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My monthly exercise diary #3: When life gets in the way | March – April

I was doing fairly well at the start of March: I revelled in the number on the screen every time I signed into the gym, saying that I’d been 3 times in a 7 day period. I was getting on well with my new programme, which is a lot harder (plus some additions from me). I re-started the Couch to 5K programme again to try to ease back into running after some kind of shin splints.


And then life got in the way.


I got some bad news at work in the middle of the month – not the end-of-the-world kind, but the gut-wrenchingly disappointing kind. Things were already busy, and I knew this would drive me into the ground over the coming weeks (I was right!)

I was in a bit of a sad fog and I just couldn’t face the gym, and then the real work started and I just had so much on I told myself I’ll go if I feel like it, and if won’t wear me out for the next day – I was just so busy I couldn’t afford to be tired. But I was working such long hours (12 hour days in some cases) and the little time I had at home I was already so tired I couldn’t even imagine putting on gym clothes. So I decided not to put more pressure on myself and feel guilty; that I’d just ride out the next few weeks and then get straight back into it.


If there’s ever an incentive, it’s a holiday, and we’ve just booked ours! In September we’re going on a road trip from L.A. to Las Vegas, then on to Yosemite and San Francisco. So if I’m going to be in a bikini on Venice Beach and at pool parties in Vegas I’m going to need to pull my socks up!!


Now that the main slog of the project is out of the way, and I’m back from Venice, it’s time to get back on track.

  • I’ve decided I’d like to try to do a very brief yoga session every morning so I’m starting that tomorrow.
  • I also want to continue to try to rebuild my running, so yet again I’m restarting interval training using Couch to 5K.
  • Finally, I’m going to focus my exercise a bit more, and work on specific areas in a workout like I used to when doing BBG.

I keep some of my fitness inspiration and workout guides on my Keeping Fit Pinterest board. Take a look and feel free to follow 🙂

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Five Positive Things | April-May 2016

The last 6 weeks have gone by in a blur.


Work suddenly went utterly mental at the end of March, causing some serious stress, long working days / weeks (writing presentations on a Sunday, anyone?) and more dinners in the office than I’d ever wish on anyone. I think I only managed to cry once, and luckily at home, which is quite impressive considering!

So, now that I’m on the other side, I thought it would be good to focus on 5 happy things:


1 – Venice

The bonus at the end of it all was a trip to Venice with my Katy, my BFF and Maid of Honour. We’ve never been away together (unless you count Brighton!) so it was really nice to spend some quality time together and see somewhere new. Our Airbnb apartment was amazing and we made the most of the excellent local food and Prosecco – and Aperol Spritz of course!

#latergram #venezia #venice #cannaregio #nofilter

A photo posted by Jen 💋 (@jbarrett238) on


2 – Booking our American road trip!

We’ve also been booking up our American road trip! Martin’s wanted to go ever since some friends were meant to get married in Las Vegas this year, which was cancelled due to them expecting a baby. After a long while of saying no (saving for a house etc), I eventually caved once I looked into how much our usual all-inclusive holiday would cost – for some reason it seems so much more expensive this year, so I decided I’d rather put the money towards an AMAZING trip rather than paying it for 10 days on a beach! So in September we’re going to LA, Disneyland, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and San Francisco. Now that I’ve been booking and researching I really can’t wait!


3 – Dr Faustus

I’m going to the theatre on Thursday with a friend to see Dr Faustus (starring Kit Harington, of Game of Thrones fame!) It’s meant to be a modern interpretation which isn’t particularly close to Marlowe’s original text, so I’m intrigued to see what it’s like. The reviews for Dr Faustus aren’t that great (!) but apparently Kit spends a lot of time with his chest out, so there’s a bonus…


4 – Sunshine!

I’m a summer baby, so I definitely get a bit of SAD. The current sunny weather is just the most awesome thing, I can’t explain how much my spirit lifts when I see the sun, and can feel its warmth on my face.


5 – Quality time

This past weekend (being the first since the Month of No Weekends and going to Venice, then him working overtime followed by going to Birmingham for work) it was SO lovely to finally spend some quality time with my husband. I had a baby shower to go to on Saturday, but other than that, we just relaxed, watched a serious amount of TV and went for a nice Sunday walk in High Elms, a local country park, and some lunch. Sometimes, it’s the little things 🙂


Relaxing Sunday morning walk with the hubby #sundays #walk #woods #bluebells #latergram

A photo posted by Jen 💋 (@jbarrett238) on

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Making Time

In my Medium Daily Digest the other week was a post by Heather Sundell, a writer from LA. I don’t know if you use Medium, but if you do, the Daily Digest is a great way of discovering new content, and this article really resonated with me.

Her article, If You Keep Trying to Find Time to Do Something, You’ll Be Looking Forever, talks about how people always say they can’t find time to contribute towards their passions or things they want to do, but really it’s just an excuse for procrastination or lack of effective prioritisation. Reading this, I realised this is me down to a T, particularly when I consider this blog. I often think I don’t have time to write for it, but I also don’t make time.

