How I Lost 30kg

If you look at me in the street, you’ll see a 30-something year old blonde who’s around 163 centimetres tall (5′ 3″) and average build. I don’t look athletic, I’m not slim and my skin doesn’t glow despite regular exercise and a good diet. 

What most people don’t know is that in my 20s, I lost one-third of my body weight or about 30 kilograms (66 pounds). I was a chubby baby who grew into a healthy but chubby child, so it was little surprise I became an overweight teenager. It’s not that I ate badly – my mum always cooked healthy dinners for my sisters and I, and we only had junk food or take away on special occasions like birthdays. I just had a good appetite and I didn’t like exercise.

When I was in high school, I tried skipping lunch to lose weight. I became so hungry I felt nauseous, and the sense of guilt at throwing away my sandwiches was terrible. Another time I tried to make myself vomit like I’d read in magazines but it didn’t work. I was outgoing and had lots of friends, but I was self-conscious anytime there was a swimming carnival or pool party. I loved shopping, but I only wore dresses or skirts because regular jeans didn’t fit me. The boys at school didn’t talk to me either.

my heaviest weight

 2007: I'd lost some weight but still loved partying.
2007: I’d lost some weight but still loved partying.

I went backpacking for a year when I was 18 and the lifestyle of drinking beer, eating pasta and fast food exacerbated my weight. By the time I was 20, I weighed 93kg (205 lbs) and wore size 20 jeans. I had stretch marks on my stomach, sides and thighs and my skin was terrible too. I knew I was overweight but it was the sight of my ankles in the mirror one day that prompted a change. It was 2006 but I still vividly recall the moment I decided to take charge of my health.

Here’s my weight loss journey: 

increase activity

The first thing I did was to start walking. I didn’t have any sneakers so I just walked in casual pants and skate shoes. I was so self-conscious, I would walk around the block at night so less people would see me. But it was a start. I only walked for 30 minutes or so and used the time to call family or friends. It was an easy change to incorporate into my day and I always felt good afterwards.

limiting alcohol

I realised my backpacking habit of drinking beer almost daily wasn’t the best for my health. I liked having a drink while cooking dinner and I often had a second one with my meal. A beer felt like a good reward after a busy day at university, work or doing assignments. I decided to replace my drink with a diet, non-alcoholic ginger beer that came in a similar shaped bottle. I realised my habit had little to do with beer itself, but more about having something cold to drink while cooking. Over time, I phased out my weeknight dinnertime drink routine. Just by walking and reducing alcohol, my clothes got a little baggy and people started commenting that I’d lost weight.

regular exercise

I’d made some small lifestyle changes and felt an improvement, but the most profound change was joining a gym. A franchise gym had a stall at a university Open Day and I approached a staff member for some information. They didn’t take me very seriously, probably assuming an overweight person wasn’t serious about their health. But they took my phone number and arranged for someone to call me. 

I toured the gym a few weeks later and took a complimentary class. The workout I tried was BodyBalance, which is a mix of tai chi, yoga and Pilates. I immediately loved it, except for the sun salutation routines which were very challenging. I told a friend I almost felt high after the class! I was still reluctant to sign a contract as it was for 12 months, around $30 a fortnight and I was on a tight student budget. I asked my mum for her advice and she told me you can’t put a price on your health. 

I joined the gym and never looked back. I kept doing BodyBalance before exploring other classes like the weights focused BodyPump, and boxing class BodyCombat. I stayed in the back row and was terribly unfit, but determined. The group fitness format worked for me as there were regular, scheduled classes and you could have the expertise of a qualified professional without the personal trainer price tag. I also realised I didn’t hate exercise, I just disliked team sports. A big milestone was buying my first pair of sneakers.

vegetarian

After a year of regular exercise, I’d lost around 8kg or nearly 10% of my body weight. My clothes were looser and I loved the feeling of buying new ones in smaller sizes. Friends and family were so supportive and positive about my weight loss, it was a huge confidence boost. I still partied and drank a lot, but exercising a couple of times a week made a noticeable difference. 

I decided to go vegetarian, not to lose weight but for taste preferences. I already disliked chicken and pork, and when travelling I often went vegetarian to avoid mistakingly eating them. A vegetarian diet alone isn’t the answer to weight loss, however it can make you lose weight if you cut out convenience foods like burgers and pastries and instead increase your fruit and vegetable intake. For me, switching to a vegetarian diet sparked the beginning of my interest in health and nutrition. 

professional advice

After two years, my fitness levels had drastically improved. I was going to the gym three times a week and doing a mix of cardio, weights and flexibility training. My skin had less breakouts, and I felt stronger and much more confident. I hadn’t seen a doctor since a compulsory medical check up for travelling a few years earlier, so I decided to visit a naturopath a friend had recommended.

I was still overweight so I was nervous about seeing a health professional. However, my naturopath at Essential Health was welcoming, positive and provided lots of helpful nutrition tips. He suggested switching my regular breakfast of toast or a bagel to rolled oats, eating a square of 85% dark chocolate each day for iron and antioxidants, and gave me recipes for healthy snacks like zucchini fritters. I’d been raised in the low-fat diet era where nuts were forbidden, but my naturopath told me about the health benefits of nuts and seeds. He did some tests, including body composition analysis and a blood test. I got a print out of all the data and was fascinated by the numbers. I could track my progress! 

improving diet

Visiting a naturopath changed how I thought about food. It was 2008, and trends like #cleaneating and #rawdesserts weren’t around (neither was Instagram, in fact the first iPhone had only been released a year earlier). I was studying and working a few jobs, often finishing at midnight or later. I occasionally grabbed cheap takeaway when I finished late, but this became less and less as I discovered more meals on the go that didn’t need a refrigerator. I baked healthy banana muffins, often carried a small tin of baked beans and sometimes I just made a peanut butter sandwich. I made my own budget trail mix with sunflower seeds and raisins too. Eventually fast food was gone from my diet. I also cut out the teaspoon of sugar I’d been putting in tea each morning. I didn’t miss it.

running

By now, it was 2009 and I’d lost around 20kg (44 lbs) to weigh 72kg (158 lbs). The difference was extraordinary. I could buy regular sized clothes, and I’d often try something on to realise I could wear the next size down. At one point, I took a pile of my old clothes to a local alterations store and asked them to take everything in. They did the whole lot for $100. I finally felt normal, and it felt so good – especially when I went out to bars and clubs. But I wasn’t done yet. 

The more exercise I did, the more energy it gave me. I could lift heavier weights, kick higher and jog for longer. I tried some new classes to keep challenging myself. I tried a dance class and hated it. But I tried BodyAttack and loved it! Jumping jacks, sprints, grapevines, lunges and burpees – it was extremely difficult but I liked the new challenge. Around this time I started running too. You can read more in my post Learn to Run, but essentially I began by walking and jogging for small intervals before working up to a 3.5km (2.17mi) run. I now do 10K (6mi) weekly. 

 2006 to 2014: the difference between more than 90kg and approaching 60kg. 
2006 to 2014: the difference between more than 90kg and approaching 60kg. 

living in the USA

By the time I moved to the USA to study in 2010, exercise was a non-negotiable part of my life. I weighed just under 70kg (154 lbs) and was incredibly proud of what I’d achieved. My college had a mandatory meal plan for international students and I was determined not to sabotage my weight loss. The dining hall was surprisingly healthy, with plenty of salads, fruit and vegetables and a dedicated vegan section, and all foods had nutrition information next to them. I still loved bagels, but limited them to twice a week. 

