Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Fitness Playground

So for those of you who know me, whether it be in real life or via Twitter, you'll know that I am slightly Olympic obsessed (slightly as in I have the Olympic rings tattoo'd on me). And because of my little obsession, when there was an opportunity to run round the Olympic Park and finish on the running track in July, I OBVIOUSLY signed myself up.

There was only one teeney tiny flaw in my plan. I hate running. HATE IT. I am not a runner.

But because of where it was, I kinda lost sight of what I actually had to do. Queue training plan... eek. Thank goodness for mobile phone apps is all I can say! When I started running, I couldn't even run for a minute. 60 little seconds, and I can now (proudly) say that I ran for 25 minutes last weekend - the tiniest bit shy of 2 miles. Go me.

Anywho... a Twitter buddy of mine, @brob11, had noticed that I'd got some sort of fitness bug (which I'll be honest will probably finish as soon as my run is over!) and sent me a link to the website for Fitness Playground with the message "This might interest you, or make you run away as far as possible!". Hmm... I wasn't convinced that anything with a message of me potentially running for the hills was going to be something I'd wanna do...

But I looked on the website anyway... and I must admit I liked what I saw... although I was far from convinced that I actually wanted to do it myself!

The basics of the Fitness Playground is this - use London as your gym. You get to exercise outside in the open, in the best city in the world, and in places most Londoners wouldn't even know about. 

Probably better if I let @FitnessPlaygrnd explain themselves...

Sounds pretty cool eh? 

So I bit the bullet and signed up for my first session (which is free!), and went along last night.

They're currently based out of South Bank University in Elephant and Castle, SE1 and I rocked up for my session at 7.30pm.

The lovely Pete and Dan (from the YouTube clip above) were there to meet me, and tell me that there was meant to be 2 other people with me, but they'd cancelled and so I was on my own. ON MY OWN.

This had both positive and negative implications... On the positive side, I had an hours personal training session with 2 personal trainers all to myself. The negative? It was all to myself so there was no where I could hide! Eek!

Off we went... running to our first station. Yup, running. Is a blooming good job that I'd been doing my training as there is no way I would have been able to run otherwise! Phew.

Our first station was a little green called Mint Street Park where I had to do such things as sprints, stretching, play a game of tag - tagging knee's and shoulders (which was quite amusing!).

From there we ran (again!) to Tate Modern where we went on the green outside and I did things like planks, side planks, press up's, used resistance bands, did slam dunks with a medicine type ball...

Run time! From the Tate Modern, we ran along the river to the little green next to the Oxo Tower. There I used a skipping rope (gladly I can say that I remembered how to skip from school!), did a mini circuit, sit ups and got strapped in a harness where Pete held onto a handle that was connected to the harness and I had to run while he held me back. Originally when I saw it, I did feel like I was about to be taken for a walk... :S
From there we ran back to the university doing stretches along the way. 

And then it was over. Thank god!

All in all, Dan said that I'd run between 4 and 5k. Awesome. Add all the exercise on to that too and I'd had one hell of a work out. Double awesome. Go me.

It was hard work, really hard work at some points, and you need to be willing to get a bit dirty (you are doing press ups etc... on grass after all!) and I'm not gonna lie, I felt like a complete lemon most of the time, but I actually enjoyed it and had fun!

When they'd first said it was me on my own that session, I was quietly filled with dread. But I am really glad that I was. It was great that I got to have a one on one session with 2 personal trainers, but it also meant that I got to speak to them a lot (although not when I was running as I can't talk and run at the same time!) and find out more about them and what they do. 

Dan and Pete were really friendly, push you hard without over pushing you and make what you're doing fun so you don't quite realise how much you're working. You also get to see bits of London you might not know about and meet new people too. Win, win and win!

As I said all the way up top, you start off the session at South Bank University. There are changing rooms and showers that you can use, but I didn't as I was dressed and ready when I got there. They will also lock away your bag/valuables. 

