lululemon Sweatlife Festival

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

For the third year in a row, I made my way down to Tobacco Docks early on a Saturday morning. It usually takes some sort of workout for me to get up early and Sweatlife Festival is no exception.  For about £30, you have a multitude of 45 minute classes to choose from, featuring many of the London boutique studios, such as Frame, KoBox, Un1t London, Third Space, and Triyoga.  Big name yogis come in to teach hundreds of students.  Then there are other perks, such as healthy food options (prosecco too), a marketplace, hair braiding in the Mermaid Cave and a stretch out space with foam rollers.

After registering, we all received a water bottle to ensure we reduced our plastic use over the course of the day.  I got in at 8:30am for my first session at 9am, which gave me time to explore the layout and see where my registered sessions were.  I knew I would have to refill a few times due to the warm weather and all the classes I was going to take, so I also noted where the water refilling stations were.

Why this and not the others?

Your ticket includes one red class and one yellow plus unlimited talks and yoga classes.  You get at least  three classes for £35 for a single day pass.  Last year, I tried KoBox and Un1t to see what they were about.  This year, I tried Olympic lifting and a barre class.  I tend to skip Frame classes because I worked there ages ago so totally get what the brand is about (plus their classes are intense so I need to conserve my energy for a marathon day). The day is a fantastic opportunity to try out different boutique studios with a minor financial investment.

My first session was Introduction to Olympic Weightlifting with CrossFit London (based in Bethnal Green).  My partner was Amanda, who was from Australia and very friendly and experienced in lifting (thank goodness, she had great tips).  Unfortunately, we had very loud neighbors which made it hard to hear the instructors.  The class was split so we could work on two different movements but still hear our instructors.

My next session was reiki with Re:Mind studio.  Based near Victoria station, it is a meditation center that offers reiki, crystal bowl sessions, meditation classes and more.  I hadn't heard of them before so it was very cool to experience their class.  Reiki channels energy and vibration to help with healing. I have hard it before in a 1-2-1 setting but never in a large group.  It was a lovely way to recoup after an early start and lifting session.

The first talk I went to was all about meditation and mindfulness from Danielle of lululemon corporate office.  She gave us a 21 day meditation challenge were we only need to spend a minute a day meditating.  The mantra she gave us was 'I am.'  My meditation reminders are in my diary and I am determined to finish this challenge.

The only yoga class I went to was lead by Sanchia Legister.  Funny fact- we sat next to each other on the plane to NYC marathon!  Her music selection was amazing, both in mood and lyrical choice.  She also doesn't take yoga too seriously, which made the class of 400 yogis a lot of fun.  The energy in the room was amazing.  Me being me, I re-introduced myself to her at the end of the class.

The next talk I went to was about doing less but better.  Another leader from lululemon's leadership team talked about how if we cut out 80% of the things we spend energy on to focus on the most important 20%, the resulting outcome would be significantly greater.  Inspired by her talk, I already cut out a few one-offs things I volunteered for but weren't going to help me reach my end goals in life.  This has made me feel more relaxed in some ways and focused in others.

My last class of the day was with Xtend Barre London.  I thought it would be a traditional barre class, but instead it was a little bit of everything (minus the bar).  We did first and second positions, plies, and a bit of rhythmic movement.  I definitely felt the burn in my arms and legs.  Great music and moves made it a lovely way to end my day.

The last session I tried to attend was a crystal bowl session with Re:Mind but sadly it filled up.  I have been meaning to try it but wasn't sure how it worked.  It is still on my list of things to do.  My friend, Kate, offers this regularly and I need to make it prioritize it.

Less than a mile from Tobacco Docks is Rinkoff Bakery. So I walked about 15 minutes to enjoy my crodough in the sunshine.  It was the best way to end the day. I rarely get over to Whitechapel so this was something I was thinking about all day.

Have you been to Sweatlife before?  What did you think?  I am signing up again for next year!

