February 2017 · I like to move it move it
Marginalia: Notes written in the margins of a text. Rhymes with Australia!

Just keep moving


What does exercise mean to you?

For me, for many years, it all about calorie burn and the quest to take up less space. And I really did love the buzz and din of the gym for a long time.

But these days I crave something more akin to moving meditation. I want calm and fresh air. I like feeling the muscles waking up. I like a reminder that my body is not just a brain, and a pair of hands on a keyboard!

In my quest for exercise inspiration, today I chat to five fabulous women who've found a way to move that truly moves them.

Whether they are tap dancing, hiking mountains, cycling through deserts, getting hot and bothered at yoga or diving beneath the ocean waves, they all glow with endorphins!

I hope you enjoy their stories. 


Fiona swims in Sydney seas


I've been swimming in the early morning, before the sun comes up, for about 24 years.

Prior to that I'd always swam, but it was usually after work or after uni when the sun was going down. The morning swims started when I had a baby (who's now 23). I had to get up early and do something nice with my day before I was occupied with mother things.

I can't be without the sea. It's like I'm not actually separate from it. The smell of rough water is indescribable. When it's all stirred up, the algae and the salt and iodine and everything is smelly and wonderful. It's almost like pears. Pears with salt, if you can imagine that.

My little group swims around 5.30 - 6am. We do a couple of rounds of the bay. 

We swim all year round, even in winter. You develop an attachment to people who will turn up because they don't want you to be by yourself. Even though it's cold, pitch-black and a shark breeding ground, they'll still show up and swim with you.

If you encounter something dangerous or scary it's one of those things that forges a bond between people - you're sharing this experience together and it makes you close friends.

Taking photos under the waves

I'm now onto my eighth underwater camera. I use an Olympus TG4. I've lost, dropped, accidentally chucked them in the garbage. I have it strapped to my swimmers, tucked down the front, so I can be swimming along and grab it.

It's a little bit like Henri Cartier Bresson and that idea of the decisive moment - you know when something fabulous is going to occur. You can see the light, you can see the backdrop - you've just got to wait for it to come along.

The gift of the whale

My dad died a few years back. I woke up the next morning after an awful day and thought to myself, I don't have a dad. This is the first day of not having a dad.

I hold to the idea that nature will reach out to you when you've lost somebody. It was a really awful day. It was July 26th and it had been stormy. The surf was huge, it was still pretty dark.

I went down to the beach and I thought, I'm going to do it, I don't think i should not.

Part of me thought that i should mark this day by not going, but I went anyway.

It was very fizzy white water. Very icy light.

On this particular day I swam with my old friend Kent. Swimming with him was calming, like two old sea creatures going out into the surf together.

The surf was really rough, but it didn't matter because I had Kent there. We headed off and we kind of knew there was a whale somewhere. It was close.

We took off across the bay. It was wild, rough and whippy.

We got to the other side and noticed that back where we'd come from, a bunch of swimmers were backed up against the rocks, not moving. What are they looking at? What's going on over there?

So we swam back - at Olympic speed mind you. When we got to the swimmers they were all still and bobbing around near the rocks.

It was at that point I looked down and realised I was directly over the top of a whale. It was looking up at me.

I could not believe it. My first thought was, what if it comes up for a breath and I'm stuck to its blow hole?

But to cut a long story short, this whale interacted with the group of us for about an hour.

Every time it backed off, it came up to have a closer look at me.

It was a Southern right whale. They do this funny motion where have their head down and their tail up, and it's a way for them to look at things closely. It kept doing this. At one point it actually backed up to me, so that its tail flukes were right in front of me.

I thought, this thing could kill me, it's massive. Massive. Then its tail flukes were spread out in front of me.

So I just put my hands on the whale's tail. Both of my hands.

It was so solid. It was a force. Like rock come to life. I just held my palms there.

Then it really gently went forward so its tail was under the water.

Possibly one of the most amazing moments of my life.

I realised it was my dad. My dad give me that gift. My dad taught me to swim. He taught me to go under the waves and never be frightened. I've never been frightened in the sea. Well, maybe once or twice.

But that's my gift from my dad, who left me. And he sent me that whale to tell me goodbye.

I haven't seen that whale again. the next year when they were migrating south, it was very clear weather. Plain sailing. So it didn't have to shelter in my bay.

I always look out for it in the middle of July, in case it comes back. But it never has.

Follow Fiona on Instagram and oggle her amazing art here. Want more underwater goodness? Read Fiona's full interview over on the blog.

Labours of love

Sweat, solitude, showbiz tunes and a great cup of coffee... here's how Caro, Georgia, Paula and Shona found what lights them up.

Caro hearts Bikram

Caro1. When did Bikram love begin?
After dabbling with lots of other Yoga for ten years, I took my first Bikram Yoga class in March 2008 and was an instant convert.

I got certified as a Bikram teacher in Los Angeles in Spring of 2014.

2. Why does it rock your world?
Bikram was the first yoga where I could turn off my brain. I'm naturally pretty bendy and was always comparing myself to other people in class or doing my shopping list in my brain. The Bikram Hot Room is designed to overload you with heat, lights, mirror and the constant talking of the teacher - and zooooom! All my extra-thoughts were gone and my brain was quiet.