I joined the college gym and made friends through the group fitness classes. I even signed up to do a 5K run for Thanksgiving, the longest distance I’d ever attempted! The school also had a dietician who I visited each month to track my progress. Incredibly, I lost weight while living in the USA despite eating pumpkin pie, a lot of Mexican food and partying hard. 

returning home

I returned to Australia in 2011 weighing 66kg (145 lbs). The fact I can remember this number six years on shows how seriously I was taking my weight loss. I should have been proud but I was determined to get below 65kg. What followed in was injury, isolation and illness. You can read the next post here: The Dangers of Overtraining

 2015: Loving cycling through New York City's Central Park.
2015: Loving cycling through New York City’s Central Park.

me today

For now, I’m a self-confessed gym junkie. Exercise is a crucial part of my life and I run, cycle, do weights, BodyAttack or yoga six days a week. I don’t have a car so I also walk at least 3km (1.8mi) daily. I love that I can run for the bus without losing my breath. 

My weight hovers around 60kg but it quickly creeps up if I don’t watch what I eat. I still love food, but I have wholegrains like rolled oats for breakfast, big salads or soups for lunch and my dinner is usually a stir fry, curry or healthy Mexican. I love making lasagne with layers of roasted eggplant and zucchini. It’s all about the vegetables! Take away and dining out is usually Japanese, Thai or Indian, and on the rare occasion I feel like sweets – it’s homemade healthy cookies, apple pie, chocolate pudding or luscious fresh fruit like berries or pineapple. I’m still a peanut butter addict and I continue to eat a square of dark chocolate every day. 

There are no shortcuts in losing weight. You don’t need to spend a lot of money or make drastic changes, but it does take discipline, commitment and a lot of work. For me, losing weight has given me the freedom to go to the beach or a pool party without feeling self-conscious. Everything from walking uphill to carrying groceries is so much easier. I didn’t realise what a burden my excess weight was until it was gone.

My weight loss journey isn’t over as I want to get leaner, but that means losing body fat and increasing muscle mass rather than reducing overall body weight. I also want to start trail running, do a half marathon and I’m tempted to try a triathlon too, although I haven’t swum laps since school! Good health doesn’t have an age limit and I’m proud to enter my 30s knowing I’m doing all I can for a healthy lifetime ahead.

QUESTION: What health or fitness achievement are you most proud of?

Cinque Terre’s Hiking Trails in Detail

I’ve shared My Guide to Cinque Terre and my Tips for Hiking in the region, but the final post in this series covers exactly where my boyfriend and I trekked over three days. We were staying in Monterosso, the biggest of Cinque Terre’s five villages, and our approach was to start with easier hikes and finish with a full day trek. This was both to ease into hiking after three weeks of holiday indulgence as well as familiarise ourselves with the terrain, signage and how accurate estimated times were. 

We did four hikes in three days and each one was impressive but in different ways. They were:

  • Day One: Monterosso to Vernazza
  • Day Two: Vernazza to Corniglia, then Riomaggiore to Manarola
  • Day Three: Riomaggiore to Portovenere, via Pass of Telegrafo and Campiglia.

 

I recommend reading my Tips for Hiking Cinque Terre for an overview of the different trails (Blue Path versus High Path), along with general advice on what to wear and what to pack. As I’ve said in earlier posts, my boyfriend and I are two active people in our early 30s and didn’t do any training for these hikes. We do occasional leisure hikes around our home city, but nothing wild. There were easy sections and challenges in Cinque Terre, but nothing was impossible. 

Here’s what we did: 

Day One

Monterosso to Vernazza

  • Time: 2 hours (moderate pace but stopping for photos)
  • Distance: 3.5km (2.2mi)
  • Difficulty: The easiest you’ll find, but there are still steps! 
  • Path name: Blue Path, 2d.

This is the most popular with tourists and for good reason: the coastal views are stunning, the track is obvious and it connects two beautiful villages. We started in Monterosso, simply because it’s where we were staying. The path begins at the base of Old Town, just a minute or two from the waterfront.

 Monterosso: the view from the trail to Vernazza after 10 minutes or so. 
Monterosso: the view from the trail to Vernazza after 10 minutes or so. 

Going from Monterosso towards Vernazza, your hike begins with a steep staircase but it only takes five or 10 minutes. It’s a good warm up! You’ll get your first ‘wow’ moment soon after, looking back at Monterosso.

 Monterosso: viewed early on from trail to Vernazza.
Monterosso: viewed early on from trail to Vernazza.

There’ll be some flat sections and you’ll reach a checkpoint, where you can buy a one or two day trekking pass (€7.50/€14.50 adult), with an optional train pass. I suggest buying a one day, hiking only pass as this path was the only one with checkpoints. Payment is cash only and you definitely don’t want to go back down that initial staircase! 

The trail continues to hug the coastline and there are plenty of photo opportunities. This is the busiest path, so you may have to go slow or wait at times. Occasionally we got a section to ourselves for a few minutes. Continuing towards Vernazza, you’ll encounter more steps but none of them last too long. After about 90 minutes, you’ll get your first glimpse of your destination. Seeing a town for the first time is the most magical moment in Cinque Terre! 

 Vernazza: our first glimpse of the villge on the trail from Monterosso. 
Vernazza: our first glimpse of the villge on the trail from Monterosso. 

We continued towards Vernazza and encountered loose rock and mud. I was grateful I was wearing good quality sneakers. We passed the Vernazza checkpoint and arrived in the village about noon. My legs were a little jelly as we descended into the town centre, but I felt okay. There wasn’t any signage pointing to the main square, but we just followed our instincts through the narrow laneways in between tall buildings. We grabbed lunch at the perilously perched Al Castello and would’ve hiked again that afternoon if it hadn’t rained heavily an hour later. Instead, we chatted with an American couple as we finished our wine, enjoyed limoncello and explored the town. 

When in town

Check out Vernazza’s castle for a unique view of the coastline. Relax on rocks by the pier, eat gelato (ask for ‘senza latte’ if you want dairy-free options) or fuel up at any of the restaurants around the harbour or higher up. Read more in My Guide to Cinque Terre

Getting there/back

There’s a train station in both Monterosso and Vernazza, with the fare only €4 to or from any other village in Cinque Terre. Trains are fast, just five minutes between each town and fairly frequent (every 20 minutes or so). Alternatively, you could turn around and just walk back or catch the ferry (see ‘resources’ below).  

Day Two

Vernazza to Corniglia

  • Time: 2 hours
  • Distance: 3.2km (2mi)
  • Difficulty: Still easy, but slightly harder than Monterosso to Vernazza due to longer ascents.
  • Path name: Blue Path, 2c. 

We caught the train to Vernazza to start this hike around 9am but realised we didn’t know exactly where the trail started. Thankfully there was a map at the station which pointed us in the right direction (which was away from the town centre). We walked up the main road past the post office and soon saw the iconic red and white symbol painted on a wall, letting us know we were on the right path.

My legs were resisting the steps, even though the path was just gently winding upwards through people’s backyards. After 5 or 10 minutes we reached a cafe we’d seen the day before from Vernazza’s castle. You could stop here for a picturesque breakfast but we’d hardly earned a break so early on. 

 Vernazza: the trail roughy follows the power line before going into the forest (top right). 
Vernazza: the trail roughy follows the power line before going into the forest (top right). 
 Vernazza to Corniglia: an easy and pretty section. 
Vernazza to Corniglia: an easy and pretty section. 

Soon we were surrounded by forest instead of coastal views, still making our way up. There were some awkward stone staircases, sometimes steep, sometimes uneven and often both – but you just have to keep going. At one point it was my turn to carry the backpack “for this hill” but my boyfriend and I kept laughing as we’d finish one section, go around the corner and realise another round of steps awaited us. I carried that sweaty bag uphill for at least 20 minutes! Only twice did I see people give up and turn around, which I don’t understand as you can go slow or rest at any time.

What I liked about this trail was that it was less busy than Monterosso to Vernazza. There were still congestion points, but we more regularly had the path to ourselves. That said, more of the trail is set back from the sea so there are less coastal views. 

