Couch 2 5k – Week 4

This is an update from a previous blog post about the Couch 2 5k podcasts I have been using to start running. To read what it is about please go back to my earlier blog.

Today I completed Week 4 – that was 3 runs this week of 3 minutes running, 90 seconds walking, 5 minutes running, 2.5 minutes walking, 3 minutes running, 90 seconds walking, 5 minutes running – a total of 16 minutes running.

Like Week 3 – when running 3 minutes non stop came so easy – running for 5 minutes was a shock. I couldn’t believe I was capable. The last 5 minute run this morning was tough – I accidently added the extra pressure of running up hill. But finishing a run feels great and I cannot wait for the next one.

I haven’t noticed any difference in my weight yet – and I still have stress at work – but this gives me one outlet that I can do for myself and I can see the change in my endurance each week. Again I urge anyone with a hidden interest in running to Google Couch 2 5k and download the podcasts, you won’t look back!

Trevi Fountain – Rome

I’ve already posted some information about our trip to Rome, but I felt I should add another about the Trevi Fountain for those who may want to know what to expect. For us, we were happy to explore and come across this attraction with little previous knowledge. However if you are on a tight schedule and have little ones with you you may want some pre-adventure information.

Firstly, expect a lot of people. This is one of the free attractions and so is on everyone’s to do list. It is a 10 minute walk from the Pantheon and is linked by streets of quirky little shops. What also may be unexpected is that it is surrounded by buildings, it is very enclosed.

If you’re unsure if you’re getting close – listen out for the water, that is what James did when I was adiment we were going the wrong way. Then we stumbled upon this:

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What you cannot see is the crowd surrounding it. It can be daunting at first but it is easy to step through the crowd to get closer. We worked our way down to stand alongside the fountain – which of course is lined with people sitting on it.

Be fair to those around you and only take a minute or so sitting on the fountain – there are others waiting. We took our turn and threw our coin into the fountain. The old myth is that it guarantees a return journey to the Italian capital. All money in the fountain is donated to the Red Cross.

We stepped to one side and took a few photos. We were going to head on with our journey but really needed a rest. There is a large step opposite the base of the fountain where we sat for 15 minutes and took in the atmosphere. For your curiosity this is how it looks in the middle of August.

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While we sat and watched the people around us we noticed the strangest thing that tourists do. Some don’t throw coins in, some choose to sit on the fountain, pose with their arm in the air and smile for a photo! Why experience it when you can take a photo pretending to experience it to show your mates! Priceless.

We returned later in the evening to see it lit up and again the crowd was as large as the afternoon, so I wouldn’t worry about what time of day is best to go.

It is a lovely sight and definitely worth a visit.

Girls Generation – who is who?

On first watch Girls Generation all look very similar – on second watch there are some members of Girls Generation who look alike – on third, fourth, fifth watch there are some Girls Generation members who stand out. With any large pop group gradually it becomes easy to tell them apart (well, almost!)

I started watching Girls Generation videos for the last couple of months, I like the songs, and I like the videos. Girls Generation are a girl group from South Korea who are massive on You Tube. Their most popular video is for ‘Gee’ and has over 180 million views. It is easy to say their popularity has gone further than South Korea, why are they not on UK radio yet?

I was watching the videos so often that I started to teach myself who was who. This can be daunting when you see all their faces flash up during their videos, plus the same girl can look like a different person using make up and different hairstyles. So, for anyone new to Girls Generation I’ll show you each member below with their different looks in different videos, starting with those easiest to spot.

Sunny

Easiest to spot in the most recent videos due to her short hair, Sunny has a very distinctive look.

sunny

Yoona

Yoona is the face of the group, she has a striking image and was a member I grew to recognise quite quickly.

yoona

Hyoyeon

Hyoyeon is the main dancer of the group and also has a stand out look, rather distinctive.

Hyoyeon

Sooyoung

The tallest member, her large eyes are a feature that makes her easy to spot. In the early videos Sooyoung has cropped hair.

sooyoung

Jessica

Jessica is one of the American members of the group.

jessica

Taeyeon

The leader, eldest member, and my favourite in GG, Taeyeon is also hard to tell apart at first. She looks very different in many videos so it can be hard to spot her. Taeyeon is also a member of sub group TTS and can be seen in the Twinkle video with blonde hair.

Taeyeon

Tiffany

It took me a long time to recognise Tiffany, the second American in the group. She is also a member of TTS and can be seen with brunette hair in Twinkle.

tiffany

Seohyun

The youngest member of the group, known in South Korea as the maknae. Seohyun is the third member of TTS and can be seen in the Twinkle video with dark hair.

seoyeon

Yuri

The one I have trouble with, especially as she looks like Seohyun and Yoona in some of their videos.

yuri

So that completes the line up! I hope new GG listeners find this blog useful. I believe I would have. I always used to put their names into Google with the title of the video to see images but pictures of other members come up too! It is amazing how different they look in each video. Go back and watch ‘Into The New World’ to see how fresh-faced they were before all the costumes and make up.