The route you do changes every time, but you'll still be in the SE1/Southbank area. You can book in sessions on Monday and Wednesday evenings (they do 6pm or 7.30pm), and Saturday mornings too. There is also talk of them starting sessions in Canary Wharf on a Tuesday night in the future - which would be brilliant for me as that's where I work! The first session you do is free, and then there are various packages you can do from paying per session (which is £10) or you can buy monthly and unlimited memberships too for slightly cheaper rates. 

So how did I feel today I hear you all cry out? I woke up this morning and felt fine. So I cycled into work. As the day went on I've got more and more stiff...  and now I can't bend over. Or walk. I certainly had a full body workout last night! But... I've signed up for another session next Monday night, so it couldn't have been that bad! And I've got a friend coming with me so I won't be on my own... :)

My only question is... when are you all gonna sign up?

Oh... and the first rule of the Fitness Playground is we don't talk about Fitness Playground (except to everyone you know to get them to do it!).

Big thanks to Pete and Dan and I'll see you guys next week :)

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Serve yourself a Pint

(#786 in under £10 book)

Back on the 17th May, myself along with 16 other people went to Prague for the weekend for the Czech round of the Speedway Grand Prix (which by the way, the only British rider in the field won, Tai Woffinden! Woofy, Woofy, Woofy!). On one of our nights there, we went to a place called the Beer Factory where you were able to pour your own beer... and excellent idea!

the Beer Factory in Prague
This got us thinking... London needs somewhere like this. So up came Google on my phone and I began searching to find if there was anywhere in London that you were able to do this. And then I found it...

The Thirsty Bear!

So on Friday, 14th May a few of us who went to the Beer Factory in Prague met at The Thirsty Bear to pour our own beers :)

The pumps on the table are either Amstel beer or Aspal cider. You can order a whole heap of other beers (including Meantime!) and drinks straight from the iPad attached to each table.

Yup, you read right, an iPad.

Each table has an iPad (not all tables have pumps you can pour yourself), and from that you were able to do many things - order other drinks as mentioned above, bar snacks, burgers, songs from their jukebox, look at how much beer you've drunk and probably most importantly... see where your table is the leader board!

We used the iPad for all of the above!

Now let's get back to the important stuff... beer...

Pouring your own pint isn't as easy as it looks. The first one most people did had quite a frothy head... I am glad to say that I was much better at pulling my own pint than I thought I'd be!

Yay, go me. But seriously... what a look of concentration I have! You can also see the leaderboard on the iPad.

A few pints in, and food was very much on the agenda. Now what to have... what to have...? They do a couple of "main meals" but what they really have a lot of is burgers. They have some standard made burgers, build your own burgers and also the Goldiehops and the 3 Grizzly Burger Challenge. And what a challenge it is... 3 lots of 1.5lb burgers with BBQ pulled pork, with 2 portions of chips, a side salad and 2 meantime beers. 4.5lb of meat?!?! Wowza. If you can eat all that, on your own, in less than an hour you get it for free! If you don't, it'll set you back £60.

So far, only 1 person has done it. An American aptly names Randy. And his achievement is also on youtube in the clip below...

There isn't a chance in hell that I'd ever be able to eat all that... and the dude did it in 33 minutes. 33 minutes!! Instead I opted for a BYOB...

Nom nom nom! I went for an 8oz beef burger, with haloumi, bacon, red onion, red pepper, with garlic mayo. And it was really really delicious!!! I'm generally not a fan of burgers, but I'd easily eat in here again. Yum.

Cheers everyone! 

After the food, we had a few more beers, selected what felt like 100 songs on the jukebox (is 25p a song and although the selection is quite limited compared to some places, there are still plenty of songs to choose from - although apparently Chesney Hawks is the most common) and then the barrel needed changing. We noticed that as the beer came out like this...

...didn't want a pint of froth and before anyone says, it's not because I'm drunk!

The staff were very friendly (especially Pedro Ferreira, the General Manager, who spent a lot of time talking to us), brought us over another pint straight away and tried to fix it as quickly as they could. That turned out not to be overly successful, but seeing as it was almost 11.30pm we decided that it was probably a good time for us to foxtrot oscar. 

