Resolutions for 2014

Well, better late than never, I guess.

1. Consume less caffeine

Since having Ben, and especially since stopping breastfeeding, my caffeine consumption has got a bit ridiculous for me – I feel dependent on it. I think I’m averaging 5-6 cups of tea or coffee each day. I’m not happy with this, and know I want to cut down.

Update: I’ve cut out caffeinated drinks completely where possible. Decaff only for me!

2. Consume less sugar

Ah, sugar, the new evil. It’s definitely addictive, and I am definitely addicted. I’ve always had a sweet tooth, but I know I can’t eat a whole packet of biscuits anymore and get away with it. The sugar highs and sugar lows are too much. The additional pounds are going to creep on. And with the news that diabetes can lead to dementia, I think it’s time to get off this sugar wagon.

I’m not giving it up completely – I do, after all, love baking – but I need to find a way to make it less of a daily thing, more of an occasional treat.

3. Work less

Technically, I work 3 days a week. The current reality is that I’m working 40 hours a week. Most evenings, significant chunks of the weekend. In fact, I’m writing this on a Sunday night where I feel like I’ve spent my whole weekend either doing housework or working. I don’t want to feel like that any other weekend in 2014.

So, I’m going to try two strategies: firstly, to create more resources that are more generic. Lots of my resources are used for one lesson only, and that’s not time-efficient. So I might need to put more time into making one resource that can be used 6 times and less time into making 6 different resources for 6 lessons.

Update: I’ve created a really useful writing Success Criteria activity, and a writing Planning Sheet which I’ve used with 3 different KS3 classes.

The second strategy is a marking code. The idea is that you use symbols to mark statements instead of writing them out. In fact, the students then write them out – and hopefully, pay more attention to them. I’ll be trialling this next week.

I also need to think carefully about when I allow myself to work. If I’m not careful, work can be stretched out to fill the time you have. I need to work out when, during the week, I am willing to dedicate time to work – and not to work outside of those times.

4 Blog more

I love this blog. I spend a lot of time composing blog posts in my head which never make it to the screen. Again, it’s a time and priorities issue – I have a toddler, a demanding job, friends and family, a home to run etc. But I love reading back over the posts and reminding myself of what we did, what I learned, how I’ve changed. I also started it originally as a bit of an aide-memoire for when we have another child, or for when friends ask what we did with Ben. I don’t want that to tail off because he got to 12 months!

Last year, I only managed one blog post a month in October and November. That’s not enough. Ideally, I want to aim for at least 1 a week, but I’m going to set myself the target of 5 a month, and see how we go.

5. Have more adventures

When I think back to my own childhood, I remember wishing we had gone out more as a family. Weekends were so often dominated by commitments at church, and then, as we got older, horse riding and drama classes. We would go for a long walk on Bank Holidays, but, in Britain, we don’t get too many of them.

So I am determined that Ben should have more adventures. I think it’s easy to think, “We’ll just stay at home and have fun,” but that can be boring. Often, it’s more energising to get out and do something. Ideally this would be out of doors, but we do live in Manchester.

I’ve kind of scheduled in Sunday afternoons as ‘Mummy and Ben adventure time,’ because Tim often watches football on a Sunday afternoon, but this resolution is about more than that. It’s about saying yes when we’re invited to do something, even though the logistics may be tricky. It’s about doing things as a family, away from the housework and  routine. It’s about creating memories. It’s about having more fun.

I suppose I should probably put some things in here about saving more money, progressing in my career, learning a new skill and things. But, honestly, I think I put enough pressure on myself. I’ll just concentrate on this.


A new obsession


In an effort to lose the last few pounds of baby weight, I’ve been using My Fitness Pal. This is a really useful website which allows you to count and track the calories you’re consuming and burning. I had used it intermittently in the past, but had never really got to grips with it.

This time, however, I was encouraged by a friend to get into the community aspects of the site. Like on Facebook, you can become ‘friends’ with other users, and support each other.

In real life, talking about weight and diets is, frankly, boring. Fortunately, I think, it is a topic that rarely comes up for discussion amongst my friends and I. However, on a website like My Fitness Pal, the community aspect is interesting. There are clearly obsessives out there, who spend all day posting about how many calories they have consumed, but I imagine this happens in most online forums. There are also many sensible people, and many sharing inspiring stories of having lost significant amounts of weight. These people are encouraging and supporting each other, and viewing each others’ food diaries.

I’m currently slightly obsessed with looking at other peoples’ food diaries. There was also a thread recently where people put photos of what they were eating for each meal. Needless to say, I was fascinated. Admittedly, I have a bit more time on my hands than usual at the moment, and I’m sure that when I’m back at work I won’t have time to obsess over other people’s food, but I’m definitely enjoying it at the moment.

Sharing a food diary (with people who are happy to look at it) is a great way of keeping an eye on what you’re eating. For me, it helps me really see where things add up, and it’s not always where you’d expect. My morning smoothie (banana, strawberry and grape) took my sugar levels over the daily recommended amount. Despite eating what I would consider a balanced diet, my iron levels on most days struggled to get above 50% of my RDA. I won’t get started on the calorie content on some of my baking.

So I’ve lost a few pounds. They’ll probably come back on and go back off over the next few weeks, months and years. But it has made me feel much more balanced and educated about my diet, which can only be a good thing.