Chessington World of Adventures

With our Merlin Annual Pass in hand we journeyed to Chessington World of Adventures, a theme park James and I had not ventured to together before, and neither had been to since childhood. It did take persuasion to get James to go, it is known as a kiddie theme park. However it wasn’t always the case, Chessington was once the theme park for the thrill seekers to impress their friends on Ramses Revenge and The Vampire. However Thorpe Park has since become the top park for roller coasters and Chessington thrives on being the family theme park.

So now with our Merlin Annual Passes entry was free and we ventured to the park on the weekend before the school summer holidays and were devastated to see it was a busy day. I was optimistic though, it was a new adventure for us.

After parking up and walking through the entrance (skipping the queue with our passes) our first mission was to find a locker for our bag. This took far longer than it should’ve. We then tackled a few rides such as the rattlesnake, tomb blaster and dragon falls. I have great memories of my Mum collapsing in laughter on the rattlesnake, dragon falls doesn’t get you too wet, and I was disappointed that the small children sitting behind us beat me at Tomb Blaster. All good fun.

We then headed to the new ride for 2013 – Zufari. We had done a similar experience in America, an off road safari ride. The queue was longer than others and we had our explorer photograph taken with no intension to buy. At the front of the queue we entered a room with a screen and were introduced to a local explorer and his talking pet monkey. I cannot remember the premise but were specifically told not to enter the caves. The monkey then interacted with a small shy boy at the front of the audience and we were released to queue the final part. These sorts of queues annoy me, James and I were at the front of the queue to get into the screen and then others can get ahead of you at this point. Luckily though we were in the first truck load.

We ruined this ride for ourselves, we had done a much bigger production in America, but the kids in the truck were thrilled. And do expect to get wet! They don’t warn you of that.

We took a couple turns on The Vampire, but the ride with the biggest queue was Dragon’s Fury. This is clearly the best ride (aside from Ramses which was under maintenance) and for that reason we queued hours. Then it broke. As the queue whittled down we chose not to leave as we were close to the front and didn’t want to miss out. Instead the staff gave everyone a fast pass and we were pleased with that. We ended up using this on Dragon’s Fury later in the day when it reopened, and James admitted it was a good ride.

For lunch we had chicken, queues were massive and tables were hard to conquer but we had a pleasant lunch.

We took a walk around the zoo part, the sea lions were lovely and we looked at the bugs too. We were getting tired though so decided to move on.

We had a fun day, but were happy to leave having done everything we wanted (except Ramses and The Runaway Train which were both down). It is still firmly a family park so we won’t be going back for a long time.

Rome Mini Break – The Top Tips

I finished my blog on the Colosseum yesterday and felt I still had more tips to tell. If you want tips on the Colosseum (like avoiding the queue) view by previous blog, otherwise here is a round up of my top tips for Rome mini breaks!

1. The Vatican Museum shuts a few hours before St. Peter’s Bascilia, arrive at each 20 minutes before admission closes. We had a minimal queue for both, no more than 5-10 minutes. But you still have approximately 2 hours inside after admission closes. They are separate, you will have to queue for each so be sure you have enough time to get from one to the other (about a 15 minute walk).

This for us was a happy accident. On our 4 day visit in August the 14th and 15th were public and religious holidays, and we had pre booked online the Colosseum for midday on the 13th, this meant on the Monday we landed we had to trek the entire city from east to west as our only option of seeing these sights. We had originally thought we would only see one, but some clever thinking on the two attractions closing times meant we fitted in both. Horror stories of 3 hour queues were avoided!

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2. Before travelling to Rome download some tour podcasts to your ipod and buy a cheap headphone adapter so you can listen with your friends or family members. The Forum makes little sense without this, there isn’t many signs around. Of course you can always buy the audio guide there or join a tour, but the podcasts we used were really great. We got a good insight to the Forum and the uses of the many buildings in this area.

I only came across these days before we left. I found a review online praising podcasts as tour guides so thought I’d download a couple. We used ours in The Forum and The Pantheon. Would’ve loved one for the Palatine Hill, and we downloaded 2 or 3 for places we didn’t visit. We could’ve planned this better but really these were a little bonus.

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3. Catching the train from Fiumicinoto Termini and back again. This was a bit of a money saver we think, but cannot compare it to taxis and coaches as we didn’t use these options. Getting the train from Fiuicinoto is straight forward, follow the signs to the trains. Then you will find yourself surrounded by ticket offices selling train tickets to Termini. Honestly they all look dodgy! We picked one that said Tourist Information. We asked for our tickets and he tried to sell us a coach transfer ‘straight to your hotel’ he said with no enthusiasm ever. We opted for the train, seemed the more secure option (not to mention waiting around on a coach stopping off at everyone’s hotel).

Next you must get your ticket validated. This is straight forward too. You will see plenty of white machines with a slit in the middle for you to insert your ticket. This machine prints the date and a code, that is your ticket validated. Then wait on the platform, each is labelled with the trains destination at the front. You can wait either side of the train platform, but choose the right hand side as you walk in. People arriving in Fiumicinoto leave the train on the left hand side and doors open to board the train on the right.

