Friday, 16 April 2021

Review - The DKN XC-140i Elliptical Cross Trainer

A review of our new DKN cross trainer.

Our gym has been closed for most of the last year, and although we've continued our exercise at home, over the winter we started some research into buying a large piece of gym equipment. We settled on a cross trainer, or elliptical machine, chosen because it's not an exercise that we can duplicate ourselves (like running or cycling) and it provides a good full body workout. 

For clarity in this review, this is the first large piece of home exercise equipment that we have owned, and I can only compare it to the heavy duty cross trainer that I've used at the gym. 

DKN XC-140i Elliptical Cross Trainer review

We settled on the DKN XC-140i Elliptical Cross Trainer and we paid £599. This machine seemed to represent good value for money, being a high quality machine and with good reviews, yet not at the highly expensive end of the scale. We ordered it from Sweatband in mid January, but due to delays related to Brexit and Covid we didn't receive it until the end of March.

The cross trainer was delivered to our downstairs hallway. Since we planned to install it on the top floor we had to carry it up two flights of stairs. Some pieces could be removed from the box, but the bulkiest section was all in once piece, and because of the unpredictable moving hinged parts it was easiest to keep it inside the box for transport. It was very heavy, and although we managed it we didn't find it easy. 

Assembly took the two of us about an hour. It wasn't too difficult and there were only six steps, but a couple of times we were left scratching our heads and trying to work out what went where. It really takes two people to assemble, as you need someone to hold awkward pieces in place while they are screwed together. I think that it would be difficult to assemble alone.

Review of DKN XC-140i Elliptical Cross Trainer

The control panel is very basic compared to some on the market, but that's a good thing for me as it's simple to use. You just press Enter to select your options and use the Up and Down buttons to scroll through. During use, the Up and Down buttons are used to decrease or increase the resistance. There are four saved user profiles, although we don't use these as we track our exercise separately through an Apple watch. 

There are 12 pre-set programmes that you can choose from, although personally I prefer to use manual mode and set myself a time or distance goal. To use one of the programmes , select the programme you want and the amount of time that you want to exercise for and it will automatically work you through the different resistance levels. You can override the resistance level using the controls at any point.

DKN XC-140i Elliptical Cross Trainer control panel

The stride length on the cross trainer is shorter than on a larger machine, but it's not a problem for me and my husband as we aren't very tall. There are small wheels so that you can move the machine around, although you still need to lift it a little. On a wooden floor it can easily be slid around (without moving while in use!). We also bought a good quality mat to place underneath and protect our floor. We tried it out with a cheaper foam mat underneath but found that it felt a bit too bouncy. 

The cross trainer features an inbuilt Bluetooth Smart wireless receiver which means that you can monitor your heart rate with a compatible device and also connect to a device to keep track of your workouts. However we've not used this facility apart from to test it as we track our workouts using an Apple watch. 

There is a small shelf for a tablet or phone, but no water bottle holder or any other storage, although I manage to hook my small towel over the handles. You are quite high up when using it, so it's a bit awkward to reach down for items on a nearby table or chair. 

The cross trainer is pretty quiet when in use. You can hear it in the room underneath, probably because of the wooden floor, but it's not too loud. We've noticed an occasional knocking sound from inside the wheel that comes and goes. You can easily listen to a tablet or phone using the speakers while working out, and my husband has used it during work calls. I should mention that my daughter managed to cut herself very slightly on the sharp underside of one of the pedals, so that's something to be aware of and it should be used and stored in a place away from young children or pets. 

DKN XC-140i Elliptical Cross Trainer review

I must admit that I don't always find it the most exciting way of exercising, but I do enjoy being able to watch and listen to my own shows and music while using it without the need for headphones. I found this article is really helpful - 5 ways to boost your cross trainer workout - it contains some good ideas for mixing your workout up a bit. I'm intending to use the cross trainer for a longer workout once or twice a week, combined with outdoor running and core workouts.

We are really pleased with our purchase. It fits neatly into the space that we've set aside, and it's very motivating to know that it is there and so easy to jump on and use. It's definitely going to be very useful when I don't feel like going for a run outdoors.

You can find further technical information and reviews here - DKN XC-140i Elliptical Cross Trainer

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Introducing a new Roblox based YouTube channel for children

Today I wanted to introduce you to Mia and her friends' new YouTube channel. I appreciate that it probably won't appeal directly to many of my readers, but as a parenting blogger I'm hoping that some of you might have a child that enjoys playing games like Roblox, and might like to take a look.