5km – done!


A while ago, I blogged about my decision to train for a 5km. I wrote about how I’m really not a natural runner, and how every single step seemed hard. I had signed up to run a 5km run for Millie’s Trust, a charity set up to provide First Aid for parents and carers. Millie, who the trust was named after, died after a choking incident in nursery last year, and the charity was set up by her parents. I wasn’t fit enough to simply turn up and run 5km; I would have to train for it.

This morning, I, and around 40 other mums, some with buggies and prams, ran 5km as part of Pramactive’s One Big Push event. 3 laps of a local water park might not sound a huge amount, but for me, it was a challenge. Still, I completed it.

I had done all my training on a treadmill at the gym – seeing as my training time is limited to the evenings, I wasn’t very keen on running around my local area. I hadn’t really appreciated the difference between running on a treadmill and running outside. The ground, and the hills, weren’t a problem, but the cold air was! On the plus side, it was lovely to see all the signs of spring, and running around a lake isn’t a bad way to spend a morning.

Tim and Ben came along to cheer me on, and Ben held up signs to cheer me on at the end of each lap. I don’t have any photos of the signs but here’s a photo of Ben:


It was one of my aims to run a 5km, and I’ve done it. My time was good – 29:45 – although I think the distance may have been just under 5km if I’m honest! I’d like to continue at this level of fitness, but I still don’t honestly think running is for me. I feel good after a run, but I really don’t enjoy it, and it is definitely a case of mind over matter.

However, the cause is the main thing, and I managed to raise over £150 in personal sponsorship, which I think is pretty good. And I was still smiling by the time I reached the finish line.


Finding my pace

The date for the 5KM run is looming: it is now 8 days away. I do think I can do it; I’m not convinced I will enjoy it. I can’t imagine it being the start of an addiction to running.

I’ve done 2 runs already this week, both on the treadmill at the gym. 4km and 4.25km, both around the 30 minute mark. I’m pleased, because it means I’m on track. I’m definitely getting fitter, and I almost enjoyed the first 3km tonight. Almost.

I ran the first 3km slightly faster than my normal speed – 8.5 instead of 8. It seemed to suit me better somehow. I don’t know if it was psychological, giving me a sense of beating my own progress. Perhaps it was more in keeping with the soundtrack in my headphones: Girls Aloud, if you’re interested. Perhaps it suited the length of my legs. Perhaps it’s just my body getting fitter.

Keep running…


I ran 3.5km today in 28 minutes. To most people, this wouldn’t be a big deal. To people who have run marathons, like my husband, this is like walking down the street. To me, it was quite a big deal.

3.5km in 28 minutes means I’m on track to complete 5km in three weeks time, with a time of around 40 minutes. I’ve built this up from 2.5km in a few weeks, despite having been ill and other things having to take priority. I’m making progress towards my goal.

I’m starting to think that running is a bit of ‘mind over matter.’ With the right soundtrack, and the right programme on the TV screen in front of me, the distance passes fairly quickly. If I think too much about each individual step, about my heart rate, my pace, my breathing, and exactly how far I’ve got to go, every single step is painful. So distraction is the key to it for me.

I saw a poster today inviting people to go for a 5km trail run on a Saturday morning around one of the parks in Greater Manchester. Rather than thinking, “Why would anyone want to do that,” my first thought was that I will be able to do things like that.  That would mean a real change of mindset for me. The challenge for me will firstly be getting to (and through) the 5km run; the greater challenge will be to maintain and improve upon that level of fitness.

A running start


I am not a natural runner. Swimming, totally, I could swim for ages and love being in the water. But running does not come naturally to me. Running hurts. Running makes your lungs scream for oxygen, your legs shake, your face go red. For me, running is not glamourous, relaxing or fun. It’s sheer hard work.

So I’m not sure why I’ve signed up to do a 5K next month. Partly, I suppose, it’s to give me some motivation to improve my fitness. I’ve doubled my swimming stamina since Baby Ben was born, but have barely improved my running at all. Partly, it’s because I was invited. A 5K isn’t something I would ever volunteer for without some pressure. Mainly, it’s because it’s for a good cause: Millie’s Trust, a local charity established following the death of a little girl in a choking incident at her nursery. The charity aims to improve first aid knowledge, particularly of parents and carers.

My training started this week. A friend who knows much more about running than I do suggested that my target time be around 40 minutes. I think this is about manageable. So on Monday night, I ran 2.5km on the treadmill at the gym. It took me around 18 minutes. Tonight, I ran 2.75km in 20 minutes.

My training plan is basic: increase the distance I run by 0.25km each session. I looked at Couch to 5K, and realised that if I only trained to run a 25 minutes stretch I wouldn’t be close to running 5K – more like 3 and a half. This way, I know where I am, I know what I can do, and I like the fact that the treadmill counts me through the distance. I can think, “Right, that’s 60% done; over half way.”

I am fairly certain that I will not enjoy the training. I don’t even know if I’ll enjoy the experience. But so far, knowing that I’ve run further in one go than I’ve run for well over a year is very satisfying. I feel a sense of achievement, and like the idea that in 9 more sessions I will be running 5K.

It’s only a 5K, and I know lots of people could run that at a moment’s notice. But not me. So this is a real challenge for an unnatural runner.