So we got the bill...

...looks scarier than it was! There was 5 of us, 4 of us drinking from the pump (we had just over 15 pints) and 1 ordering meantime pints, we all had food and selected probably 20 songs on the jukebox and the bill came to £32 each. Considering we were in the middle of central London, on a Friday night and were there for a good 4 hours I don't think that's bad pricing at all. And you can budget well, the iPad's have a running total so you can see how much your bill is. 

And we'll be most certainly going back!

If you fancy a night pouring your own beers at your own leisure, eating good gooooood burgers with good friendly, you have to come here! As I said up all the way up there somewhere, not all the tables have pumps, so I'd advise to book a table (which is what we did). This is the only place of it's kind in London, however they do have a sister restaurant with a wall of beer based in Fulham called the Lazy Fox.

The Thirsty Bear is a short walk from either Waterloo or Southwark Stations (and luckily for me I could get a bus right outside pub to where I live) and is at 62 Stamford Street, London SE1 9LX. They are on Twitter @thethirstybear and their website is here.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Stepney City Farm (50/1000)

(#31 in the book, #307 in under £10 book)

London really is an amazing city. A city that houses approx. 9 million people, that is crammed with buildings wherever you turn, yet it is full of delightful farms. 10 city farms in fact. So far I've been to 3 of them (Surrey Docks, Mudchute and Hackney) and on Saturday, 1st June 2013, I added no. 4 to my list - Stepney City Farm.

I live in Rotherhithe so was easy peasy for me to get to, two stops on the overground and a 15 minute walk from Shadwell.

Luckily for me, when I arrived I saw a sign which made me very happy...

A farmers market :)

I absolutely love fresh, local produce and a farmers market is definitely is a place to buy it! So I walked in and headed straight to the market to have butchers around (no pun intended!).

I got an idea of what I wanted to buy from the market, but wanted to wander around the farm first and get the bits after I was done.

So off I popped to the farm shop where I brought some food to feed the animals. You had two choices of feed to buy, some for the animals and some for the birds. I went for the animals :)

First on my list was the goats... and they had some kids in there too (just to be clear - not as in children kids, as in bubby goat kids! Phew).

They were awesome!

Next to the goats were the sheep... and some lambs (who I must say were mega cute!).

Bit of tongue poking action from this sheep!

See, told you... cute!

They also had plenty of warning signs around for those preggers women amongst the visitors... useful to know and certainly something I wouldn't know if I was with child.

There were also chickens and ducks...

...and some iccle piggy wiggies too...

These piglets even have their own ruin! Very jealous.

I'll be honest, I have no idea what the ruin was from, possible some sort of church.* All I know is that there is a sign to tell those naughty little piggies not to climb on it ;)

* Having spoken with the farm via Twitter, they confirmed that this ruins are a Congregational Church to the south, and a Mansion which became a Baptist College to the north. They also said there will be an archaeological dig on it at some point in July - fingers crossed I'll be able to go to that because it would be AWESOME.

After that I went to visit what I assume is mummy and daddy pig.

Nothing to see here... just a pig having a drink 

Ma and Pa pig were next to another goat... and this one was pretty cool.

He even gave me his/her hoof at one point asking for more food... awesome trick :)

I liked this goat a lot.

There was Donkeys...

...and Cows...

You can see exactly how close to the roads the farm is!

Once I'd fed all the animals I could before the food ran out, I took a look at my hand... blurgh.. lots of animal drool and other stuff I don't wanna think about! So off I popped to wash my hands at one of the many wash stations around the farm (although my only gripe is that there were no paper towels to dry them with). 

Up next was a barn...

It had bubby duck and chickens (I think!)...

...guinea pigs (which I believe some are for sale)...

...and crazy geese that were quacking ALL the time :)

There was also a blacksmiths next to the farm cafe, and there were two people hard at work in the heat...