The last quarter of the path is a gentle descent into Corniglia and we were lucky to have a man playing accordion as we approached the town. The sound carried through the trail and while it was totally for tourists, I loved it. Trek two completed! 

When in town

Corniglia is the smallest of Cinque Terre’s villages but you’ll still find a range of lunch options. We were famished and walked past several restaurants before finding Bar Terza Terra, which had endless views of the dramatic coastline! I almost felt like I was in Greece. 

Getting there/back

I’ve said this my two previous Cinque Terre posts but it’s worth repeating. Corniglia is on top of a hill and its train station is at the bottom. There’s a long set of cement stairs, and going down took us about 10 minutes. I did see a sign for a shuttle bus at the bottom with a few people waiting, but it was unclear whether this was a public or private service. Corniglia is also the only town not serviced by the ferry, as it’s on top of a hill.  

Riomaggiore to Manarolo

  • Time: 50 minutes
  • Distance: 1.35km (0.8mi)
  • Difficulty: Intense but short. You’ll climb non-stop, steep steps for 25 minutes and then go down the other side.
  • Path name: 531.

With the Blue Path closed between Corniglia and Manarola until 2019, we looked at alternate routes. We chose a one hour, intense hike figuring that like the other trails, we were moderately fit and could stop rest or go slower at any time if needed. 

Fuelled by a few Aperol Spritzes and foccacia, we caught the train from Corniglia to Riomaggiore to begin our second walk of the day. There were others doing the same hike so we just followed the path but soon saw our steep ascent. You are literally walking directly up and over a mountain! Maybe it’s just a big hill. Either way, it’s steep.

 Riomaggiore: our destination was clearly marked, along with the iconic red and white paint which marks the trail. 
Riomaggiore: our destination was clearly marked, along with the iconic red and white paint which marks the trail. 

As our research had warned, you walk up steps non-stop for 30 minutes. They’re uneven and many were so high, I was practically lifting my knee to my chin to climb up them! I’m 163cm (5′ 3″) but it was easier for my boyfriend. 

 Riomaggiore: can you see the hikers? Click to enlarge!
Riomaggiore: can you see the hikers? Click to enlarge!
 Riomaggiore: the steps close up. 
Riomaggiore: the steps close up. 

It was on this path I told myself that pain quickly gives way to numbness and it’s true. My quads were tired but we kept going. After 25 minutes, we were at the peak! It was a great feeling and we were rewarded with the below view of Riogmaggiore.

 Riomaggiore: looking at the town on our intense, 50 minute hike to Manarola. 
Riomaggiore: looking at the town on our intense, 50 minute hike to Manarola. 
 Corniglia: approaching on descent from Riomaggiore.
Corniglia: approaching on descent from Riomaggiore.

Going downhill was easier but still not easy. The steps were still uneven, but with much more loose rock. Occasionally my boyfriend would help by holding my hand, and I helped a few hikers going uphill too. I felt going from Riomaggiore towards Manarola rather than Manarola to Riomaggiore was a wise choice, as there was a lot of downhill rubble. We got closer to Manarola and the scenery went from backyards to buildings. We’d reached our destination! As usual, we headed towards the waterfront and grabbed a cocktail.  

When in town

Put Nessun Dorma at the top of your list! This outdoor cafe is perfectly placed to admire Manarola all day long. Food and drink prices are also very reasonable given the view. A few people were swimming at the waterfront, although it’s entirely rock. For those who are lactose-intolerant, I found a small store by the train station selling soy milk. 

 Nessun Dorma: the perfect place in Manarola for post-hike cocktails with a view! 
Nessun Dorma: the perfect place in Manarola for post-hike cocktails with a view! 

Getting there/back

You can easily reach both Riomaggiore and Manarola by the regionale train (€4) or by ferry. See ‘resources’ below for links to timetables. 

Day Three 

Riomaggiore to Portovenere

  • Time: 4.5 hours (not including our 1 hour lunch break)
  • Distance: 12 km (7.45mi)
  • Difficulty: Moderate. The path isn’t always clear, and I scaled a few boulders. 
  • Path names: 593V (ex. 3a). Riomaggiore – Pass of Telegrafo & 1/a Pass of Telegrafo – Portovenere

My boyfriend and I wanted to end our three days of hiking in Cinque Terre with a big one. We’d read reviews from other hikers and travel websites, and chose to do Riomaggiore to Portovenere. It would take us along more of the Ligurian coastline and beyond Cinque Terre, and we could enjoy an hour-long ferry ride back to Monterosso. We allowed six hours for the hike, as the last ferry left Portovenere at 5pm but we wanted a few hours to explore the town beforehand. If we missed the ferry, we’d need to catch a bus to La Spezia and then a train to Monterosso. We set off at 9am at a steady pace. 

Riomaggiore – Pass of Telegrafo

We arrived in Riomaggiore by train and looked for the red and white painted symbol. There are a few trails out of the town centre, so it’s important to get the right one. The Cinque Terre hiking app was really helpful, as was an elderly Italian woman who pointed up at a huge staircase and said “Portovenere.”

Whether it was my exhausted quads, mild hunger or the deadline of the last ferry, I didn’t enjoy this section. It was the first time in three days the trek felt like a chore, despite being so privileged for what we were experiencing. My boyfriend and I walked up steps, more steps, crossed a road and saw cars for the first time in three days, and then went up more steps. My legs were crying out for relief.

After about 45 minutes, we reached the Sanctuary of Montenero. Other hikers were resting but we didn’t stop. I didn’t feel the view or ordinary building was photo worthy either. I had a granola bar and my spirits lifted as the path went from steep steps to an even, but still ascending trail. 

We reached a large tour group about 15 minutes later but there was no room for overtaking as there were vineyards and shrubs on both sides of the narrow path. It turns out they’d missed a turn off and they turned around anyway. A little further on, our path became a paved road and we continued the uphill walk. We didn’t see another soul. 

 Riomaggiore to Portovenere: the path around Pass of Telegrafo, about 90 minutes before Campiglia. Easy! 
Riomaggiore to Portovenere: the path around Pass of Telegrafo, about 90 minutes before Campiglia. Easy! 
 Around Pass de Telegrafo: we were on track! 
Around Pass de Telegrafo: we were on track! 

After about 90 minutes into our hike, I finally got the relief I’d wanted. A beautiful wide, flat path where we simply walked in the forest. Mindful we needed to catch the last ferry, our pace quickened and I almost began trail running because my legs were so liberated! We reached the Pass of Telegrafo (marked only by a sign and cafe) and felt a sense of achievement. But on we hiked! We passed a military exercise area too.

Pass of Telegrafo – Campiglia – Portovenere

As much as we wanted to hike Cinque Terre, my boyfriend and I didn’t want to miss the chance to see a new town either. Campiglia is a bit over than halfway between Riomaggiore and Portovenere so it was a natural stopping point for lunch. Our goal was to get there by 12.30pm and break for an hour maximum. We continued on the forest path before beginning our descent into the town.

 La Spezia surrounds: as viewed from the path into Campiglia. 
La Spezia surrounds: as viewed from the path into Campiglia. 

You’ll get your first glimpse of greater La Spezia on the left as you approach Campiglia. There are a few picnic benches and we saw a couple in hiking gear taking foccacias out of their bags to enjoy the view. We weren’t that organised. We continued into Campiglia and saw an open air restaurant, but staff were sitting outside smoking and didn’t look enthusiastic. I’d read about Campiglia’s oldest restaurant La Lampara, which had opened in the 1800s. I soon saw a sign for it. 

 La Lampara: Campiglia's oldest restaurant, which apparently opened in the 1800s. 
La Lampara: Campiglia’s oldest restaurant, which apparently opened in the 1800s. 