Ready to "tri" again

Friday, June 21, 2019

On Thursday afternoon, I was back at Function360 for my check up.  I am only going every three weeks now which is great because it means I am nearly done with my recovery.  It is also sad though because I love seeing the team (especially Hugo, the office dog).  My osteopath, Emma, is pleased with my progress, even though I still have some tenderness to the touch on the medial side of my left Achilles.  The swelling has gone done quite a bit and I no longer have any pain in my right Achilles (while my right posterior tibial tendon is a different story).  Twice I week, I complete my rehab regime and I am religious about stretching and foam rolling after exercise. 

Emma, from Function360, working her magic
At these visits, Emma will examine my lower legs, looking for symmetry, swelling, tenderness, strength, and tight muscles.  Depending on what she finds, she might massage my calves, stretch my hips, dry needle my tendons or all of the above.  This week was just stretching and massage.  She also assigned two new exercises to me which will help with my posterior tibial tendon (in fact, I am doing them as I type this).

To infinity and beyond!
My dedication to the rehab program seems to be paying off as I am now able to run for 10 minutes with a 1 minute walking break three times per session which gets me up to a 5K.  I hope to be up to steady state running in the next few weeks.  It is a bit nerve-racking to start up again.  What if the Achilles pain comes back?  What if four months of rehab hasn't made me any stronger or faster?  Will I ever run another marathon.  When I told her about my concerns, Emma said I shouldn't be comparing myself to anyone else.  She believes things are looking good so far and that I should keep the faith.

Cap from 2011 London Triathlon. New cycling shoes #gifted from Decathlon.
As my prognosis is looking good and I do better with a deadline in my diary, I have signed up for the London Triathlon super sprint distance (400m swim, 10K bike, 2.5K run. (#gifted entry).  London Triathlon might have been my first UK back in 2011.  I did the sprint course (700m swim, 20K bike, 5K run) and for a brief moment was tempted to do it again to try for a PB.  But then I remembered I am supposed to be sensible in my recovery and stuck with the super sprint.  It will still be a PB and the cross-training will help my cardiovascular fitness levels improve before I start training for the 20km trail runs in Malawi with Orbis Challenge.  I have a lot of work to do this summer.

Why is it so hard to look cool in a wet suit? #gifted from Decathlon
My training strategy is primarily to add swimming in twice a week (once in a pool and once in open water).  For the passed few years, I teach indoor cycling once or twice a week, riding about 10-12 miles per class.  I might do a few short outdoor bike sessions on my own to learn about my threshold and where I can ride to just below it for about 20 minutes.  I will use parkrun to develop my running strategy. Our local course is two laps which means I can use the first lap to tire myself out (simulating excursion on swim and bike) then push myself on second lap.

This week's playlist
Because I am a competitive person, I am going to study previous London Triathlon results in case there is a chance I can place in my age group.  That would be a Christmas miracle but really give my confidence a boost.  I am dying to get back out there and continue to develop my speed with track sessions but fear getting thrown back to square one. 

Have you ever come back from injury by completing a triathlon?  Or taking up one of the disciplines as a substitute for running?  Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks to London Triathlon for the gifted entry.  Full review of my race experience will be up in August.

Surf, stretch and stay with Freewave Surf

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

After the dance floor, being on the water is my favorite place to be.  It is hard living in London, though, to find bodies of water that are not crowded, polluted and/or freezing cold.  A few weekends ago, we headed to a wedding in Cornwall during which time we spent a lot of time on coastal trails (and dancing on the dance floor).  Even though it was slightly overcast, and stormy seas meant we couldn't SUP or go on a boat tour, we still manged to get sand in our shoes and take in amazing views.

Photo by Amanda White
Two weeks later, I found myself back in Cornwall.  Freewave Surf Academy invited me to their site in Bude for their three day surf and yoga retreat (#gifted).  The weekend was jam packed but I will try to fill you in on the key bits of info.  If you have any questions though, leave a comment below and I will do my best to answer. The weekend kicked off at 4pm on a Friday night with welcome drinks, a yoga lesson and an introduction to surfing lesson on the beach. To finish the evening, a two course vegetarian dinner was served at the house.   Unfortunately, I was unable to arrive until 10pm as I was on a course in London until 5pm.  I had to take a train to Exeter and was collected my another attendee (who had a car) from Exeter Central Station for the two hour drive to Bude.  They did put some food aside for us to enjoy when we arrived.  Everyone waited up but quickly went to bed as they already had a yoga class and surf lesson that evening.

