This is my cool hubby diving into lake Näsijärvi in Tampere, Finland with his brand new Go Pro camera.
I've been testing out a really neat new location-based service called TwitHops.com, which allows me to create a cool interactive map and photo timeline of all my trips via Twitter. All I have to do is add the hashtag #twithop to any of my tweets, making sure the location is enabled and it's as simple as that! TwitHops.com starts to create and visualise my journey (see below).
Now, this is especially pretty if your tweets include photos as they are displayed in a shiny timeline format on top of the map. As you hover over the tweet (or photo if there is one) the map will pan over to the location of your tweet/photo.
As you can see, my trip was from Finland to Scotland via London, and back :) Purely thanks to geographical reasons I managed to make it in a cool tick format!
Once I'm finished my particular trip (which can be of any length) I just have to add the hashtag #twithopped to the last tweet I want included in the trip and that's it! @twithopbot will then reply to me in a tweet and I'll have a nice customised link to my journey on TwitHops.com.
Since I like to share, of course I will share this with my friends on Facebook, very easily by clicking the 'share on Facebook' button, as you can see in the screenshot above and of course, right there on Twitter I can retweet this to my followers, just as I've done above!
One of the things I love about this service is that you are not required to sign up to TwitHops.com or login or authenticate yourself. All you need to do is tweet away on Twitter, adding the hashtags #twithop and #twithopped.
Minimum hassle, awesome visuals and maximum FUN.
What are you waiting for?! Check it out at www.twithops.com and twithop on board :)
Don't forget to see what I got up to on my trip to the UK!
I was asked to write a post about the Finnish language test itself and my experience, so here goes nothing! This is my step-by-step guide to sitting the YKI test:
- Download some selkouutiset podcasts in which you can listen to the Finnish news being read slowly and clearly!
- Talk to your Finnish-speaking friends and colleagues as much as possible in Finnish. Practice makes perfect ;)
- Bring a pencil, a spare pencil and a rubber with you. You are not allowed to write in ink.
- The test lasts up to 4 hours and it varies according to test location whether there is a 30 minute break in the middle or 5-10 minute breaks in-between each discipline. In both cases, it's a great idea to bring a snack along to replenish your energy as it can be quite exhausting. I'd recommend a banana or a cereal bar!
- It's like being back in school, during the breaks, don't cave in a discuss with the other people which multiple-choice answers you picked. You'll only make yourself feel worse!
In Part 2 I'll go into to more detail about the actual parts of the test and all that lovely stuff. Watch this space!
I voluntarily put myself through a rather unpleasant experience today - a 4 hour long Finnish language test also known as YKI. What's more, I paid 95€ for the privilege!
Signing up for this test is notorious. That is, if you want to take it in a large, dynamic metropolis such as Tampere ;) If you've found yourself among the unlucky ones who start queuing for the registration in lovely sub-zero temperatures at 5am, for the doors to open at 9am, followed by a barbaric stampede of desperate immigrants only to be told...
Pahoittelut, ilmoittautuminen on nyt täynnä.
Tough shit...but fear not! Every cloud has a silver lining.
The test itself is only held a few times a year, so what are you gonna do now? Wait? Nah, it only prolongs the pain of learning Finnish language and you certainly don't want to inflict that on yourself any more than is necessary.
The good news is that you can easily take the test in any nearby leafy suburb such as Valkeakoski, where the fields are strawberry, forever. An added bonus there is the nice factory wafting some delicious sulphurous odours into the air. Pleasant, indeed. No queue, satisfaction guaranteed.
The Finnish Language test saga continues in coming posts...
Just before Christmas last year I fell in love.
I didn't see it coming at all. So unexpected, yet thrilling and addictive! I have a feeling it's going to last.
I opened my arms wide and welcomed...SPINNING into my fitness regime. Admittedly, the very first time I flirted with Spinning, the experience was truly bizarre. It was about 3 years ago and it turned out to be a virtual spinning class. So, there I was in the class, staring bewilderedly at the rather flimsy-looking bikes around the perimeter of the room, thinking to myself...
Wtf? This sort of thing can only happen in Finland...
Clumsily, I set up my bike and started following a DVD of some wee guy riding through what appeared to be the Rocky Mountains. I suffered on through the boredom and left feeling very weird. That spelt the end of our brief encounter.
3 years later, in need of some lower joint-impact exercise, I ventured back into the Spinning room, but this time I made sure there would be an instructor. It was a 30 minute class in which I literally nearly died. The 30 minutes were spent trying to breathe while frantically clock-watching praying the pain would end soon!
However, like a total sucker for punishment, just before Christmas I decided to give it one more try by going to a 1 hour endurance Spinning class. I had another reason to be skeptical about this particular class and it was because of the instructor. I'd previously tried her kettle-bell class, hated it and promised myself never to go to her classes again!