The venue was empty, silent and straight out of the 1980s. An older man wearing a full suit appeared us and showed us to a table inside. I apologised for our hiking attire and sweaty appearance. My boyfriend ordered the saffron gnocchi and a beer, while I ordered the fish (view the menu here). Bread quickly arrived and about 15 minutes later, a whole fish was placed before me! Our waiter offered to fillet it and he took four to five minutes to painstakingly but skillfully debone the fish with just a fork and spoon. It was art in motion. We ate our food in the silent venue and took in the view. After using the restrooms and applying more suncream, we continued our trek. 

As we left Campiglia, the open air restaurant we’d seen earlier was now bustling with diners and further along the path was a venue with hammocks and bean bags, possibly a beer garden. I slightly regretted our lunch choice but also felt we’d had an authentic, if not bizarre, experience. 

 Approaching Portovenere: the path becomes part dirt, part rock along the mountain ridge.
Approaching Portovenere: the path becomes part dirt, part rock along the mountain ridge.
 Approaching Portovenere: what scenery! 
Approaching Portovenere: what scenery! 

The next section became coastal and rocky. A magical moment was when we reached a lookout, seeing what I think was the island of Palmaria. We stopped and chatted with a group of Norweigan hikers and they were kind enough to take our photograph! I think the selfie best captures how happy we were though. 

The path will then take you back in the woods, where you’ll see La Spezia again. This time, the view is much less obstructed than the one from Campiglia. You’ll continue slightly downhill, seeing rocky ruins that may have been homes or shelters, and then it’s the home stretch. I was shocked and thrilled to suddenly see a castle! 

 La Spezia: the biggest town we'd seen during our four day stay in Cinque Terre. 
La Spezia: the biggest town we’d seen during our four day stay in Cinque Terre. 
 Portovenere: I didn't expect to see a castle in Italy! 
Portovenere: I didn’t expect to see a castle in Italy! 
 Portovenere: looking over the town from the trail.
Portovenere: looking over the town from the trail.

We were ecstatic once we reached the outskirts of Portovenere, although after three days my toes were starting to hurt in my sneakers. We navigated our way down the rocks and found a path alongside the castle. The downward steps were an awkward height and length, but after five or 10 minutes we were spat into the centre of Portovenere. We high fived each other and were so proud that we’d finished, hadn’t gotten lost, and we had 90 minutes before the final ferry left! We bought our ferry tickets back to Monterosso, and then walked to the waterfront to grab a cocktail. 

When in town

I was struck by how touristy and developed Portovenere seemed to Cinque Terre’s villages. The crowd was much older and I suspect the town is popular with cruises and day trippers. Portovenere is much flatter and better paved than Cinque Terre, so it’s probably more attractive to less mobile visitors. 

 Portovenere: the waterfront area with plenty of outdoor dining and shopping options. 
Portovenere: the waterfront area with plenty of outdoor dining and shopping options. 

We chose Bar Gelataria Doria for its prime waterfront location. Our waiter was grumpy and birds tried to eat our snacks, but for €24 we had two Aperol spritzes each and complimentary chips and nuts. If we’d had more time, I would’ve toured the castle and walked the entire waterfront. You can also catch a ferry to three nearby islands, which along with Cinque Terre and Portovenere, are UNESCO Heritage Listed. 

 Portovenere: waterfront near the ferry area. 
Portovenere: waterfront near the ferry area. 
 Portovenere: not my usual post-workout recovery! 
Portovenere: not my usual post-workout recovery! 

Getting there/back

There’s no train station in Portovenere, hence our need to catch the ferry back to Monterosso (€18). You can buy tickets from a booth at ferry. Alternatively, buses run between Portovenere and La Spezia (30 minutes) and then you can catch a train to Monterosso (22 minutes). You can plan your journey with Google Maps, but remember Italian trains are often delayed. 

Resources

I highly recommend the website In Cinque Terre for a detailed description of all routes in the area along with trail statuses. We found the estimated hiking times more or less correct too.

Download the smartphone app Trails of Cinque Terre (AU$4.49) if you attempt the Riomaggiore to Portovenere route. It uses GPS to track and guide your journey, and is helpful at points where you wonder if you took the correct path or have missed a turn off. 

For general information such as what to wear, what to pack and just how much your legs will hurt, check out my Tips for Hiking Cinque Terre. As for where to stay, language tips and how to get to the region, there’s My Guide to Cinque Terre

You can view the train timetable here or click here for the ferry timetable. 

 Portovenere: the castle viewed from the ferry back to Monterosso. Incredible! 
Portovenere: the castle viewed from the ferry back to Monterosso. Incredible! 

on reflection

My boyfriend and I left Cinque Terre feeling lucky to have explored such an unspoilt part of the world. The feeling of reaching a lookout or town after hours of walking is magical, and we had several moments where we stood in awe of the spectacular scenery. While Monterosso to Vernazza is stunning, hiking from Riomaggiore to Portovenere was especially rewarding as it was longer, more physical and far less crowded. Our legs shuddered on staircases for days afterwards (I’m looking at you, Florence!), but nothing was unbearable. 

If you have the chance, hike Cinque Terre at least once in your lifetime. It’s perfect for anyone seeking an active holiday, looking to jump start a fitness program or just wanting to explore nature among quaint, coastal villages. Next, my boyfriend and I head to China and we have plenty of hikes planned! Just 40 days until we fly. 

QUESTION: Have you hiked Cinque Terre? What was your favourite trail? 

7 Post-Workout Rewards (That Aren’t Food)

What’s the first thing you do after a big workout? I usually exercise in the morning on an empty stomach so my first priority is breakfast. I love a big bowl of oatmeal and a cup of Earl Grey. After a weekend sweat session, I upgrade to avocado, wholegrain toast and beans. Better yet, I’ll go to one of my favourite cafes and have a long, leisurely brunch. A shower is second on the list. 

While I absolutely believe in refuelling after exercise, I’m trying to broaden my post-workout rewards beyond breakfast. Don’t get me wrong – I’ll run 10K for a bagel and demolish an Acai bowl after BodyAttack. But I wanted to find more ways to nourish my body, without in turn hurting my wallet.

Here’s what I’ve discovered: 

1. Treat Your Feet

 Foot soak: budget-friendly and effective! 
Foot soak: budget-friendly and effective! 

Taking your sneakers off after a workout is a great feeling. Looking at your feet may not be so great. Every few weeks, I’ll soak my feet for an hour while I work on my blog or read a magazine. It helps relieve tension, soothes dry skin and best of all, it’s relaxing! My favourite product is The Body Shop’s Peppermint Foot Fizzies*, which is made from effervescent salts and has a gorgeous cooling effect.

Here are some other ideas, depending on your budget: 

  • Save: Soak your feet in hot water. Add epsom salts, essential oils or a bath bomb.
  • Spend: Sephora’s Foot Masque ($6) comes in single-use socks you wear for 20 minutes. The Almond (Comforting & Repairing) formula is softening and has a nice, nutty smell. 
  • Splurge: My favourite treat for my feet – get a pedicure! 

*Unfortunately when researching this post, I discovered The Body Shop has discontinued its Foot Fizzies. They were $2.95 for a two-pack, so I used to buy in bulk.

2. Hit the Beach

Whether you’re covered in sweat or want a relaxing afternoon, hitting the beach is always a treat. I live 10 kilometres from the coast and conveniently, that’s my current running distance. The route has some serious hills but I’m re-energised when I get my first glimpse of the ocean. A post-workout swim is super refreshing, but you could also cool down with a barefoot stroll in the sand. If you’ve been at the gym, why not grab a towel and stretch by the beach on the way home?

Best of all, the beach doesn’t cost a thing (except maybe parking). 

 The beach: perfect for a post-workout swim, stroll or stretch.
The beach: perfect for a post-workout swim, stroll or stretch.