The accommodation was a beautiful five bedroom house with large garden, decks, outdoor BBQ, air hockey table, games, and two sitting rooms.  We spent most of our time around the kitchen table for breakfast and snacks for lunch.  There were two double bedrooms (one with en suite), three bedrooms with two single beds (one with en suite) and then another full bathroom and a half under the stairs.  Elle from Keep it Simpelle and I shared a twin room.  Loads of windows and sliding glass doors meant the sunlight (when available) illuminated the rooms.  There was parking for about five cars and an outdoor shower to rinse out wet suits and feet of sand.  We had to move some furniture for yoga when it was raining outside which made all of the spaces very versatile.  Plus the beach was close enough to walk to.

Saturday and Sunday are structured differently, depending on the tides.  A typical schedule may look like this (although we had 6:00am start on Saturday).  The key points are one surf lesson each morning and two yoga classes per day.

7am yoga
8:30am surf lesson
10:30am brunch and video feedback
free time until...
1pm cake and tea
3pm yoga
5pm surf film and chill time on Saturday
7pm dinner on your own on Saturday (we went to a great restaurant, The Beach House, down the road) / BBQ at the house on Sunday

Photo by Amanda White
The surf lessons started with basics of how to line up on your board, how to keep it stable as you push up and several options on how to stand up.  I was fairly confident that I would not be able to stand up as I cannot do a squat thrust or burpee well.  Although I didn't manager to stand up at my first lesson, I did on my second and third.  Robin (Freewave Surf Academy owner) and Charlie (instructor) were there to keep an eye on the six of us, offering tips, providing real-time feedback and keeping our boards stable when a big wave was approaching.  In addition to watching us in the water,  Robin and Charlie took turns videotaping us from the beach and with a GoPro in the water.  After our lessons (which lasted about an hour), we had time to shower and get dressed before Robin put together the clips and reviewed points each of us needed to work on.  The primary observation for me was that I needed to keep my head up (looking at where I wanted to go rather than the board) when I tried to stand up.

Photo by Tommy Hatwell
As I mentioned earlier, we had yoga indoors on the first two days.  On Sunday, there was enough sunshine to have one practice in the garden and the second on a clifftop overlooking the sea.  There are too many amazing photos (taken by Tommy Hatwell, Plymouth-based commercial and portrait photographer) of both sessions to share here but I have included a few of my favorites.  Yoga was taught by the talented Anna Young who is also one of the Freewave Surf Academy instructors.  She has a real calming presence and fantastic choice of music.  She also helped with breakfast in the mornings and tidied up after us (thank you Anna!).

Photo by Tommy Hatwell
A fun surprise was taking part in a beach clean up with Ado, who works for the local task force.  He explained how much plastic washed up on the beach but also how much the local community works to keep the beach tidy.  There were litter pickers and bags at the beach entrance for a #2minutebeachclean movement.  We were out there for an hour and filled up one bucket worth of items.  Another group had been through earlier, and they collected a lot more than we did. Her told me about how Legos from an old sunken container are washing up on the shore (ironically a sea-themed design) and how his Jack Russel can sniff out stranded seals in the dark.

Most of the guests left Sunday afternoon and evening to get home before work on Monday.   With only three people left on Monday, we had an early yoga class and a quick surf session before brunch at 10:00am. There weren't many waves but I did catch a few small ones before heading back to the house.  Robin was kind enough to cook up eggs and bacon at our request.  It was a family meal as Charlie and Anna joined us before Elle gave me a lift back to London and Amanda headed back to Staffordshire.

