Perth’s a Bitch, and then you cry

See what I did there? Of course you did (NOT!)… it’s not quite so dramatic, really, but why don’t we just start at the beginning, if I can still get my head straight. Which, after 27 hours on various airplanes, is easier said than done.

I was pleasantly surprised by the entire Abu Dhabi leg of the trip. I had a lovely lady from Pakistan as my only neighbour in the row. We chatted, she shared some snacks with me, it was nice. Although I’m almost 100% certain this was not the extra legroom seat I had requested, it was comfortable and plenty roomy. The food was excellent. Which is a good thing, as the “light lunch” turned out to be the same thing as the vegetarian dinner option, just without cheese. I still enjoyed it the second time around.

Abu Dhabi’s airport is well organized and has lots of things you can do, mostly of course shop and eat. Also, shower (and for free), if you happen to have toiletries and a towel, which I did not and did not feel like purchasing. I might take them up on that on the return trip, though. Meanwhile I can report that the dry shampoo I ordered for tons of money is worth every penny and works like a charm.

Airport security consisted of a line-up of blokes who were really nice and even funny. Then again, I was there pretty early, which is always a good thing. No silly security scanner, no arguing that my deodorant is really NOT a can of Coke…

Boarding for Perth began on time. And then time stopped. Due to high traffic over Musqat, we sat on the runway for an hour. Which, you know, wouldn’t be a big deal if the seat was ok, but sadly, it was not. I had paid $150 for that whole legroom thing, which placed me in an emergency exit seat whose back did not recline and that, of course, had no storage in front (though I sneakily used my own seat to stuff things under). We ended up getting in with a delay of only 40 minutes but my back is shot and my arse sore as hell.

The food was ok. I had the fish biryani, mostly because the vegetarian choice was, oddly, garlicky mac and cheese, and I didn’t want to do that to my host, Ian, who was picking me up in Perth. In the middle of the night, we were served sliced apples as a snack. In the morning, they gave me neither breakfast nor something to drink. Fuck them.

Flying into Perth in daytime is quite something. You come in from Indonesia and get to see the entire WA coastline from about Port Hedland on down to Perth. The country up there is mostly just some bush and red dirt. LOTS of red dirt. A bit further south it begins to be divided up into large parcels which at least from the air still look like nothing more spectacular than red dirt, until even further south you start hitting farmland and getting more trees and bushland. Pretty cool, actually. I tried taking some photos for you guys but my camera ran out of juice before I got to the really good stuff.

They weren’t kidding when they said there’s been lots of construction at the airport, either. The new scan-your-passport-yourselves, you-silly-buggers stations are perhaps quite de rigeur but as I was an automaton, I ended up in the line for the real life border patrol agents, anyway. And you know, the sheep in the other line were no faster! You have to scan in your passport, answer security questions, then the machine spits out some kind of paper that you have to walk down to another machine 15 metres away. There, you insert the paper, have your noggin scanned, get the paper back, then take it and the passenger card, aka “you’re all dodgy people to us customs people”, down to Customs.

I nearly had a heart attack when I got there: the line doubled in on itself several times, then went behind a wall and performed another few doodles! See, we weren’t the only flight who didn’t come in ON time, but they all somehow ended up there AT THE SAME time! What a joke. The nice thing was, I handed the customs lady my questionable-suspect-card and she… sent me straight through! No scanner, no unpacking suitcases, not even a sniffer dog! And so I had time to visit the friendly folks at Vodaphone to get a new chip for my old mobile before my ride arrived.

Clearly, though, Perth is not nearly as excited about having me here as it was last time. When I finally had the internet up and successfully identified five of my Facebook friends (one of whom was ‘identified’ by a photo of Tony Abbott – rrrright) just to log in, I learned that the barbecue I was supposed to go tomorrow has been postponed. So, no welcome gig by the Spudniks, no burger with beetroot.

I am, however, freshly showered and have had a cup of tea. Now to put up the feet for a bit…

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Vyv Does Oz: Cold Feet, Warm Hearts

My great-grandparents had on their wall a framed piece of embroidery with the lines “Wo man singt, da lass Dich ruhig nieder, /böse Menschen haben keine Lieder” (roughly: where there is singing, gladly rest your head /where evil dwells, no song is to be had). Taking this as my motto for the upcoming trip, I couldn’t be safer anywhere else. Most of my friends on the other side of the world are musos. Phew!