3. restorative/yin yoga

 Yoga: thank your body by moving slowly & stretching.
Yoga: thank your body by moving slowly & stretching.

Taking a yoga class might sound like more exercise but hear me out. I used to treat yoga like a workout, pushing my body to the limits to try build strength and burn as many calories as I could. But then, guided by various teachers, I realised yoga was a chance to listen to my body. What’s tight? Where are the aches? How can I release that tension?

Changing my approach from cardio to kindness helped me identify problem areas and most of all, learn to slow down. I do an hour class straight after my workouts a few times a week. It really helps with recovery and feels like a luxury in today’s busy world. Read my post on Your First Yoga Class if you need. 

  • Save: Do yoga at home. My favourite app is Pocket Yoga, where you can choose from three styles and 30, 45 or 60 minute sessions.
  • Spend: Head to a dedicated yoga studio. I love MindBody to search and book nearby classes.
  • Splurge: Go to a yoga workshop or a weekend retreat. 
 Coconut water: one of my favourite post-workout rewards.
Coconut water: one of my favourite post-workout rewards.

4. Coconut water

Technically this is a drink, not food, so I’m putting it on the list. Coconut water is my favourite way to hydrate after a long run and perhaps because it’s so lusciously tropical, it totally feels like a treat. Bonus: a 250ml (8.5 oz.) carton only has around 60 calories!

  • Save: Grab a one litre carton from the supermarket ($4-6) and enjoy all week.
  • Splurge: Buy a fresh coconut from the supermarket or Asian grocery store. Put in a fancy straw and savour the electrolytes. 

5. Massage

This is my ultimate post-workout reward. I recently had a massage booked for a Thursday night and all week, I trained SO hard. It felt amazing! But you don’t need a masseuse or lots of cash to enjoy a massage. A good friend or partner and essential oils will do the trick. Other ideas include: 

  • Save: Give yourself a massage. Try Lush Cosmetics Wiccy Magic Muscles ($14.95) which heats up the area you apply it to.
  • Spend: Get a remedial or sports massage. If you have private health cover, you may be able to claim a rebate. I got a 30 minute massage this week and only paid $10.
  • Splurge: Hit a day spa. If you’re in Perth, I’ve had excellent massages at Keturah Day Spa (multiple locations) and Crown Spa (Burswood).
     Lush Cosmetics massage bars: affordable, natural and they smell amazing!
    Lush Cosmetics massage bars: affordable, natural and they smell amazing!

    6. fresh flowers

     Fresh flowers: they make me smile all week!
    Fresh flowers: they make me smile all week!

    This won’t directly benefit your aching quads or hamstrings. But occasionally I go to a gym which is close to several florists. I love buying a fresh bunch of flowers on the way home! Maybe you prefer magazines, visiting a farmer’s market or heading to a craft store. Pick up something after your workout that will make you smile later in the week. 

    and finally…

    7. sleep

    It’s a sad reflection of modern life, but sleep and rest are a precious commodity. After five days of alarms going off to hit the gym at dawn, knowing I can sleep in the next day is one of the best rewards I can get.  

    QUESTION: What’s your favourite post-workout reward? 

    Your First BodyPump Class

    A 100th birthday is a rare and special occasion. New Zealand fitness giant Les Mills recently celebrated 100 BodyPump releases, which translates to 20 years of weights, sweat and, in the early days at least, Lycra. In an era where fitness crazes come and go, it’s quite an achievement. 

    Pump, as it’s more commonly known, is one of the first group fitness classes I tried. It was my first time using weights and I instantly liked how strong I felt. Combined with moves like squats, lunges and push ups, it was the start of my fitness transformation. Nearly a decade on, I’m leaner, lifting more and still loving it. Depending on my schedule, I try do two to three Pump classes a week.

    Weight training (also called resistance or strength training) is great for strengthening and toning muscles. It helps protect your joints from injury and aids weight management, as when you gain more muscle your body burns more calories when resting. Weight training improves bone density, increases stamina and I find it boosts my self esteem too. If you’re worried Pump will turn you into The Hulk – don’t be. The focus is on lots of repetitions with light weights, rather than short sets of heavy weights, to build lean muscle mass. 

    Class Overview

    Have an extra weight or two to use as free or “hand” weights.

    BodyPump runs for 60 minutes, although there are 45 and 30 minute express versions too. You’ll do a warm up, then eight tracks of about five minutes each focussing on a specific muscle group before a cool down. The music is a mix of cover songs, usually pop, dance, some R&B and rock.

    The tracks (in order) are squats, chest, back (clean and press), triceps, biceps, lunges, shoulders and abs. Most of the work happens in the first half where you’ll work bigger muscle groups but at the three quarter mark, the lunges track is never easy!

    Les Mills is built on pre-choreographed workouts and they’re taught worldwide. This means you can go to any gym offering BodyPump while the music and moves will differ slightly, the workout is essentially the same. You make it harder by increasing your weights and improving your technique, such as going lower in squats, engaging your core in crunches and so on. It’s great for anyone with injuries, as it’s low impact and you can modify the weights to suit your ability.

    1. Before you leave home

    This could well be a rule for every workout, but do NOT moisturise your hands! You’ll be lifting your arms a lot too, so have a peek at your underarms. There’s no need for any special food or hydration before a class unless that’s part of your routine. Pump is one of the few workouts I can actually eat up to 30 minutes beforehand and be okay (some fruit or crackers, not a burger!).

    2. What to wear

    The dress code is pretty relaxed. Pants are good if you’re self-conscious, as you’ll probably do wide-legged squats and crunches. My Pump shorts debut was unintentional on a laundry day years ago, and seeing my pale, unshaved thighs in the mirror for the entire five minute squat track was confronting. But I’m fine with shorts now! Wear sneakers but know that you won’t be jumping or running. Some people wear gloves for Pump, but it’s not necessary for your first class. 

    3. On arrival

    BodyPump is offered at thousands of gyms. If you already belong to a club, great! If you’re joining a friend or visiting the gym on a casual pass, allow 10 minutes for paperwork and putting your bag in a locker if you need.

    Pump involves a bit of set up, so give yourself five minutes for this too. Start by introducing yourself to the instructor, who should give you some tips and point you to a bar, weights and step. If you’re running late or the instructor isn’t there, grab what people in the front rows have (because they’re the hardcore Pumpers). If you’ve never done weights, you can do an entire class with just the smallest plates. If you’re familiar with weight training, I’d suggest keeping it light as well because you’ll be doing a LOT of reps. 

    Where should you set up? While it’s tempting to hide in the back row, you’ll struggle to see the instructor on stage and more importantly, it’s harder for them to see you. Again, stand behind those fit looking people in the front rows. 

    4. Equipment

    As mentioned, there’s a bit of gear in Pump. You’ll need:

    • A bar: with clips, to keep the weight plates on. The bars aren’t heavy, but you can use them without weights if needed too. 
    • Step/risers: you’ll lay on this for the chest track, possibly triceps and abs.
    • Weights: get a few different sized pairs, as you’ll likely used loose plates in your hands during triceps, shoulders and possible abs. 
    • Mat: put this on top of your step to lay on during the chest track, otherwise it’s handy for push ups on your knees or crunches. 

    Like any workout, bring a towel and water bottle. You can find my favourites in My Must-Have Gym Gear

     My favourite gym gear: a Camelbak waterbottle, Lululemon hat, backpack & towel and a foam roller.
    My favourite gym gear: a Camelbak waterbottle, Lululemon hat, backpack & towel and a foam roller.

    5. Terminology

    A new workout, a new language right? Here are some common phrases you’ll hear during a class. Remember to watch your instructor to get visual cues as well.