Similar to my ski weekend in Italy with No Boundaries, it was a jam-packed weekend with little time for sleep.  My goal for the weekend was to be outside as much as possible.  I packed my snorkel, running shoes and trail shoes for hiking.  I also had my iPad for reading e-books, and my laptop for doing work (which I only used on the train).  The stormy seas were too cloudy for snorkeling and I was too exhausted to run (aside from a few shots with Tommy in the dunes on Sunday night). The weather wasn't great either so I was happy to stay inside and chat to the other ladies staying that weekend.

Photo by Tommy Hatwell
The biggest challenge of the weekend was transportation to Bude.  It isn't easy to get to if you don't have a driving licence or car.  The house we stayed at is about 15 minute drive from town, but a short walk from the beach where there is a small snack hut.  The fridge and cupboards were stocked with a variety of foods (including dietary requests such as vegan and dairy-free) and drinks (including wine, beer, and gin) but you might want to bring your favorite snacks. For example, I should have packed Diet Coke. The seven of us went to town on Saturday afternoon for grocery shopping (as a few people choose to cook their own meal on Saturday night) and the chemist. We also discovered Temple, a very Instagramable coffee shop and bar that Charlie also works at.

Photo by Amanda White
Would I do it again?  Heck, yes!  I suggested before we left that we schedule a reunion retreat and I hope we do in the autumn before it gets too cold.  Robin was open to feedback from us as it was the very first time he held the retreat and he had another group coming in right after us. He was a fantastic host with lots of laughter from everyone over the weekend.  I think it would be an active alternative to a birthday party or hen do.  You could also make it a couples weekend or travel on your own to meet new people who are interested in the same sports as you.  Freewave Surf Academy is happy to arrange any extras that you need (within reason, of course).

Is surfing something you have been meaning to try but haven't yet?  Don't be shy but instead book in to this intensive weekend and let me know how you get on.

Photo by Amanda White
Thanks to Freewave Surf Academy for this complimentary weekend experience.  All views and opinions are honest and my own.

Keeping fit with Canyon bicycles

Monday, June 17, 2019

How many bicycles have you owned in your lifetime? Growing up in suburban USA, every kid on my street had a bike.  These were usually based down to younger siblings as we quickly outgrew them and finally sold at the neighborhood garage sale.  Once you turned 16 though, you could drive a car so you no longer needed a bike.  (Remember, America was built for driving not riding).  But when I started grad school in a small college town in Michigan, I picked up a bike at the local super store.  My boyfriend and I guesses at the fit but had no idea what we were doing.  The tires were for mountain biking, not road riding so it was very challenging to ride into campus.  In the end I bought a parking pass and hardly ever rode my bike.  When I graduated and left town, I sold it pretty cheap.

Rack of bikes in the sun
The next time I bought a bike, I went to s specialist bike shop and bought a hybrid.  I lived 12 miles from where I worked and had high hopes I would build up my fitness to ride to work.  I never tried it because of the busy motorways involved.  I did, however, ride it around my neighborhood for exercise.  Indoor cycling had been my passion during grad school but there wasn't a gym with cycling studio nearby to join.

My Pathlite
A few weeks ago, Canyon bicycles invited me to try one of their fitness bikes (also known as hybrid in USA and UK) as a way to stay fit.  Founded in Germany, Canyon entered the UK market eight years ago and the US market in 2017.  Up until this point, I forgot that cycling for fitness was even an option to stay fit.  Since moving to the UK, bicycles have only been for commuting or riding 30+ miles on a Sunday morning for "fun." (This is fun and easy for my husband and I can just about do it.  If there wasn't cake involved, I might not be so motivated).  Canyon has two different models for fitness- their Pathlite and Roadlite.  Both are designed with upright handle bars, which I love.  My petite frame and belly bulge make it hard to utilize drop handles.  (I even had additional brakes added to my road bike handle bars a few years back.). I decided to try the Pathlite as I am toying with the idea of cyclo-cross next year.