The farm also had quite a large herb and veg garden, and also a plot of quite a few allotments which you were allowed to go to, but with a polite sign to respect other peoples plots - as it should be.

Once I'd done all the exploring, it was time to go back to the farmers market to buy the bits I had my eye on, and get some food as I was starving!! I brought a sausage roll from a stall called Giggly Pig (great name!) which was delicious. I also brought a pack of honey and mustard sausages from them, a loaf of sour dough bread from another stall, and then some fresh apple juice from another.

The farmers market has only been going at the farm for a couple of weeks, but in order for it to continue, there has to be not only a decent footfall, but most importantly people buying products. I am completely up for buying fresh, homemade food from markets such as this. You might be paying a bit more than you would do in a supermarket, but you know where the food has come from! And it's putting money in the hands of true farmers/butchers/bakers (and possibly candlestick makers) rather than the greedy guts that is places like Tesco (who I detest).

If anyone lives within, well anywhere in the East End really, please make a visit to this farm and fabulous farmers market to keep them both going!

Stepney City Farm was a true delight in the middle of a very busy area - crossrail is literally right next door.

Here's what you need to know for your visit - the farm is based at Stepney Way, London E1 3DG, their website is here and they are on Twitter @stepneycityfarm. Nearest stations are Limehouse or Stepney Green which I've read are about a 10 min walk, although I walked from Shadwell (about a 15/20 min walk), but there is a bus that goes from that station to the farm. There must be a bus that goes nearby from Whitechapel too which isn't too far away either.

So what are you all waiting for... go visit today! Well, unless you're reading this on a Monday because that's the only day they're closed... so you'd have a wasted journey, and we wouldn't want that.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Take in a blockbuster at the IMAX cinema (49/1000)

(#668 in the book)

On 4th May 2013, I fulfilled something I'd wanted to do for a long time - watch a film at the BFI IMAX cinema in Waterloo.

I've been quite a cinema buff for a few years now (did 2 years of Orange Wednesday's every week, and then got a Cineworld Unlimited card which I've had for 2 years now), but I'd never seen a film at the IMAX. I'd seen films at IMAX cinema's, but not at what I felt was the home of IMAX.

Myself along with @londonfox@chrisnotwell and @DChristie83 went to watch Iron Man 3 with the scrumptious Robert Downy Jnr. 

Me, @chrisnotwell, @londonfox and @DChristie83
@londonfox and @DChristie83
Me and @chrisnotwell
The screen was massive... MASSIVE. Which obviously is kinda the point.

The film was ok... Robert Downy Jnr was of course hot a Tony Stark... but it was the worst of the three Iron Man films. 

I was really disappointed with the cinema though. I expected so much more from it. Although the screen was massive, I felt that you were still very close to the screen (we were also in the 3rd row which didn't help) and that it was all a bit too squashed in. I obviously realise that the cinema is in the middle of a roundabout and therefore it has to be reflected in the size of the screen, but I still came out feeling a little let down. 

The ticket for the film was best part of £17 with booking fee - I'm used to paying £15 a month to see as many films as I want - and that was a lot of money for getting a stiff neck staring up at a screen I felt was right on top of  me. Maybe I'd have a better experience if I was further towards the back... or if I had enjoyed the film more. The film was in 3D and because of the size of the screen and the curve of the screen, the 3D didn't work all that well... that also added to it. 

If I want to watch a film on a bigger screen in the future I'll just go to the Cineworld at the O2 and watch it on the Sky Superscreen. It isn't IMAX size but it is pretty damn close to it. Went to see the new Star Trek: Into Darkness at the Sky Superscreen and I felt much more at home!

This is obviously just my opinion. Both @londonfox and @chrisnotwell have been there 3 times now and they've enjoyed it. It just wasn't for me and I definitely won't be rushing back!

If you want to go watch a film there, you have to book via the Odeon website (they're running it on behalf of the BFI). The cinema is right next to Waterloo station - you can't miss it! But if you need the address, it's 1 Charlie Chaplin Walk, South Bank, London SE1 8XR.