    • New release: this refers to a fresh quarterly mix from Les Mills. It’s a great time to start Pump as everyone else will be learning it too. 
    • “Mixing”: the instructor is using old and new tracks after teaching the new release for a month. 
    • There’s a whole dialect around timing, which is eight counts. Specifically:
      • Slow: lower the weight for four counts, then up for four counts.
      • 2 and 2: two counts down, two counts up.
      • Singles: one count each direction. 
      • Bottom-half: Single time as above, but reduced range. Think of doing a squat, only coming half way up and then doing another squat. Yes. ouch. 
      • Pulse/”double time”: Fast, intense, micro moves. Common in push-ups, biceps curls and triceps.

    There’s lots of lingo around moves too, such as planks, hovers, kickbacks, flies, dips and power presses. Don’t worry about it for now. Watch the instructor and you’ll be fluent in no time! 

    6. The day after Pump & beyond

     BodyPump: 1.25kg, 2.5kg & 5kg weights.
    BodyPump: 1.25kg, 2.5kg & 5kg weights.

    You WILL be sore. It might be your butt, maybe it’ll be your triceps. You might ache everywhere. The most common “OMG PUMP!” moment is when you sit down to go to the bathroom in the morning. Even if I’m away from Pump for a month because I’ve been travelling, I still feel that first class back! Go for a walk, stretch and you’ll survive. 

    If you enjoyed Pump, go back that same week. It’ll be much easier as you’ll know what to expect and you can focus on technique, before gradually increasing your weights. You want to reach the end of each track feeling like one more rep would be impossible. Fatiguing those muscles makes them grow baby! 

    Les Mills recommends doing no more than two to three Pump classes a week, which I think is a realistic target. Any more than that and the music and workouts could become repetitive. I love following Pump with yoga afterwards – the strength and stretch combination is heavenly! Once you’ve been doing Pump a few times each week for a month or so, give yourself a high five. You’re a Pumper! Increase those weights, buy those gloves if you want and go claim your place in the front row.

    QUESTION: Do you prefer freestyle workouts or pre-choreographed ones? 

    Your First Yoga Class

    We’ve all been the new kid at school. You don’t know anyone, the room is unfamiliar and it’s just plain awkward. I can’t rewind the clock and be your classroom buddy, but I can spare you the terror of your first day at a fitness class. This is a post I’ll do on various classes over coming months, and I’m happy to take all requests and suggestions! 

    I’m starting with yoga because it’s something everyone can benefit from and it’s widely available. I practice once or twice a week to stretch my body and relax my mind. There’s nothing holding a one-legged balance pose for 60 seconds to make you be in the moment! I used to treat yoga as a work out and push myself as far as physically I could, but I’ve changed my goals lately to identifying areas of tension and trying to release them. Yoga is also my go-to exercise on holidays, as it’s a perfect way to lengthen my body after a long-haul flight. Joining a class overseas is a unique and fun experience too! Am I selling it?

    Class Overview

    Most yoga classes are 60 minutes, with dimmed lighting and wooden floors. You’ll likely start laying down before warming up with sun salutations (see terminology below), various poses, and ending with five to 10 minutes of ‘shavasna’ (meditation). There are many styles of yoga, which may or may not be specified ahead of time. Gyms tend to have generic yoga which is then determined by the instructor. The main styles are:

     Yoga: do the 'sheer' test and you'll only expose your toes.
    Yoga: do the ‘sheer’ test and you’ll only expose your toes.

    • Ashtanga & Vinyasa: the most vigorous styles. Prepare to get hot and sweaty, with faster moving sequences. 
    • Hatha: this refers to the physical practice of yoga (rather than mental) but typically indicates a classical, more gentle approach.
    • Yin & Restorative: these styles are becoming increasingly popular as people seek deep muscular release and mindfulness. Poses are held for longer, with emphasis on stretching and relaxation. 
    • Bikram: yoga with the heat cranked. 

    In some classes, your teacher will perform ‘adjustments’ and gently guide you into place. If you’re not comfortable with that, just let them know. 

    Ready to take a class? Here are my tips!

    1. Before You Leave Home

    DO NOT MOISTURISE. You need to grip the mat, not have a personal slip and slide! I’ve used a 24 hour moisturiser in the morning and still had my feet slide down my legs in an evening class. 

    Speaking of feet, yoga is a barefoot activity. There’s no need to get a pedicure but you may be less self conscious if your toenails aren’t setting Guinness World Records for length. If you’re prone to foot odour, bring some talcum powder. Do NOT try and hide in socks. You’ll probably slide and hurt yourself, and a good yoga instructor will ask you to remove them anyway. 

    It’s best not to eat at least an hour before class, although I find I can have a raw ball 30 minutes prior without any problems if I’m starving. Bring water and a towel if you’re inclined to get sweaty.

    2. What to Wear

    Stretchy but fitted clothing is best. You can do yoga in a t-shirt and leggings, but remember you’ll be bending over and a loose shirt will slide right over your head. It’s easily solved by tucking your shirt in, unless you wear a cropped shirt like I did once on a laundry day. Never, never again. 

    I recommend doing the ‘sheer’ test before leaving home. Put on your yoga pants, stand with your bottom to a mirror and bend over. Take a look behind you – if you can’t see anything, neither will anyone else in your class. Consider bringing an extra layer for meditation when your body temperature will cool right down. 

    Half the reason I love yoga is because I can wear flip-flops to the gym! 

    3. On arrival

    Whether you do yoga at a studio, beachside or at the gym, chances are you’ll do some paperwork. Arrive 10 minutes early so you have time to put your belongings away and set up/collect your mat. Let the instructor know this is your first class and advise of any injuries or pregnancies, so they can give extra tips and modify any poses. Get a spot somewhere in the middle. Advanced yogis will probably be in the front row so you can follow them, while being close enough to see the instructor. 

     Yoga on holidays: The view when practicing on our balcony in Mexico! 
    Yoga on holidays: The view when practicing on our balcony in Mexico! 

    4. Equipment

    A yoga mat is essential but most places will let you borrow or rent one. If you want to buy a mat, they start from about $30 but I’d wait until you’ve done a few classes. That way, you’ll have a better idea of the thickness and length you prefer.   

    Some teachers will offer blocks to assist with some poses, along with straps for stretching. Grab them at the start, and then you can decide during the class whether to use them. As I’ve mentioned, bring water and a towel if you’re doing the more vigorous styles.

    5. Terminology

    Originating in India, most yoga pose names are in Sanskrit. Don’t worry, I’m not fluent either! Many pose names have been adapted for Western practice. Here are the most common terms you’re likely to hear during your class: 

    • Downward dog: One of the foundation poses in yoga. Hands and feet on the mat at least one metre apart, with your bottom in the air like an upside down “V.” Over time, your heels will touch the ground. 
    • Child’s pose: a resting pose with knees and toes on your mat, chest on your thighs and arms stretched in front. A great option to do anytime during the class. 
    • Sun salutations: a flowing sequence involving downward dog, lunges, some planking, upward dog and mountain poses. Usually repeated at least four times (twice on each leg). 
    • Warrior poses: a set of strengthening poses, with Warrior 1 facing frontwards, Warrior 2 your chest and hips face the side, and Warrior 3 a bit like a one-legged aeroplane. 
    • Shavasana or “corpse pose”: meditation. The cool five minutes at the end where you lay down and relax your mind, letting your body absorb the work you’ve just done. 

    6. The next day & beyond

    Prepare for hamstring hell. Your wrists might be a little sore too. But mostly, you should feel stretched, peaceful and inspired to return! What did you enjoy most? Or what did your body respond to? Google hamstring stretches if you need to. Otherwise, give yourself a high five yogi!

    To find a class near you, check out the Mind Body app. Or to get comfortable in your own home first, give Pocket Yoga a go. 

    QUESTION: What do you love most about yoga? 