Smooth ride
The Pathlite has adjustable shocks and cables stored inside the frame for protection.   It also has a robust aluminium frame, 40 mm gravel tyres and 75 mm of suspension all come together to keep you comfortable over any terrain, while a modern geometry and integrated cockpit provide agile handling for fun and reliable riding, perfect for going off the beaten track.  At this event, we were near Richmond Park, so we rode along the path before having a mini-sprint challenge between members of the group.  The bike was so smooth to ride I felt like I was gliding on air.

Canyon are a direct-to-consumer brand and all purchases need to be made online.  The bike is shipped to you nearly assembled.  You just need to attach your handlebars and seat.  There is a 30 day exchange period so if anything is wrong you can get it fixed or make a return.  Only 11% of their sales are from these fitness bikes.  After trying one myself, I can see this number going up.  The bikes are really versatile (and so light!) that they would make a great bike to have in London.

Here are a few ways you could use the bikes for a cardiovascular workout.  Cycling is a great option to get your heart going without having too much impact on your joints.

Good upper body workout?
Remember to spend five minutes riding at an easy pace to warm up before your main set and when you are done, cool down with an easy five minutes ride and stretch when you get off of your bike.  Another important aspect of riding, especially in public places is etiquette.  Be sure to stay to the left of the path if you are in the UK, use your bell when passing someone who is walking or running, and beware of children and dogs who are unpredictable in their direction.

Hill workout
Finding a challenging hill.  Ride up as fast as you can for 1 minute and recover on the way back down.  Make sure your recovery is at least a minute long before trying again nine times.  Can you make it to the original end point each time?  If the hill is too short or your find the repeats too easy, make the gears heavier.

The easiest plan would be to find a park which has a circular route.  Ride one lap with hard effort and then take the next lap to recover.  Repeat five to 10 times.

After taking part in this lovely morning ride with Canyon, I have now decided to sign up for the London Triathlon.  Because of my Achilles tendinopathy, I will only do the Super Sprint distance (400m, 10K ride, 2.5K run).  I won't be riding a Canyon unfortunately, but this brief ride has inspired me to enjoy cycling again (even though I am signing up for a competitive ride).  

When was the last time you took your bike out for a spin?  If you don't own a bike, London has many options to hire bikes for a few hours to ride around the parks.

Thanks to Canyon for inviting me to their event to try out the Pathlite.  All opinions are honest and my own.

I've got a meal plan

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Over the last 2 years, I have been working with a nutritionist on and off to help me loose a bit of weight and ensure I was fueling my body properly for all of the training I was doing (remember my 4x4 challenge?).  However, since I took my foot off of the gas at the end of last year due to injury, it was hard to stick to my plan without a race in the diary.  Her plans were based on the amount of calories consumed per day and associated macros.  At the start of this year, I wasn't hitting either target.  I knew I had to make a change.  I just didn't have the motivation or willpower to get myself on track.

Meet Melissa, the delicious nutritionist.  She has a First Class degree from Newcastle in Food and Human Nutrition, endorsed by the Association for  Nutrition.  I found her on social media when she was offering her services to bloggers in exchange for a testimonial and review on their website.  I volunteered to be a guinea pig and be assured, I will tell you about my experience honestly.

Start of my acai bowl (but I didn't have any acai powder)
We started off working together with some paperwork so she understood my lifestyle, food habits, and dietary preferences.  We then chatted on the phone for about 20 minutes about my goals and what I was looking for.  The following day, I had two weeks of meal plans in my inbox.

My meal plan and list of expiry dates for the fruit and veg (thanks James)
While we were chatting, I asked Melissa the difference between being a registered dietitian and registered associate nutritionist. She said nutritionists help healthy people while dietitians help the sick.  What attracted me to her program (of which I have been gifted one month) is that she designs a weekly meal plan, complete with recipes and shopping list.  I didn't have to think about anything or make any decisions.

Salad with nectarines and lentils
Week 1 started on our way back from Cornwall.  My initial shop was at Asda one evening with James, much to his disappointment.  We usually have our groceries delivered, so while we were driving back home I added the things I thought I would need (and be able to eat).  The shopping list was very detailed with the amount of each items needed.  However, I was a bit nervous about all of the perishable goods.  Would we be able to eat them before they go off?