Jones Clock

Heather says:

Even after you’ve budgeted your time out and only have an hour to give to your passion, whatever that is, that hour will get you a lot farther than an excuse.

This couldn’t be more true. I spend my lunchtimes at work reading blogs, and daydreaming about posts I could write. I make notes of potential blog topics or titles in my Evernote or OneNote. But do I ever actually use that hour to write those posts? Of course not. But then I beat myself up for only having written one post in the last month. I’m never going to be happy with it if I continue in this way.

On a similar note, when I was younger, I used to write poetry and short stories, and I’ve thought about it often. I’d like to try again. So, the other day, I turned the TV down, and just started writing. I’m not sure what it is yet, I doubt it’s very good and that anyone will ever read it, but never mind. It was so freeing.

I really need to make a concerted effort to be more accountable for how I choose to spend my spare time.

Would you say you use your time effectively?

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Earth Hour 2016

Shortly it will be time for #EarthHour here in the UK, starting at 8.30pm GMT, and I’ve just been getting my candles ready.  Earth Hour - candles

Earth Hour asks you to switch off your lights for an hour in a symbolic gesture against climate change. It was started by the WWF in Sydney in 2007 and has since spread across the globe.

The hope is that the message goes further than just this one hour – how can everyone do something to help against climate change? Even little things can help turn the tide.

Earth Hour - stag
I certainly can do more – we don’t recycle as much as we should, and we could definitely reduce our electricity usage. It’s something I’m going to try and be better at in the future.

I hope you’re turning off your lights too.


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My monthly exercise diary #2: Settling in

While I’ve not settled into a full on exercise routine, I’ve done much better in February. I got off to a bad start with Kayla Itsines’ programme at the start of the month as I forgot to download the PDF offline (oops) and so got to the gym and realised I couldn’t do it! So I started on their circuit instead, which over the month I’ve been doing more regularly and adapted as time has gone on.

Generally I’ve added in more abs exercises and more repetitions of the arms exercises using the pull down / push up machine. I’ve started to see some results, with my back already looking visibly more toned and my belly slightly less pronounced. I know I need to up my cardio to really get this down, but more on that in a sec.

I’ve also added in some extra squats and replaced their tricep machine with tricep kickbacks, which I find more satisfying and definitely harder… I’m not sure what it is about the machine I don’t like, but these are more comfortable (and challenging) for me. My only problem is making sure my form is right without a mirror (as a ladies’ only gym, there are no mirrors except in the changing room).

I’m probably going about twice a week now I would say, which is better than it was. I have struggled though with my ongoing shin issue, which may be shin splints, preventing me from running. I’ve had some good advice from one of the gym instructors via my friend, so I’m going to give that a go along with building up from scratch. One of the main causes appears to be a lack of regular running, and then trying to do too much too soon.

So, I’m going to work the NHS ‘Couch to 5K’ into my routine. It’s going to be hellishly boring to begin with, but I’m going to stick it out and see how it goes. Fingers crossed it helps! Otherwise, I’ll need to find other ways of bringing cardio back in, which would be a shame as I had started to enjoy running, particularly outside.

I finally had a reassessment at the gym where they weigh and measure you again and then provide you with a new regime (if you need one). To be honest the results were a mixed bag – weight up 2lb, some body measurements up and some down, body fat % down. I’m not disheartened at all seeing as I’ve not really done the 8 weeks of exercise that you’re meant to have done, and I’m happy that my body fat % was down in particular.

The new regime seems much harder than the previous so I don’t think I’ll find myself adding in much more to it. Ironically I was going to start it tonight but I’m not feeling great (man flu) so assuming I’m better tomorrow, I’ll see how it goes!

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How to Make Money Online: Cashback Sites

This post should probably be called ‘how to save money online’, but it depends which way you look at it! You may well use a cashback site already, but if you don’t, read on. If you’re going to buy anyway, it’s a good way of getting a little something back, and it all adds up.

How does it work?

Cashback sites list hundreds of merchants and other sites where you can earn money as either a percentage of your sale value or a lump sum – and you don’t have to be buying a product necessarily; some sites pay you to use their service. So whether you’re buying a new dress or using a comparison site, there’s cash to be had.

You need to find the company you want to purchase from on the cashback site and click through to them from there. Ideally you should complete the sale in one session. This is because the sites track using cookies and most are based on a ‘last click wins’ policy – your cashback claim might get turned down if you later click through to the site from another source (even Google) and purchase from that click instead.

The cashback site relies on the retailer’s sales data to verify whether you made a sale, and because of these moving parts, cashback isn’t guaranteed – so best to think of it as a bonus instead of a certainty.

Different companies, different cashback

You may find that different companies pay differing rates of cashback for the same merchant, so it’s worth signing up to as many as you can and doing a quick check of the rates before committing to a click. One may also have access to merchants that the other doesn’t.