The channel is called The Cosy Crew and is the work of Mia along with two of her friends. They all create and upload videos, sometimes as a group and sometimes individually. They are much better at posting to their channel than I am to mine! It's become a real creative outlet for them, and they've all learned how to edit the videos, record their voices and add music. Obviously they have me to supervise and I'm keeping an eye on it, for example I've made sure that comments are turned off!

I love how they have taken note of which Roblox videos are popular, and they've focussed on quickly creating new videos to help other people, like this one showing all the Easter egg locations in a recent update, along with reviewing any updates to the game. 



Here is what Mia has to say about their channel: 

Hi, we're The Cosy Crew! We do videos on Roblox playing some of our favourite games- Royale High, Club Roblox, Adopt Me and loads more! We also do videos on other games such as Minecraft and Among Us! We love to do role play and play music for our band.

Roblox YouTube channel The Cosy Crew

So if you have children in your family that you think might enjoy this channel, I would love for you to let them know about The Cosy Crew

The Cosy Crew Roblox YouTube channel

Monday, 12 April 2021

How I've changed over the last year

I've recently read lots of articles marking one year since the start of lockdown in the UK on the 23rd March 2020. I don't think any of us imagined that we'd still be in almost the same place a whole year later! But with things hopefully moving in the right direction I thought that it wouldn't hurt to pause for a moment and think about all the ways that I've changed over the last year.

I'm more aware of my anxiety. I've always been anxious about things, but not to an extent that it interfered too much with my daily life. But at certain times over the last year I noticed physical anxiety symptoms, in particular a racing heartbeat, which I had never experienced before. Luckily that was just a temporary thing, and in fact many of my usual sources of anxiety were removed this year, for example the school run!

My meal planning has improved now that I no longer pop to the supermarket every other day for quick top ups. I have meals ready that I can make from store cupboard basics, and I've become used to planning meals in advance and buying everything at once. I haven't stockpiled, but I am careful to make sure that we have a good amount of long life food in the house, and always enough to make several days worth of food (essentially that means plenty of pasta, tomato sauce and frozen veg!)

I am very familiar with the local walking and running routes. Possibly a little too over familiar with the streets around my house.

Children on the beach at a 2m distance

I read a lot more. The short walk to my local library has become a big part of my routine, and the fact that I can currently reserve any book that I want to read for free has been brilliant.

I'm used to a lack of social contact. I used to think that I felt lonely when Ram went away for work and I didn't speak to any other adults for several days at a time. Now it's the norm!

I'm more aware of my home surroundings because I always at home. This isn't always a good thing, because mess bothers me, and sometimes it feels as though I'm constantly tidying up after everyone.

The children are more independent. Thanks to becoming used to doing their school work in their rooms they now spend more time there whereas in the past they tended to follow me around the house. This is part of growing up as well of course, but I always felt they were a bit too stuck to me so it's nice to have some space, especially when I need to work.

I spend more time in the garden. I've been very appreciative of our garden over the last year. It's not fancy but it's a good size and we have some comfortable garden furniture. I don't remember much really sitting out there for pleasure before.

Vegetable patch in garden with lavender

Screen time has become more productive. With more time at home to fill the children have turned to their screens, but they've also been using them in ways that I feel are beneficial. Harry has been teaching himself coding in Python, and learning how to solve Rubik's cubes. Mia plays games but it's a way for her to socialise and she has also started creating short videos for a YouTube channel with her friends. 

I use social media less. Over the summer I was on my phone far too much and it wasn't good for my mental health so I made a big effort to cut back. A key thing was to unfollow many accounts on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, and then to make an effort to flag up content that wasn't relevant or didn't interest me. This means that when I do log in I find the content more relevant, and it's also quicker to go through.

I've lost weight and become fitter. I did put on weight during the first lockdown, from stress, boredom and excess summer eating. But over the last six months I have cut back and increased the exercise, with the result that I'm currently really happy with my weight and fitness levels. I also feel motivated to keep it up going forwards.

Exercise equipment in a basket

I'm used to sharing the house. It was difficult at first with Ram at home all day, especially as he was usually away for a night or two every week. Then of course the children have been at home for the majority of the last year. But I've become used to it and I can hardly remember what it was like before. I've also come to appreciate having everyone around (even if I do long for some space sometimes!)

I am very grateful for the fact that this last year hasn't been nearly as difficult for me and my family as it has for many others. But it has been an unsettling year full of changes, and I know that it's going to take a while for things to get back to something resembling normality. I think that I've definitely made some positive changes, and while anxiety remains that things might fall apart again I'm hopeful for the future.

Friday, 9 April 2021

What I learned from temporary home schooling

I'm hoping that we have finally said goodbye to the home learning. I've thought this before of course, but this time things seem to be moving in the right direction, and I feel more confident that the schools won't be closing again.