Full fridge, please ignore all the plastic

The things I like about working with Melissa:

  • No thinking required- the meal plan takes all of the guess work and decision making away.  We have been a in a bit of a food rut so it has been nice to try new things that end up tasting good. 
  • Meals are fast to prep- during our phone consultation, I explained to Melissa that we are time poor (or just want to spend our time doing other things) so she made sure to choose recipes that are quick and easy.
  • Fruit and veg are back-  these were definitely lacking but are now key components of each and every meal.  It is too early to tell for sure but I think I feel a bit more energized too.  This is something I will be monitoring closely as I continue to work with Melissa.
  • Drinking lots more water-  Although this isn't a part of her plan, I am reaching for water more often than not.  The warmer weather may have something to do with it too, or the fact that I am slowly increasing my activity levels.  Whatever the reason, I am glad to be hydrating the proper way.

Of course, I am still facing challenges:
  • Using all perishable goods before they rot-  Minor fail on this one.  While a portion of what we ordered we used in the provided recipes, we were able to use ingredients in other ways, such as for dipping in hummus, adding to yogurt for breakfast, and grilling on the BBQ.
  • I am still snacking and stress eating-  This will take time to change my bad habits.  I have many triggers that cause me to reach for cookies, cookie dough, and chocolate.  Some of these I can control by not having poor snack choices on-hand.  My plan recommends Brasil nuts as a snack so these are now in my lunch bag.
  • Finding time to stick to the plan- Ironic?  I thought so.  We have been travelling and now I am on a course for work.  Hopefully I can start Week 2 properly next week (after I return from another trip to Cornwall).
As I already have my Week 2 shopping list and plan, I wil start this next week when I am back from a surf and yoga weekend.  This week, I will continue to refer to Week 1 meal and snack suggestions, wrapping my brain around healthy choices rather than my old bad habits.  Have you ever worked with a nutritionist or followed meal plan?  If so, let me know if you have any suggestions on things I should be trying.  Or tell me your favorite easy meal to prepare.

Goat cheese and tomato scramble with avocado and prosciutto
Thanks to Melissa, the Delicious Nutritionist, for the complementary one month program.  All opinions are honest and my own.

My next set of travel plans

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Wow!  Part of my recent feeling low was not having any trips to look forward to.  I love to travel (maybe due to the escapism of real life?) but in the last few weeks a plethora trips have firmed up making 2019 look pretty darn adventurous.

Hoping this is actually a photo of Cornwall
Our first trip is to Cornwall on southwestern coast of the England.  We are going to a wedding for the Bank Holiday weekend.  I have never been to that part of the UK and I miss being near the ocean.  Plus I am looking forward to exploring a new bit of Britain.  It seems like in the last eight years, I have been limited in the places I have visited in England because Europe and Africa are also close. This year, I hope to visit a few new corners, far and wide.  Back to Cornwall though!  All of my fingers and toes are crossed for sunshine while we are beach side.  Aside from the wedding, we have booked on to a sea life cruise to see grey seals and puffins in the wild, a SUP session (will the water be chilly?) and James is packing his bike.  I decided I can ride my bike in London anytime but I can’t sit by the sea.

A few weekends later, I find myself back in Cornwall.  Freewave Surf Academy has kindly invited me down for a weekend of surfing and yoga (#gifted).  It will be my first attempt at surfing and I am not feeling confident as I can't do a burpee or squat thrust.  I should probably start some sort of burpee challenge between now and then to ensure I succeed.  Anyone care to join me?

Marshes in the tidal zone at Love Trails 2018
In July, I am headed back to the Gower Peninsula for Love Trails Festival (and James is coming along too!).  Last year, I had the best time (the weather definitely helped) and I can't wait to do it all over again.  Once again, I am volunteering to lead a few runs.  The organizers have also marked trails to the Blue Lagoon so people can go on their own and also arranged a free shuttle bus around the peninsula to help people explore.