Getting back to Fiumicinoto was a little more stressful, when it really shouldn’t be. This time we bought our tickets at an automated machine. The tickets were a different size to the ones that brought us to Rome but we hoped for the best! Then you wait for the boards to tell you which platform. It was very late before it finally gave our platform, Platform 24, the one right by the entrance! Don’t stress about the trains, it’ll be fine!

The Colosseum – ’nuff said

Why else was Rome on our list of top places to see, knowing us it could only be the Colosseum. It truly did not disappoint.

Before I go any further I am going to explain how to get in. There are three options;

1) Get up early and wait on the doorstep, or be prepared to queue, queue and queue

2) Pay a bit extra for a tour guide touting on the doorstep, ditch them when you’re inside if you want

3) Book online before you go and walk straight in

We used a website called coop culture, I am unsure if it was the official website or not but it sells tickets and you can reserve a time on a set day. Plus you have the added bonus of booking the Underground tour. For the same price you can tour under the Colosseum, on the top tier and on the (rebuilt) arena floor. These three areas are off limits to everyone else.

This is all for 18Euro if you are aged 18-25 and includes regular access to the Colosseum after your tour and access to The Forum and Palatine Hill over the same day and next day. Again do not queue! You can go straight in with this ticket.

You buy your tickets through the website and print your confirmation, 10 minutes before your allotted time go to the left hand side of the queue and you will be let through to the box office. Honestly, the amount of people we passed – all of which would pay the same cost at the front of the queue, it really was the best decision we made. Those three hours we would’ve spent queuing we spent in The Forum afterwards.

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So, you’ve bought your ticket online, you’ve found the site of the Colosseum (spotting it down an alleyway in our case) and are admiring the outside. If you’re lucky enough you may even come across a Russian couple who offer to take a few photos of yourselves in the surrounding areas, outside the Colosseum, in front of the Arch, next to the gardens… Take a drink and have a rest, you’ll be walking around for a good two-three hours in there!

Our next consideration was toilets, would there be any inside? Not something I’d ever thought of. We asked the lady guarding the reserved queue and she pointed us to the other side of the Colosseum, “there’s some under the stairs leading to the street,” and off we ran. However once inside we realised there were in fact portable toilets set up on the bottom level. They were just like the toilets used inside the Olympic Stadium. We commented on how the structure of the Colosseum is pretty much the same as stadiums used presently.

The tour was great, we were told you are given similar information about the Colosseum in the general tour but this included extra information on the ‘off limits’ areas. I don’t need to sell you the Colosseum, it was just fantastic.

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We also did the Forum the same day and Palatine Hill the following day. We also crammed in St. Peter’s Basilicia and climbing the cupola, the Vatican Museum, the trevi fountain, Spanish steps, the Pantheon and Castle Sant’ Angelo into our three night trip. If you need sun cream take it with you. No one sells it except the expensive stuff or dodgy little off licences. ‘Il conto per favore’ means ‘The bill please’. The train from the airport to Termini is extremely straight forward, save your money. Go see Rome but expect to come away with blisters!

Couch 2 5k

I wanted to write this blog to document what has happened so far since I took up this running initiative. It started about 5 weeks ago. I went for coffee with James and my Dad and I got really sad. It was a mood I couldn’t shift and it made me feel like I didn’t want to talk. For the rest of the day I felt low and I suggested to James that I may need to see my Doctor. “No,” responds James, “try changing diet and exercise first, there must be other ways.” I didn’t want to put this burden on him anymore so I did decide to do something, I’d start running.

My first run was a disaster. I opened the door and just started running, I barely made it to the bottom of the road. I went around the block, mostly walking with short bursts of running, and then returned home. I did feel good about it though. After this run I googled tips on running and was led to this podcast:

http://www.nhs.uk/LiveWell/c25k/Pages/couch-to-5k.aspx

This was a programme designed for people like me who were complete running newbs. I read up a lot and immediately downloaded weeks 1-3.

The programme is simple. The podcasts talk you through your run. Week 1 consists of 60 seconds of running followed by 90 seconds of walking for 20 minutes, Week 2 consists of 90 seconds or running followed by 90 seconds of walking for 20 minutes, and Week 3 consists of 90 seconds running, 90 seconds walking, 3 minutes running, 3 minutes walking for 20 minutes. This increases over 9 weeks until you can run for 30 minutes. You complete each podcast three times a week, allowing for rest days, before moving on to the next podcast.

Straight away I realised where I was going wrong, to start with each podcast has a 5 minute brisk walk. This gets you ready before doing anything. Then the narrator, Laura, talks you through was to do. Keep things slow is the main thing you need to remember.

I completed my first run of Week 3 today and feel great about it. It may only be 3 minutes of consistent running but remembering how I felt after 90 seconds last week I’m shocked how easy it was. I could’ve run for longer. However the podcasts are working and I refuse to do anything other than what they tell me.

I bought new running shoes yesterday as I had completed 2 weeks. They were fantastic today, felt very natural. And I cannot wait until my next run!

My mood has changed drastically. I haven’t felt so low. I did get upset at work last week, something like that cannot be changed quite so well. But my overall mood is happy. I haven’t had a low day in a while.

This works so well for me, if you are considering running, have just started, or think it is too much please try the first podcast! The feeling of completing a run is amazing!