I was relieved to see the back of home learning, and I don't at all envy the poor teachers trying to help children get used to being in the classroom again, without their Roblox and constant access to snacks. But having the children at home gave me the chance to spend more time with them, as well as get a small insight into their school day. And looking back, it wasn't too bad overall.

So here are some of the things that I learned from home schooling the children:

* Teachers deserve a great deal of respect. I can't imagine how stressful it must have been to have planned out all the work for the year, then at the last minute (and not once but twice!) having to rewrite everything and adapt it so that it could be taught remotely. It must have been such a change to their normal working patterns and I don't know how they did it.

* I always thought that I would have liked to be a teacher, but now I know for sure that I don't have the patience. It was hard enough trying to deal with two children, let alone an entire classroom.

* I also always thought that home schooling permanently might be fun. But it wouldn't be for me.

* I'm so glad that my job is part time, hours can be worked to suit, and I don't have to do any live meetings or calls. With my husband's job being so demanding it would have been impossible to juggle everything.

Child learning from home on an iPad at a desk

* I had to learn to step back and not get overinvested, and I had to learn to stop myself jumping in to correct spelling and grammar.

* I found that the children are more independent than I give them credit for, and I often do things for them that they are more than capable of doing for themselves. When left to their own devices they had no problems understanding and completing the work set, they just enjoyed the reassurance of me being involved.

* It was interesting to see the areas where the children need some extra help. Fractions and decimals in particular proved to be tricky.

* Their different personalities mean that their learning styles are different. Harry likes structure and clear instructions, Mia enjoys more open-ended tasks. I had to help them adapt to home learning in different ways.

* I found out how much maths in particular has changed since I was at school. While I could always find the answer to a maths problem, it wasn't usually in the way that the teacher wanted me to find it!

Second time around it was all much easier, and if it does happen that we need to learn from home again, perhaps due to a positive case in the class, we are all much more confident with the situation. But fingers crossed, this time they'll be remaining in the classrooms!

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Our new cross trainer

We've been dedicated gym members many years now, since well before the children were born, but of course it has been shut for most of the last year. Even when it reopened over the summer we only actually returned in October for a month or so, and it has been closed ever since. 

I feel bad because I know that businesses like this, even a large national chain like our gym, are going to struggle with the  loss of income. But we have paid them a huge amount in membership fees over many years, and the truth is that not only have we saved a fortune this year, we've also realised that we can manage extremely well at keeping ourselves fit without it. So we have handed in our notice, and unless they are able to offer us a good incentive to stay then we will be leaving once we've worked through the notice period.

We decided to put some of the money that we have saved towards buying ourselves a cross trainer. We placed the order back in January when it was darker and colder than it is now, but due to supply issues we only actually took delivery of it this week. It was very exciting!

New cross trainer in bedroom office

Thanks to having cleared and decorated one of our top rooms as a good sized office for Ram, we had plenty of space to fit it. It means that he can use it while he's working, and if I do feel the urge to exercise during his working day he can usually take calls in another room. 

We've only had it a few days but we are really pleased with it so far, and I'm planning to share a full review when we've been using for a couple of weeks. A big benefit is that I can prop my phone up and watch my own videos while I'm working out, instead of relying on the gym televisions, and it's nice and quiet so I don't need headphones. I haven't used a cross trainer much before so it's still quite new to me and I'm finding it very hard work. I can manage twenty minutes on the lowest setting before I wobble back down the stairs and collapse. 

Ram has been eyeing up those fancy sheds that you can install in the garden to use as a home gym. Probably with the amount that we'll be saving on gym membership it won't be long before we can afford one!

Monday, 5 April 2021

My goals for April

Writing a monthly goal list has become a new thing for me, and I'm finding it really motivating to have both long and short term goals to keep me focussed during the month. 

So here's what I want to achieve during April:

* Finish my pallet planter. I've been putting this off because it's been so cold, but as soon as the weather has warmed up a bit I'll be out there with the sandpaper and the paint.

* Spend lots of time in the garden. I've spent several hours out there today, it's still a bit chilly but I wrapped up with a blanket and a hot drink and I even took my exercise mat out there and did some stretches (well away from our Ring security camera!). I feel really good for the fresh air. So I intend to sit outside for at least a few minutes every day, as long as it's not raining!

Reading in the garden under a blanket

* Plant out the rest of my seeds. I ordered plenty of seeds back in February but I've only planted out tomatoes and sweet peas so far. I've been saving plastic trays and for my planter project I need lots of marigolds, I also have other flowers to do. I might plant some more tomatoes as well as I'm always successful with those and had a lovely crop last year.

