The Ultimate Christmas Gift Guide 2016 - Useful Gifts You Never Thought Of

I've been working with The Woodland Trust for over a year now and their family membership package is a  great family gift. You receive a a whole host of interactive information, a tree dedication for the family and children get their own activity pack each season. Find out more here.

If you know someone who is a fan of scented candles then an aromatherapy kit from Essence of Arcadia would be an great gift package.  I reviewed them earlier this year and still love experimenting with recipes and using recommendations to help create the right mood.  Buy here.

If you've got a Snapchat addict in the house, you'll make their life so much easier with an Adonit Snap stylus. You pair it with your phone or tablet via bluetooth, can use it to take selfies then add stylised text with the 1.9mm Pixelpoint tip - you can even write messages in iMessenger or use it to play games. There's also a magnetic strip which you can attach to your phone to carry the stylus.  Buy on Amazon here [RRP £34.99]

When purchasing my Malden earlier this year, I noticed that Filofax sell so much more than leather organisers now. Their tablet case range is full of surprises and I'm sure you can find a style to suit your recipient. Buy here.

For The Stationery Lover

The Ultimate Christmas Gift Guide 2016 - For The Stationery Lover

This year, I've spent a lot of time trying to find a diary that fits my needs. I've switch out from a Travellers Notebook to a bullet journal to a Filofax and into a leather notebook but I wrote an article that made me realise I was probably overthinking the whole planning process and I just need a date-book. Hope House Press personalise all their diaries and leather notebooks and have recently introduced a horizontal layout in their personal size. Perfect! Buy here [RRP from £52]

If you love bullet journalling then take a look at the themed Moleskine notebooks this year. I am In LOVE with the Beatles ones and using the elastic as a 'straw' for the Coca Cola images is pure genius! You could team it with the Derwent Line Maker set from Buy the notebooks here and buy the pens here

Whoever I get as my Secret Santa this year will be the lucky recipient of the unbelievably awesome 'Shit Happens' colouring book by James Alexander and a set of Profanity Pencils from the East London Pencil Co.  Buy the book here [RRP £6.99] (and subscribe for free printables) and buy the pencils here [RRP £7.99].

Practical Gifts For Hard To Buy People

The Ultimate Christmas Gift Guide 2016 - Practical Gifts For Hart To Buy For People

There is nothing better than finding a handbag that perfectly suits your needs and I've championed Mia Tui bags for a long time. They've recently launched a brand new make-up bag which organises all your cosmetics. Buy here - 2 for £20 code is MU20

Know someone who loves nail varnish? How about matching their polish to their birthstone? Avon have brought out a range called Birthstone Pro+ and I've tried this out - it's a really hard-wearing polish that has a strong colour. Buy online here or see your Avon Representative [RRP £6.00].

The Derwent Carry All is marketed as the ultimate pencil storage solution however with the easy access and removable leaves. mesh pocket and additional space I thought it would be ideal for storing craft items - especially crochet hooks, patterns and even a couple of balls of yarn for that WIP (work in progress). Great for travelling too! Buy here [RRP £22.50].

What do you think of my suggestions? 

Have I helped tick off something on your To-Buy list?

Using Fotor To Create Great Images

Just recently, I've discovered Fotor - a suite of editing tools for your photographs with an option to create your own images for use on your social media channels.  

You can use the Fotor tools either via the website for online photo editing or off-line using their desktop app. With just a few clicks you can tidy up a favourite photograph by simply adjusting the exposure, brightness and contrast, you can add a filter or two, crop the image, remove red-eye and so much more, all with simple steps, all of which come with full instructions and hints and tips. There are over 50 preset edits you can use or layer them up to create even more effects.

Here's a simple edit I did with one of the photos I took outside Salford Lads Club a couple of years ago. I adjusted the tilt shift (two layers of blur to create the effect), used one of the black & white effects and cropped the image. It took about two minutes all together.



As also mentioned, you can use the 'Design' section to create Facebook cover photos, Pinterest-friendly images or a photo collage for your blog posts or even up your Instagram game with the Instagram template.

Here is a banner I made which is suitable for use on Pinterest. For this one I took a free image I already had saved (although there are a huge number of templates to use on Fotor), added a rectangle with the transparancy lowered, inserted the text and voila!  This one took around five minutes to make but I'm sure you could be even more creative!

I've used similar apps such as Picmonkey and Picasa and this stands right up there alongside them. Fotor isn't pretending to be Photoshop but does provide a simple, effective way to tweak your photos. 

Fotor is a free app with over 200 million users worldwide although there is the option to upgrade to a pro account (additional filters and tools) for $39.99 per year.