At least for a few days I’ll be staying at a fabulously beautiful place in Bassendean, nearly exactly opposite to my pad in Swanbourne. If you’d like to take a peek at Cook House yourself, feel free.

In order to provide you, my three-and-a-half readers, with the most bang for no buck, I have unearthed my old Flickr account where I will post trip pics as I go along.

My schedule is beginning to be occupied with gigs and barbecues and theatre visits and coffee meets, all of which is certainly giving me the warm and fuzzy. And yet, the first bell that rang in my head when I woke up this morning sounded an awful lot like “Idontwannago, I dontwannago!” Considering there are still five days left until departure, this does not bode well. Not that the sudden case of cold feet is entirely unexpected; I suffer from a minor version every time I’m going anywhere, and if it’s just to a local event. Even if I’m really, really looking forward to it. Not sure why it gets that way, but there isn’t much I can do besides talk myself down and carry on with life.

Vyv does Oz, Take 3

Getting to Australia the first time took roughly 17 years from start to finish. The interval between Sydney and Perth was only seven years long. And now, it’s shrunk down to three. I take this as a sign that I’m either going to croak soon or get back even sooner next time. But who knows, my crystal ball has been rather murky since we moved here.

In any case, the time for travel is very nearly upon us again. In fact, yesterday was my last day at work. Another notch in the retail belt. I can’t say the customers have grown on me very much, although we did have a handful of lovely regulars. Everyone else: mainly shitheads. But that is material for a different kind of post. Let’s talk about some more pleasant matters.

Australia, land of sun, sea, sand and snakes who frolic on the beach. To my still fresh surprise, I am actually visiting friends there. And doing a fair amount of state hopping, which is only possible because my stays are also getting longer. Where I walked off the pounds during ten days in Sydney in 2006, I spent fourteen glorious days toodling around Perth three years ago. But this time, dear friends, I won the holiday jackpot with five whole weeks of sightseeing, music and flat whites. I’m returning to Perth, previously much snubbed by me during penpal days, voluntarily and happily, then casually jetting to Melbourne to see what they’ve got to offer, and up to Brisbane to find out how my former classmate ended up there when nothing in her bio could have predicted it.

Honestly, I am excited. But also regularly waffling about the grade of excitement. While I enjoyed Perth quite a bit last time, it was also occasionally quite challenging. This time could be far better or far worse. What will people’s expectations be of me? What are mine of them? And what will I eat for dinner once I move out of my AirBnB place in Bassendean, where my hostess will cook for me?

The journey begins on March 30.

BeachBody’s PiYo: Mid-Week Review

So here’s what’s happening: in order to enter the BB Challenge presented on the PiYo Facebook site, we had to start the program by August 20, so we began this past Monday. Currently, this means for me that on some days, I have three workouts to complete, since I am also finishing the last two and a half weeks of Les Mills Combat (review when I’m done). Phew!

What am I hoping to gain from PiYo? Flexibility and perhaps an improvement on balance. If you’ve read previous posts, you’ll remember that I am a major klutz and quite accident-prone. PiYo is a bodyweight workout designed to, well, improve strength, flexibility and balance, and if I end up developing a bit more definition, I certainly won’t cry about it. What else am I doing? I’m eating fairly clean, at least when we eat at home, which is most of the time. I’ve cut back but not given up alcohol, and once I’m done with Combat, I will add my 5K running routine back into the mix.

But you came here to learn about PiYo, so here’s the scoop: at the beginning of every workout, you’re told what equipment you need. Why they say a mat is optional, though, is beyond me. A lot of the routines require some cushioning (think yoga), and it certainly helps to have a non-slip surface to stand on when you’re beginning to sweat and lunge at the same time. So please ignore that “optional” bit and get yourself a good sticky mat! If you have balance problems, keep a chair nearby or exercise near a wall or table that you can hold on to. The recommended towel is an excellent idea, and so is the water, especially during the longer workouts.