* Keep up with the exercise. We spent some of the money that we saved on our gym membership over the last year on a decent cross trainer, and I'm enjoying using it on the days when it's too cold to brace myself for a run outside. I also want to keep up the core training and flexibility routines that I've been doing.

* Continue my leg stretches. I'm interested to see how far I can get with my leg stretches this month, I've been seeing a lot of improvement, so I definitely want to keep up with my short ten minute daily stretch routine.

* Spend time down at the beach. I enjoy a run along the beach after school drop off once a week or so, and I can also run to the beach from my home. I find it so relaxing to sit on the beach and watch the waves for a little while, especially after I've been exercising.

* Refine my YouTube stream. I've been really into YouTube recently but I find it far too easy to get sucked into watching mindless videos that end up being a waste of time. I have massively reduced the list of channels that I was subscribed too, and when I go through my home feed I'm being diligent about reporting videos that don't interest me. That has made a big difference and has also introduced me to some new channels. I've found some lovely relaxing videos like the one below, and I've been watching organisational and productivity videos while I'm on the cross trainer. I'd love to hear any recommendations if you have them!


* Publish more blog posts. I'm finding that writing in my journal has been a really good way to come up with ideas for blog posts, I just need to find the uninterrupted time to write them up properly. It's been tricky lately as I've had quite a bit of work on, so I need to get better at organising my time (and possibly spending less time on YouTube!).

* Pick up my cross stitch more often. I'm really pleased with my progress so far, but it has been a little neglected lately. My goal is to start working towards the first side of the border. There's a lot of it, but I don't mind it because it's quite mindless and I don't need to follow the pattern too closely. The design is Olde World Map by Janlynn. This is where I'm at so far:

Cross stitch Olde World Map in progress

I think that these goals are very achievable. Many of them feel geared towards making my life feel a little calmer and more relaxing, which I definitely need to concentrate more on!

Friday, 2 April 2021

An update on my March goals

I did so well with my February goals that I was really keen to keep the momentum going with my list of goals for my list of goals for March. I had found it really motivating to have a list of things to work on through the month and I was pleased with my progress.  

When I started to write this post I wasn't feeling very positive, but when I sat down to think about it I realised that I'd actually done really well! The only thing that I didn't get do was to make my garden planter, mainly because it was too cold outside for me.

Here's what I achieved:

* Get back into the school routine. This went pretty smoothly and the children have settled back in nicely (albeit only for three weeks before the Easter holidays started). The first week back was rough, and they were both overtired and overwhelmed. But they benefited so much from going back. Harry had been anxious about the lateral flow tests but he soon realised it wasn't a problem and we've been continuing them at home with no issues. 

Covid lateral flow tests in a box

* Continue my exercise. I'm pleased to say that I've been doing very well with this. I managed two long runs along the seafront despite the freezing winds. I also joined Ram and the kids for school drop off and ran back home - it's nearly ten kilometres so I definitely felt that I'd earned my cake that day! I completed the shredded abs challenge that I was working on and my stomach definitely feels tighter and flatter. I'm doing a flexibility challenge for my legs, and I'm noticing big improvements there too.

*Get out the garden furniture. It has been out for two days now and I spent ages out there today reading with a blanket round me!

* Sort out the garden. The strawberry plants are weeded and the dead leaves removed, I've raked over the empty vegetable patch ready for later in the spring and I've made a start on the planting - tomatoes and sweet peas so far. 

Seedlings planted in plastic tubs on the windowsill

* Continue with the healthy eating and lose the last bit of weight. I'm delighted to announce that I have just hit my goal weight, I'm now the lightest I've been for a couple of years! I'd like to lose a little more to give myself a buffer, as I always put on weight during the summer what with the barbecues, the delicious pizzas and the ice cream that I can't stop buying. 

* Find some podcasts to listen to on the school run. This one was half achieved. I found some interesting podcasts, but I found I couldn't concentrate on them while I was driving! I realised I prefer to put some familiar music on and sing along.

* Try and manage some socialising. I went up to see my parents and I went for a lovely long walk with a friend. I have also scheduled in some more meetups for the Easter break.

* Clean out the kitchen cupboards. I cleaned the two worst ones at least!

* Plan for the Easter holidays. Another success, you can read about my Easter holiday planning here. 

* Publish at least one blog post a week. I managed this but it was tough, and I didn't feel very inspired when it came to writing blog posts. But I'm feeling a lot more productive at the moment so I'm hoping to step it up a bit this month.

I'm so pleased with the progress that I've made, and I want to continue making these lists because it definitely helps to keep me focussed with long and short term goals. So look out shortly for April's goals!

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