Somewhere between now and November, I will be joining No Boundaries (NB) for a three-day hiking tour in Italy.  A few friends and I have bought our trip credits and are waiting to hear on the possible dates.  Back in February, I went on a three-day ski trip with NB (which I still need to write up) and had a blast.  It was lovely being away with people with common interests (skiing, being in nature, and of course, wine).  Hiking will be a bit of change (aside from Kilimanjaro) in terms of an active holiday.  I have no idea how rigours it will be but I think being outdoors with my friends will make it unforgettable.

My day job is sending me a week-long training course in Maine, USA in August.  To take advantage of being stateside, James and I are spending a few days in Boston and Philly before I head to Maine.  I went to university in Boston and can’t wait to take my nephews to the New England Aquarium (where I worked part-time during uni) and dine with old friends (as in I have known them for a long time, not that they are old LOL).

View of Edinburgh beach
My mom arrives for her annual visit in September, along with her friend, Donna.  They have visited us twice now.  Each time we explore somewhere new.  Their first trip we went to Bath and the next one we did an Irish roadtrip.  This year, we are spending a few days in Edinburgh for a change of scene.  I see castle tours and whiskey tasting in our future!  If it isn’t too far, I would also like to visit Loch Ness and St. Andrews, but I need to consult with the geographer before booking anything.

Hiking on mountain tops
My big adventure for 2019 is the Orbis Challenge in October.  2018 spoiled me bit between Kilimanjaro and Jordan.  My lack of mojo at the start of this year was partly due to lacking a sense of adventure.  Just like Kilimanjaro, I saw a tweet that sparked my interest and I was quickly connected to the team.  Slowly, I am being introduced to the team and helping sort out brand sponsorship.  This is an amazing opportunity to train/travel with Dame Kelly Holmes and interact with local people in Malawi, while learning about their plight with malnutrition.  There are three spaces left if you want to join me.  We are also gathering sports kit for the local school and monetary donations for feeding the local children. (I totally get that I fund raise a lot.  What can I say?  I like helping people!)

Finally, we are dreaming of powder ski days in Colorado for Christmas.  A few ducks need to be put into a row so stay tuned for this one.  Let it snow!

Body Image: Am I normal to think I am 'skinny-fat'?

Friday, May 17, 2019

This year's theme for Mental Health Week is Body Image.  Here I share a bit about my own hang ups with my body and how my views have changed over time.

If we define 'normal' as what the majority of people do, I think it is safe to say that it is normal not to like specific parts of your body.  These views are influenced from the culture we were raised in, what we were teased about at school, what media showed us growing up and even what we see today.  Fashion trends change (look at the evolution of eyebrow trend and male facial hair) with time, as do definitions of beautiful.  Marilyn Monroe, Twiggy, Cindy Crawford, Halle Berry, Jennifer Lopez, and Beyonce (just to name a few) each have their own unique look and style.

Often times, we as the general public forget that these famous beauties have several things going for them which is why they are famous and/or beautiful.  Genetics is a big factor, followed by time and money.  Why time and money?  Because if you had the time, you too could work out for several hours a day to achieve a strong/lean/muscular/toned (insert adjective here) body.  If you had the money, you could afford a live-in chef, a top personal trainer, and be motivated by contract requirements to look a certain why (such as how actors manipulate their appearance for roles such as super heroes or POW).
September 2017- at one of my heaviest recent weights (but also a bad angle).
Plus my tan and the clothes I am wearing are not flattering.
My motivation comes and goes.  As a fitness blogger and personal trainer, I do feel a bit of pressure to look a certain way.   My grandmother was always on a diet when I was growing up.  Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, cabbage soup- you name it, she tried it.  My shape takes after her's- apple.  However, when I told her this- she defensively declared she was not an apple shape! In the first two years of high school, I felt pretty fit because I had physical education three times a week and played recreational soccer and softball.  Plus I could do proper press ups.  My goal weight will always be 126 pounds because when I was 19 years old, I had my tonsils out and started university.  I hadn't eaten solid food for a few weeks which slimmed me right down. Having access to ice cream twice a day in the canteen meant I quickly gained the Freshman Fifteen.  When I flip through old photos from my first year out of university, I am shocked at how chubby my face looks.  I didn't even notice at the time how heavy I was and wore bikinis to the beach (which I am reluctant to do now).  When I lost a lot of weight after my ex broke up with me in 2004 (dropped down to a USA size 6), everyone was so complimentary about how 'good' I looked. And it felt good to receive compliments and be skinny.  Lately, a few people have told me I look skinny when I bump into them, but I don't believe it.  Your perception of your own body image is relative based on where you are in life (lifestyle, maturity, self-confidence), the people around you and societal pressures.