It's pretty magical. I get 90 minutes of NO THOUGHTS. During teaching, too, I am so focused on my students. Totally me, and not me at all.

Bikram Yoga stretches and strengthens your muscles, mobilises your joints, stimulates your various organs and makes you sweat. But above all, it's 90 minutes of open-eyed moving meditation that makes you feel awesome. And it can - when practised regularly - absolutely change your life.

3. Got a favourite Bikram moment?
Savasana at the end of every class is just the best - a place of calm, rest and content.

4. Do you have a favourite pose?
Standing Bow Pulling Pose readjusts my spine in the most awesome way (Crack! Crack! Crack!) - and makes me feel fancy and strong like a ballerina.

5. How would you convince an un-bendy heatphobe to give it a go?
Bikram Yoga (90 minutes/26 postures/2 breathing exercises taught at 40°C/104°F and 40% humidity) is accessible to people of all ages, sizes and fitness levels that will make you feel ace. If the room is well done (lots of oxygen), you hardly notice the heat. You get in and just feel cosy. It's the best in winter! It's never too late, it's never too bad and you're never too old or to sick to start from scratch once again.

Follow Caro on Instagram

Paula and pals cycle through the desert

Paula1. How long has this been your thing?
Intermittently for around two years, but more consistently over the past nine months.

2. Why does it rock your world?
The Dubai cycling community is quite active so I have the opportunity to cycle with a varied bunch of supportive people. Mostly female, but some mixed groups too.

At any one time there is usually someone motivated to organise a fun ride, a little adventure, or just a ride for coffee. I don’t necessarily have to find my own motivation, I just have to join in.

3. Got a favourite moment?
Definitely, breakfast after a ride in a trendy café in the middle of nowhere. We were quite a long way from Dubai in an area with only small villages around. But someone knew of a fabulous café serving great food and even better coffee. I still shake my head in disbelief.

4. Can you sum up desert cycling in one sentence?
Sunrises, dunes, silence and oryx.

5. How would you convince a cycling scaredy to give it a go?
It's an opportunity to meet and chat with new people and to feel part of a greater community. A two hour ride passes so quickly and can be quite relaxing. Other rides are faster… after which there is a great feeling of achievement. And there is always coffee.

Georgia tap dances in Melbourne

Georgia1. How long have you been tapping?
I tapped until I was about 18, but always missed it after I’d stopped. When I hit 30 and heard of an adult class nearby it was on!

2. Why does it rock your world?
It’s the ultimate in daggy fun! Classes are full of people who don’t take themselves too seriously and you get all those good exercise endorphins while having a stack of fun in the process.

3. Got a favourite moment?
Tapping while pregnant was pretty hilarious. The loud noise would rouse my daughter who would kick up a storm in my belly – her own sort of tap dance – earning her the nickname Twinkletoes!

4. Do you have a favourite tapping tune?
My teacher is into 1980s music, so we’ve had a pretty cool mélange of Astaire meets Bowie. It’s hard to pick a favourite song – tapping makes me happy irrespective of the music.

5. How would you convince the tap-shy to give it a try?
Tap doesn’t feel like exercise! You get to the end of a class and want to do it all over again... plus there’s the awesome music and great people you get to know along the way.  

Shona up a hill

Shona walks up Scottish mountains

1. When did you first head for the hills?
I hill walked a little in my twenties, but then moved to London and didn't do it much at all again until this past summer when I've completely fallen in love with it!

2. Why does it rock your world?
It slows me down. I'm away from technology and the everyday distractions. All of my senses are engaged and I'm surrounded by beauty.

3. Top mountain moment?
My first lone wild camping experience last summer in the Cairngorms was an amazing experience. I was completely ill-prepared and therefore a bit cold - but it was completely liberating!

4. Do you have a favourite peak?
I love the Cairngorms as they are close to home so they are my locals - and they are some the highest and most stunning Munros you will find - so wild and solitary and beautiful. There are also where, in my new walking life, I've spent the most time.

When I'm in the beauty of these ancient mountains, my day-to-day concerns don't matter. The mountains have survived and been shaped by fierce weather and more time than we can get our heads around - and yet they stand. They are there for us if want to experience their magic. They're not going anywhere.

5. How would you convert the mountain-shy?
I'd say the best way to 'get it' is to experience it. Ideally stay in the hills for a few days and wild camp - it can take a few days to really slow down and to just be with the hills.

Check out Shona's Trekking For Wellbeing weekends, in the Cairngorms this July

Thing of the Month

Witness the fitness

For your ears this month - a cardio cacophony of songs about moving. Featuring Run DMC, Curtis Mayfield, Supergrass and a tap dancing tune or two. I've tested this on my walks and it does get the blood pumping

Note: Playlist does not contain 'Movin On Up' by M People as I bloody hate that song!

A huge thank you to Caro, Fiona, Georgia, Paula and Shona for sharing their stories this month.

Wishing you all smooth moves and strong hearts in these challenging times.


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