We are following the regular PiYo schedule (purple), partially because we’re new and partially because I wasn’t about to shell out extra cash for the two workouts required for the Strength schedule (green). The schedule for both is four days on, one day of rest, two more days on. Yes, you are really working out six days in a row; it just doesn’t look that way. The week begins innocuously enough with Align: the Fundamentals, a 45 minute session of explanation and try-outs. I wouldn’t exactly call it a workout per se, but don’t skip it, especially if you’re new to yoga and/or Pilates. This is the only time you’ll see this workout.

Next, we did Define: Lower Body. You can guess where the focus of this workout is. It runs about 30 minutes and incorporates lunging, squatting and stretching. Unfortunately, there are two points I take issue with: 1) nobody explained the PiYo cross in Fundamentals, which is silly, because it shows up in virtually every warmup. 2) There is a warrior sequence the team goes through twice on one leg, but only once on the other. If you’re looking for symmetry, switch legs next time or pause the DVD and repeat the sequence.

Workout #3 is Define: Upper Body. Make friends with pushups, both triceps and regular, because Chalene loves them and you’ll be doing a lot. There’s a typo in the Quick Start booklet; this workout is only 19 minutes long, not 35. A lot of people combine Lower and Upper Body on the same day. I don’t know what they do on the extra day. Take rest? Anyone?

Workout #4 is called Sweat, and sweat you will during the 42 minutes or so! This is a comprehensive, fairly fast paced total body workout which requires enough space for long side steps (one to each side) and to stretch out your leg sideways from a table position. Here, another boo-boo crept into the DVD (which makes me think they should have paid someone to actually review these things for errors before releasing them, but who’s niggling): during one sequence, you’re in down dog and stretch your right leg out to the side (hence, you need the room). When you do the same sequence on the other leg, you only bring your knee to the elbow. Eh-hem!

Tomorrow is a rest day, then we basically go through the above workouts again, adding Core on Wednesday. Check back in a couple of weeks for an update and a review of two new routines.

BeachBody’s PiYo – a Preliminary Look

I’ve done yoga, and I’ve done Pilates. I also own ChaLEAN Extreme, TurboJam and TurboFire. To say that I’m a fan of Chalene Johnson’s would be a fair assessment. She is a skilled, tough teacher with innovative workout routines and a friendly, not overly bubbly, personality. So purchasing a reasonably priced new DVD set by her (the reasonably priced bit becoming a rare occurrence with BeachBody) wasn’t really a question. That said, I am currently doing Les Mills Combat and won’t be starting PiYo for a few weeks yet. Hence, the preliminary look.

Once again, the packaging has been redone. All three DVDs now come in a fairly flimsy, but graphically exuberant box the size of a regular DVD case. Also in the flimsy box you’ll find the ever-included measuring tape, some advertising I already threw away, a nutrition guide that’s half advertising and which does not contain any recipes at all, the workout schedule in form of a fold-out poster, and a Get Started guide. If I sound underwhelmed, it’s because I am. I’m already a BeachBody customer, so please stop inundating me with advertising for your gazillion other products in every single brochure! It’s nearly as annoying as the extended Shakeology commercials running BEFORE Shaun T’s newest workouts!

That said, from what I have previewed of the actual workouts, they look both challenging and interesting. Chalene comes across as very chatty, but that might be because she’s trying to instruct over music with a lot of singing. A bit irritating but the music is good, at least. It’s only her and three other participants in the videos, and the person modifying is working out at an angle so you can clearly see what she’s doing.

As someone pointed out online, there is also a typo in the workout descriptions: the Upper Body DVD is said to be 35 minutes long. In reality, it’s only 19 minutes. I’m not sure if anyone has developed any of the ever-popular hybrid plans for PiYo yet; check on the BeachBody website.

And there you have it. I will write more once I start the program.

My Two Cents: Jillian Michaels’ Body Revolution

As I am now two days away from finishing this program, I thought I’d give you an idea of what it is and what it does. Almost everyone knows of Jillian Michaels by now. She has been a celebrity trainer on several seasons of “The Biggest Loser” and has her own collection of cookbooks and workout DVDs. Her motivational style is often described as “drill sergeant”, so if getting yelled at by someone on your tv screen, Jillian might not be the trainer for you. Personally, I tend to yell back and that gets me through most workouts.