    Perth Running Routes

    Runners in Perth are spoilt for choice and climate. With 300 days of sunshine each year and endless paths along the Swan River and coast, there’s little stopping you from grabbing your sneakers and getting sweaty. I run 10K once a week and pick from one of three routes, depending on my mood and energy levels. Having variety in my running ensures I strengthen different muscles so my body can handle hills, grass and pavement but it also reduces the risk of injury through repetition.

    My favourite Perth running spots are all easily accessible from the CBD (and not surprisingly, my apartment). Each of these routes has its perks along with a potential drawback or two. If you’re not a runner, you can walk all of these options or check out my post on Learning to Run

    Here are my top Perth running spots: 

    1.     Kings Park

     Kings Park: you'll get stunning views of the city and Swan River
    Kings Park: you’ll get stunning views of the city and Swan River

    Where’s better to work up a sweat than Perth’s premier park? Located 10 minutes walk (up a very steep hill) from the CBD, Kings Park is a West Australian treasure. Watch the city wake up as you run along Fraser Avenue, or power past picnics at sunset. I’m certain my sweaty face has featured in a few hundred tourists’ photos! The trick with Kings Park is knowing where to run because you want to crush goals, not wildflowers. I love that I can divert to the Kokoda Trail or Jacob’s Ladder for an extra challenge or variety. Download a map if you’re not familiar with the park. 

    • Distance: You can run for as little or as long as you like here. I have routes ranging from 4K-9K, depending on how much time and energy I have. All of them start and end at the city entrance, going along Fraser Avenue and past the State War Memorial. Different landmarks signal where to turn around. 
      • 4K: City entrance to Rotunda 2 and back. An easy run for the time-poor. 
      • 7K: As above, but continue on the Law Walk and turn around at the Dryandra Lookout. Stunning views. 
      • 9K: As above, but continue beyond the Law Walk until you reach May Drive. Endurance required! 
    • Terrain: Don’t be fooled. There are hills in this park, most notably what I’ve dubbed “the butt blaster” after Rotunda 2. My 7K and 9K loops include three hills but whatever goes up, must come down right? Therefore you’ll get some occasional relief. 

     Kings Park: View of Fraser Avenue from city entrance
    Kings Park: View of Fraser Avenue from city entrance

    • Interest: The Swan River views as you run on the Law Walk (parallel to Mounts Bay Road) are simply gorgeous. The path itself is surrounded by trees, shrubs and flowers and once I even saw a bobtail on the trail. 
    • Amenities: There are restrooms and parking at the city entrance near Frasers Restaurant and the Kings Park Café area. There’s a water fountain at Rotunda 2 and all three of my routes are partly shaded, depending on the time of day. I’d still bring a hat!  
    • After your run? Refuel at Mount Street Breakfast Bar or Health Freak Café.

     

    2.     Lake Monger reserve

     Lake Monger: you're guaranteed to spot some wildlife! 
    Lake Monger: you’re guaranteed to spot some wildlife! 

    This spot is an absolute jewel just 10 minutes walk from the heart of Leederville, or a 10 minute drive from Perth’s CBD. The main feature of Lake Monger is, not surprisingly, the huge lake. Back in the day, it used to be an important camping and hunting ground for Aboriginal people. Thanks to land reclamation in the early 1900s, the lake now has water year round and is popular with people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. 

     Lake Monger: lookouts are the perfect place for a warm up, rest or post-run stretch
    Lake Monger: lookouts are the perfect place for a warm up, rest or post-run stretch

    • Distance: The paved loop is exactly 3.5 kilometres with every 500 metres marked in blue paint. If you’re new to running, try running one lap and walking the next. It’s perfect for building distance.
    • Terrain: The route is completely flat, which is ideal for focusing on technique but can become repetitive for your mind or body.
    • Interest: The lake is stunning and seeing swans and other birdlife is a highlight. There’s a one kilometre stretch along the Mitchell Freeway where you can’t see the water which can get tedious, especially if you’re fatiguing. 

     Lake Monger: a mostly shaded, one kilometre strech alongside the Mitchell Freeway
    Lake Monger: a mostly shaded, one kilometre strech alongside the Mitchell Freeway

    • Amenities: There’s a toilet block on the Lake Monger Drive side, and at least three water fountains. Parking is available at two entrances (Powis Street & Lake Monger Drive) and there’s plenty of shade on the one kilometre freeway stretch. Slather on the sunscreen though – you can cook on the rest of the loop.
    • Refuel: at any of Leederville’s sensational eateries! My favourite is NOOD for the ultimate in health foods or Sayers for breakfast classics done beautifully.

     

    3.     Freeway South (perth to canning bridge)

     Freeway South: you'll run across the Narrows Bridge (as viewed from Kings Park)
    Freeway South: you’ll run across the Narrows Bridge (as viewed from Kings Park)

    The name for this route isn’t glamourous, but it’s accurate. The stretch between Perth’s CBD and Canning Bridge is a one I do mostly out of convenience – I want to squeeze in a workout and I need to be at the other location. It’s also my preferred route for night running as unlike Kings Park, it’s well lit. The hoards of bikers and commuters also make it a busy and bustling route – definitely a place to feel the city buzz. This point-to-point run works from either direction and if needed, you can catch the train or bus back to your starting point.

    • Distance: I start at State Parliament and it’s a nice 7K to Canning Bridge.
    • Terrain: The route is mostly flat but there are some inclines at the city end. Starting at Parliament offers some gentle downhill for your first five minutes, but if you’re starting at Canning Bridge you’ll endure some slight hills at the end. 
    • Interest: A loud, fast freeway on one side and stunning river views on the other. It can be idyllic if you block out the traffic. If you start at Parliament, the 3-4K section (after Mill Point Road and before South Terrace) can be pretty dull as you can’t see the water (that’s 4-5K in the reverse direction).

     Freeway South: restrooms and water at Como Jetty
    Freeway South: restrooms and water at Como Jetty

    • Amenities: Mill Point Road jet ski area has plenty of facilities include restrooms, parking, shade and water. There are also newer facilities around the Como Jetty – no parking but restrooms, water and even a playground (in case you run with kids).
    • Refuel: If you finish at Canning Bridge, head over the bridge to the 24-hour IGA for fresh fruits or deli items. If you finish in the city, Mount Street Breakfast Bar or Gordon Street Garage both beckon!

     

    QUESTION: Where’s your favourite Perth running spot?

    My Must Have Gym Gear

    I was so nervous when I first joined a gym. I was a 20 year old university student and had heard horror stories about people being ripped off or stuck in contracts for years. Even just committing to 12 months of paying $25 a fortnight was daunting. I sought the advice of my mother (who was also a fitness instructor). She told me to read the fine print but otherwise believed any money you spend on your health is a good investment. She was right.

    I’ve had my gym membership for about 10 years and now go about five to six times a week. I love group fitness classes and do a mix of Les Mills including BodyPump, BodyAttack, RPM, BodyBalance, CXWorx and GRIT. My gym also offers BootyBarre, yoga and Pilates without any surcharges, which is brilliant. If these names mean nothing to you, it’s okay! I’ll be posting about them another time.

    Honestly, a basic workout doesn’t require much gear – clothes, shoes and ideally a towel. But a few extra accessories can make life a lot easier and your sweat session a lot more comfortable. The five items below are things I use almost every day and can absolutely attest to their quality, durability and functionality.

    1.    Camelbak Water Bottle – $29.95

    This is hands down the best water bottle I’ve ever owned. I have two 750ml Eddy bottles in purple (“Acai”) and light blue (“Rain”). One stays at work while I use the other for the gym and at home. Mine are two years old but they’re indestructible and really practical. I love these water bottles so much, I’ve given them to family members at Christmas. My boyfriend has too! Everyone has been equally impressed.