The result? I was hooked, it was really great fun! I even saw a bit of myself in the instructor. She is a fitness-freak, loves her music, carefully chooses playlists for the class and TURNS UP the volume: an excellent motivator! I like her anecdotal approach, filling in the gaps in tracks with some wee stories. Granted, they are in Finnish language but I try my best :)
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Spinning, it's a calorie-burning cardio workout on a stationary bike. You control how fast you pedal and the level of resistance from the bike. There is (usually!) an instructor telling you how to follow the intervals, stand up, climb hills and sprint etc.
In endurance Spinning, the idea is to keep your heart rate between 65-75% of its maximum. I haven't quite mastered that yet because when I feel like I'm capable of working harder, why should I cool it down!?
If you're a first timer, it's CRUCIAL that you ask the instructor to help you set up the bike to suit your height and to explain why the adjustments are made like that.
Take it from someone who was initially very skeptical about Spinning that it can be a lot of fun, not to mention a killer calorie-burning workout for the legs, bum and your cardio fitness.
Don't be shy, give it a try!
Starting a diet, healthy eating plan or new fitness regime at the beginning of the New Year is arguably one of the most cliché notions ever.
Can it really be sustainable long-term or is it just another fad, among your gazillion other New Year resolutions?
Every January my gym is utterly packed with Duracell bunny-like people on their fitness-kicks but low and behold, by mid February they've given up and I've got my space back. My selfish streak says hurray, they're finally gone! That's a bit evil, though. I can't help wondering if they are just going about things in the wrong way...
It's perfectly possible to stick to a new health and fitness regime. In my opinion that purely depends on your frame of mind and attitude. Now, let's focus on healthy-eating.
By adopting the following mantra (in addition to normal regular exercise routine), I have managed to cut 3.5kg in just 2 weeks and I feel great! This is only the beginning.
A couple of "pearls of wisdom" for you guys:
1. It doesn't have to be that hard. Do not starve yourself or ban yourself from eating any single thing, especially the things you enjoy. If you do, you'll manage for a while, but you will eventually cave in and ruin the whole thing by binging.
2. Be mindful of portion sizes, don't be greedy and eat slower.
3. Enjoy the feeling of being a little bit hungry at some points during the day. Your plan is working!
4. Start steaming vegetables. Trust me, you'll never look back. Flavour!
5. Always eat breakfast, it's the most important meal of the day.
6. Completely cut out the heavy carbs in the evenings. Have a light evening meal such as grilled or oven-baked fish or lean meat with some steamed vegetables. Your body will thank you for the protein, especially if you workout regularly. If you crave dessert, try low-fat cottage cheese mixed with frozen berries: delicious!
7. Educate yourself on what's good for you nutrition-wise by reading blogs, watching documentaries etc, but don't become obsessive! Aim only at subtle, sustainable changes in your attitude towards food.
I need to credit someone I follow on Instagram, Louise C , as she's been an inspiration to me by posting photos of all her protein-filled meals which are a part of an eating plan designed for her by her Personal Trainer and aimed a cutting body fat. Everything looks delicious, clean and super healthy. Go Girl!
Over the past couple of weeks I've been feeling really nostalgic about Thai Boxing. Sometimes known as the 'Science of 8 limbs', Muay Thai is arguably one of the toughest fight sports around. I didn't really know that when I signed up for it but I soon found out that in addition to punches and kicks, elbows and knees were completely legitimate techniques too - fabulous!
I got into Muay Thai when I was in my second year at university, around 10 years ago (wow!). I went along to my first class with my friend, thinking I was going to 'kickboxing', not really fully understanding what that was either.
Little by little, I became dreadfully hooked on the beautiful, vicious art of the sport, the feeling of training so hard that you physically want to throw up while fully aware that you'll plunge yourself right back into it the next day, the attractive shade of blue that both of my legs inevitably turned and maybe even more importantly the feeling that the guys in your club were your new family.
We trained in a really dingy, smelly room in the university gym, which totally lacked any kind of ventilation. I vividly recall the lady Yoga instructor who often taught her class right after ours, turning up with a huge can of air freshener, frantically skooshing it around the room in the desperate hope of getting rid of the sour stench of Thai Boxer sweat. It was, of course, highly entertaining for us.
Ah, the good old days!
From a fitness perspective, I would argue that the kind of training you undertake for Muay Thai is one of the most effective and grueling around. Of course, the intensity of the training varies depending on whether you are training for fun or competitively fight training. I have experienced both and during that time, I was undoubtedly in the best shape of my life.
Ultimately, this photo represents one of my favourite and certainly defining moments in my relatively short Muay Thai career:
This is from my second and last C-rules Muay Thai fight at Airth Castle, Scotland in Sep. 2005. I won on a points decision and was truly elated! On the rare occasion that I watch the DVD of the fight, I still feel like I could have done more, maybe even gone for a KO but you know, hindsight's a wonderful thing.
In future posts I'll go into more detail about what Muay Thai training comprises and what you can expect if you go along to a training session :)
Respect and thanks will forever go to my home club Caledonian Muay Thai and The Griphouse in Glasgow, Scotland.
Sports & Remedial Massage Therapist, language-geek, mum, Nordic at heart. Family, travelling, my bike, fitness and music make me tick.