Body Revolution is, in my opinion, Jillian’s answer to all those two- and three-month workout programs BeachBody has been cranking out, and as such, it stands up fairly well to the behemoth. You get twelve strength workouts and three cardio workouts, divided up over three phases, each phase lasting four weeks. Each phase is subdivided into two two-week mini phases. Confused? Here’s what month 1 looks like:

Weeks 1 and 2:

WO 1, WO 2, Cardio 1, WO 1, WO 2, Cardio 1, off

Weeks 3 and 4:

WO 3, WO 4, Cardio 1, WO 3, WO 4, Cardio 1, off

The strength workouts consist of four circuits interspersed with four minutes of cardio exercise. The cardio programs consist of circuits of varying numbers of individual exercises that are repeated three times. The entire program is progressive, incorporating more and more plyometric (jumping) moves as you go along.

Basically, you’ll only be doing each single strength workout four times before switching to the next level. The cardio workout stays the same for the entire four weeks. This allows you to build up strength while at the same time providing new stimulation for your muscles so they continue to be challenged ( the principle of muscle confusion). As you likely won’t be using very heavy weights, this will keep you and your body stimulated. How heavy should you go? Jillian and crew use three sets of weights, 3, 5 and 8 pounds. You will find that for some exercises you can go heavier, so if you do have extra weights at home, keep them nearby. You will also need an exercise mat and a cable. If you order Body Revolution from Jillian’s site, you will get one of her cables included. If you order from Amazon, you will not. I used some of the tubing we have from our BeachBody programs, and that worked fine. As your strength increases, you may need cables or tubing of varying resistance.

Before I go on, I should tell you a bit about me as an exerciser. I love strength exercises and prefer heavier weights than the ones used here. However, as a rule, Jillian will ask you to go through most exercises fairly speedily to give you an aerobic effect and burn extra calories. I also have huge problems with balance, so especially in the later phases, I modified. A lot. Do not be afraid to! Finally, I have joint issues that prevent me from being able to, as instructors like to say, land softly on my feet. This stresses my knees. Again, I did the best I could and modified where I couldn’t. So that’s me.

Overall, I had a good time and found the program effective. Since I don’t weigh myself, I can’t say if and how much weight I lost, but I’ve definitely toned up nicely and improved my overall strength. What I really didn’t like was the increasing appearance of plyo during the cardio intervals. Cardio 1 and 2 each included a couple of moves I wasn’t very good at, but as the month progressed, so did I . Cardio 3 felt terrible from the get-go, and after three tries, I gave it up and added running to my routine, instead. Normally, even if a routine is difficult, I plod through it and end up pleasantly exhausted. Cardio 3 frustrated me to the point where I’d actually come out of is aggressive. Dropping it helped. I also modified the cardio intervals during the last two weeks in the strength routines. For example, instead of cannonball jumps, I’d run in place or do buttkicks.

Is this program for everyone? No. And I’ve never said that about a program before! If you have knee, back, spinal or wrist problems, it is imperative you discuss this routine with your doctor first. You will spend a lot of time doing variations on planks, squats and lunges and pushups! Also, in WO 12 there is a -in my opinion- rather pointless move called Wheel Pushups which, when done incorrectly, can lead to serious injury. If you are not able to do a wheel (see yoga), please don’t. I simply left it out but you could substitute a different exercise instead, like a reverse plank. If you are a beginner, don’t be afraid to try this. Modify if you have to. Go slowly. Don’t be afraid to drop your weights if they are too heavy. Pay attention to form first and foremost and worry about reps later.

Some reviewers on Amazon complained that they didn’t feel challenged enough. If you are a fitness competitor, you should probably not waste your time and money on this program (but you wouldn’t anyway, would you). As a regular intermediate or advanced exerciser, take advantage of the “up button” moves: do more, go heavier, go faster, modify up.

I hope I’ve touched on the important points. If you have questions, leave me a comment.