Trying to be a lifestyle blogger with black on black
For the most part, I think of myself as skinny-fat.  I thought I had made up the term, but apparently it is a medical term for dangerous visceral fat that can impact your organs from working properly.  To me, it means that 'I know I am not fat but I also know I am not skinny.'  I am usually about 135 pounds and a US size 8-10 (UK 12).  I fluctuate depending on my training, how much sleep I am getting, and of course what I am eating.  Over the past two years, I have worked with a nutritionist and got down to 125 pounds.  I am also happy with my body at 130 pounds.  But sometimes when my weight is higher than that, my BMI says I am overweight (side note- I am not really keen on BMI for various reasons.  However, I totally understand why people use is as a baseline measure as it is easy to obtain).  Do you let ratings such as BMI effect you or do you go on how your clothes fit and how you feel?  Or do you use another measure, like percent body fat?

Working on my lazy (but fabulous) bum for running
The part I like least about my body is my stomach.  I love my legs, my ankles, my boobs, my arms, and my wrists.  I like my bum too.  But in my mind, a narrow and toned stomach is the ultimate feature.  Unfortunately for me, I don't have the genes to have one naturally or the will power to eat my way to having it.  Because of this, I don't like wearing tight-fitting clothes or what I call "fabric that gives." I want to avoid looking heavier than I actually am or worse- pregnant (which I am not).  I don't enjoy clothes shopping because I only want to wear clothes that make my body look the shape I think it should even though it's not.  It took a long time for me to give up boot cut jeans and swap to the trendy skinny cut because it changed my silhouette to be bigger at my hips and waists because my ankles are skinny.  And low cut jeans?  They are my nemesis!  I need panels of fabric to keep my belly contained, especially after a burger and fries.  When I moved to the UK, all the women in the gym wore leggings, but I was self conscious about my shape to I stuck with shorts (which show off my legs) and boot cut activewear for a long time.

March 2019 on the last day I ran up until recently.
Tan is gone but looking a little more toned than the 2017 photo.
I have proven (between doing the Whole30 while marathon training and while sticking to my nutritionist's plan) that I can loose those last annoying five pounds and be skinny (well I could in my 30's).  Was I happy with how I looked?  Absolutely.  What I happy in life while avoiding certain foods and alcohol?  Sometimes.  Whole30 is very hard for anyone to accomplish, especially someone who loves sugar, sweets, and Jack Daniels as much as I do.  It also put a lot of pressure on cooking meals at home and socializing with friends.  With that said, I found black and white rules much easier for me to follow than stopping halfway through eating a candy bar.  My nutritionist would set goals for calories (based on if it was a workout or rest day) and then tell me how many grams of fats, carbs, and protein I should eat per day.  I was given the choice and flexibility to achieve that.  But I barely could stick the calories, let alone the macros.  I made incorrect choices. I couldn't control my cravings.
My weight over the last 6 months
I managed to get my weight down and stable between August and December 2018.  It was probably due to my 4x4 Challenge, which required a lot of travel and running.  Now that I can start running again and have a run challenge set for October (more on that next week), things are starting to look up.  My weight has crept up since then but I now feel I am ready to focus on making good food choices.  But I will probably always think of myself as skinny fat and wonder if other people think I don't know how to dress for my body type when they see me wearing tight fitting clothes.

August 2018. Flattering outfit and fit body.
Are you happy with your body shape?  Does your body image match how others perceive you?  What influences you the most in your judgements?