    WHY I LOVE IT: Wide range of colours and sizes. Exceptionally durable. Lifetime warranty, which I used once when a lid started leaking. A replacement arrived within a week, no questions asked. More info http://camelbak.com.au/

    2.    Lululemon – Fast Paced Run Visor $35

    Never has a hat been so practical and so versatile. The wide elastic strap is so comfortable, it’s a miracle. The visor part fits my head perfectly, and it’s  broader than most so you get extra sun protection. I would own this hat in every colour if I could! Mine is at least a year old and I wear it almost daily on my 20 minute walk to the gym, as well as for my weekly 10K. Occasionally I wear it to the beach too.

    WHY I LOVE IT: Exceptionally comfortable, thanks to the elastic band. Easy to tighten or loosen on the run (hello windy days). Machine washable. Top knot friendly. Check it out on the Lululemon website

    3.    Lululemon – The (Small) Towel $25

    I hate microfibre towels, largely because they were my sole drying companion during a six week camping trip in Africa.  But I made an exception when I saw one with a gorgeous print at Lululemon. It’s compact, super absorbent and machine washable. This towel is so light the corners can fly up if fans are blasting during your BodyPump class. But a weight plate fixes that. 

    WHY I LOVE IT: Absolutely perfect for RPM/Spin classes, when you don’t want a big towel crowding your handlebars. Also my go-to towel for BodyAttack, as it’s a real sweat soaker. Full info here.

     Run All Day Backpack: fits sneakers, has pockets for everything and minimal bounce. 
    Run All Day Backpack: fits sneakers, has pockets for everything and minimal bounce. 

    4.    Lululemon – Run All Day Backpack $119

    Yes, I’m obsessed with Lululemon. But their stuff is so good! I used to carry my towel and water to the gym, then I had a drawstring backpack. When that broke, I decided to upgrade. I’ve dreamed of running from my house to the beach with a bikini in tow and WOW, this is the backpack to do it! I only run quarter marathons (10K, ha) and hate being weighed down. This bag is really light and thanks to all the straps, cords and bungees, doesn’t bounce. 

    Disclosure: my first Run All Day Backpack rubbed on my shirt and made it “pill” around my stomach and hips. Lululemon recommended a different shirt, and then replaced my backpack (no questions asked). I suggest a test run! My sister has bought this backpack with no issues. 

    WHY I LOVE IT: So light. Plenty of pockets. Fits my body perfectly. Check it out on the Lululemon website

    5.    Bodyworx Eva Foam Roller 12″ (30cm) – $33

    No one likes a foam roller. But anything that can emulate a deep tissue massage, work out knots and be done in your lounge room is a win, right? Most gyms should have a foam roller, but I like having my own at home for post-run relief. I bought mine from Jim Kidd Sports about four years ago and it’s as hard and unforgiving as ever.

    WHY I LOVE IT: I don’t. I hate foam rolling. But it’s essential to stop my IT Band from getting too tight. It’s not on the Jim Kidd website but a company called Dynamo Fitness is selling it. 

    On my wish list…

    I’m still on the hunt for a good armband for my iPhone that won’t slide down. I also love the idea of wireless headphones but haven’t done any research yet. Any suggestions? Please post below! And yes, gym clothes are important too. I’ll post on that another time.

    QUESTION: What’s your favourite gym accessory? 

    Learn to Run

    Exercise was, once upon a time, my most hated thing in the world. Being an overweight and underskilled teenager, sport was downright difficult and embarrassing. Hitting a ball with a bat, kicking towards goal posts or even handballing, it was always a disaster. I still remember trying to run to a base during softball and instead sliding knee first into a huge patch of mud.  My classmates had a great laugh. I walked around with two damp, smelly stains on my sweatpants for the rest of the day.  

    It’s no wonder I began adulthood fearing exercise. It was physically taxing and likely to result in ridicule. I was okay with walking, as long as there were no hills and the pace didn’t raise my heart rate. Shopping and clubbing were literally my only cardio. A woman who told me running gave her more energy was obviously crazy, I remember thinking, as I put another piece of chocolate in my mouth.  

    But then, I tested her theory. It may have been a week later, it may have been months later, but I deliberately went for a long, fast walk. And… I SURVIVED. And I did it again. And again. I’d ring friends or family while out walking, chat for 20 minutes and feel twice as good when I came home. 

    Slowly, I kept building distance…

    I started running when a daily walk around a lake just didn’t feel like enough. I would jog a bit, walk, jog a bit more and that was it. Running on the beach always looked good in movies, so I gave that a shot on a quiet bit of coast in Maine, USA. I was overweight and my beach run lasted about 10 minutes, but it was exhilarating. When I returned to Australia, I persevered and was running 3.5 kilometres once a week. My housemate was an avid runner and I recall her coming home one evening, beaming after her first 10K. It inspired me to go further too. I hit 5K, 7K, 10K and then did the 12K City to Surf in about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Dignified!

    I suffered an injury in the following months (more on that another time) and was forced to give up all exercise. It took a couple of weeks to stop limping, then I started going for long walks again. It was months before I resumed running, and it’s taken four years to return to a weekly 10K. But I feel stronger and smarter than ever.

    Here’s the thing: I didn’t read any books. I didn’t follow a running plan or join a clinic. I just gradually added distance or challenged myself to hit a certain time in a very organic, ad hoc kind of way. And IT WORKED.

    Before you get started, I really recommend downloading an app such as RunKeeper – it’s free and will help you track your activity. The app also gives you custom audio cues during your run, such as current speed, distance covered and total time. The stats are really motivating! Or depressing, depending on how your legs are faring.

    Want to start running? Here’s my guide:

    1.     Start walking regularly – a few times a week.

    2.     Gradually add some short bursts of jogging/running during each walk:

    a. Try five minutes of walking, one minute of running. Repeat throughout your walk. Do this as many weeks as you want.

    b. When you’re comfortable with that, reduce the walking time and increase your running time. Try one minute of each, or build up to five minutes running and one minute of walking (and repeat). 

    TIP: You can set intervals on Runkeeper, so it’ll beep when you need to run/walk/rest etc.

    3.     Run for 3K without stopping – speed is not an issue!

    4.     Repeat the following week. And the week after that.

    HIGH FIVE! YOU’RE A RUNNER!

    If you’re feeling good, add 500 metres and see how you go. Add on another 500m the next week. Hit 5K, and maintain that for a few weeks. Your next goals are 7K and 10K. And then you have surpassed this blog. Congratulations!

    Keep these in mind as you progress

    1.     Vary your routes: Whether you prefer pavement or grass, flat ground or hills, mix things up when you can so you use different muscles. Repetition = injury.

    2.     STRETCH. You wouldn’t drive a car for years without a service, and the same should apply to your body! Try yoga or BodyBalance once a week to loosen your muscles and relax the mind. Alternatively, invest in a foam roller (about $30 from sports stores) for a pain unlike anything else you’ve experienced. It’s really effective though. 

    3.     Do other exercise. Weight training helps my quads power up hills, and I feel the benefits of core exercises (a.k.a crunches and planks) even when I run on flat ground. 

    4.     TREAT YOUR FEET! Sneakers are like toothbrushes. You don’t realise how worn they were until you replace them. And man, it feels good when you do. Same goes for socks.

    5.   How about a charity run? Use your new found running skills to raise funds for a cause! There are often 5Ks in bigger races. Or join a running group. 

    Sadly, running (like anything physical) can cause occasional aches and pains. If you’re feeling anything more than a little muscle fatigue, get help. A physiotherapist might be an option and they can often teach you stretches or strengthening exercises to address the issue. A podiatrist may be able to assist if your feet are giving your woes, and let’s not forget my most prized but expensive footwear… customised orthotics. Also known as the best shoe inserts $800 can buy.

    QUESTION: What’s your best advice to new runners?