The top 2 cashback sites – Top CashBack and Quidco

Top Cashback Logo

Top CashBack offer two types of account – Classic and Plus. Plus costs £5 a year, and you get a whole host of additional features. Top CashBack pay a cashback bonus with all transactions, but for Plus customers it’s 5% rather than the 1% for Classic members. You also get higher payout and referral bonuses, no ads around the site, exclusive deals and 7 days a week priority customer support. They also have a helpful list of ‘free cashback’, where you don’t have to purchase to earn. I prefer Top CashBack because of the additional cashback bonuses plus the varied ways you can get paid. Payments:

  • Bank Transfer
  • Paypal
  • Gift cards / e-certificates at various retailers including Amazon, M&S, Love2shop, Cineworld, Argos, Homebase, TK Maxx, Debenhams, Currys PC World, Boots, Arcadia Group, Starbucks, Toys R Us, New Look, BHS, House of Fraser, River Island, plus a few restaurants and pub groups. What a choice!
  • Tesco Clubcard points

Quidco Logo is perhaps the more well known site and while I prefer TC overall, I prefer the Quidco interface. It’s a bit easier to navigate and I tend to find account information, payments etc easier to find on here. There’s a lot more obvious in-your-face merchant ‘recommendations’ (advertising) though. You can also pay to be a Premium member (£5 a year) – where you get faster payment terms with selected retailers, support, no ads, exclusive offers and ocasionally payout bonuses – right now you get an extra 2% on Gift Certificates.

  • Bank Transfer
  • Paypal
  • Gift Certificates (+2%)

Charity cashback sites

There are a few charity cashback sites, where rather than the money coming to you, it goes to your nominated charity instead. The rates tend to be lower though, so if you can trust yourself (!) you’d be better off earning from Top CashBack/Quidco and donating. If you do decide to use these sites, make sure you tick the GiftAid box if you’re eligible to do so, to maximise the amount the charity receives. Examples of these include Giveasyoulive and Easyfundraising.


Most sites have toolbars you can install / add on to your browser which will indicate when a site offers cashback. This is a good way of making sure you don’t forget!

Cashback vs Voucher Codes

Unlike a voucher code, where the discount on your purchase is instant in the basket, with cashback you will need to pay the full price upfront, and then wait a while for your sale to be validated by the merchant before the money can be paid to you. The cashback site will tell you a rough idea of how long this will be, but be warned – it can take longer and as mentioned elsewhere, isn’t guaranteed to be paid.

As a voucher code gives a guaranteed discount, you should weigh up which is better – a lower voucher code which is provided then and there or a higher cashback amount which may not be paid.

One problem with voucher codes is that it’s hard to keep track of the savings as you go along – a few pence here and there does add up, but unless you put that money aside, you could just end up spending it on something you didn’t mean to! What I like about getting a payment from a cashback site is that it’s much easier to keep track of and move directly into your savings account.

Cashback AND Voucher Codes?

Sometimes you might see a voucher code and cashback and think – I can use both! But the only time you can, is if the voucher is shown on the cashback site. If you get it elsewhere and use both, you’ll get the voucher code discount but in most cases, not the cashback. Merchants are much more savvy to this now as they de-dupe across traffic channels.

In-store cashback

Don’t forget to link up your bank cards so that you will receive in-store cashback with participating retailers without even trying! Some sites require you to ‘opt in’ to the offers, but on Quidco for example you get it anyway. I got 5p from Caffe Nero the other day when I bought two coffees – which OK, isn’t going to change my life by itself but every little helps!

I bought something but the cashback hasn’t tracked / it’s been declined. What do I do?

There’s an option to put in a cashback claim with all of these sites who will investigate whether they can track a sale back to you. Sometimes though this may still be declined if they can’t connect a sale back to you or if you’ve gone via two conflicting traffic sources as mentioned above. Worth trying though!



Transfer your payments to your savings account as soon as you receive them. Or, take the payout as a store voucher and use as gifts, or to purchase gifts at Christmas. You could easily pay for Christmas over  the course of a year!

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My monthly exercise diary #1: the beginning

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of the gym. I loathe it. It bores me. Even in the run up to my wedding – probably one of the best incentives ever – I really struggled to keep to a routine.

That’s not changed, a few years later. I’ve dabbled in a few different things: working out on my own, running with friends, going to classes, using exercise guides, etc. Nothing has really stuck. Recently I joined a new women-only gym, Shapers, which is based in Bromley High Street. It’s an interesting concept, based around a circuit system and regular check ups on your measurements. I’m going to put my hands up and say I’ve not been to one yet. I’ve not put the time in, so I kind of thought what’s the point? 

I need to turn that attitude around.

The exercise guide I got furthest with was Kayla Itsines’ Bikini Body Guide, or BBG, which is a 12 week programme. It is tough though – not just the exercise but also to fit in everything it asks of you in a week. I also worry that because I’m so rubbish people in the gym will judge me, even in a women’s only gym! I’d like to try again, though I missed the start of the new ‘Kayla Movement’ at the start of January, but that doesn’t matter.

So I’ve decided to keep a track of how I’m doing on here in the hopes it might make me feel slightly more accountable, and hopefully I will be able to turn this into an actual routine. 

So I’m starting tomorrow. Good luck to me! I’ll check back in in 4 weeks.

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