Monday, 26 November 2012

Beauty Mishaps: The secret world of waxing

It’s one of those things that many women do as part of our grooming routine and we don’t really talk about it but I am all for talking a bit more after more than a mishap or two. It’s only when you talk to others you realise that shockingly, you’re not alone when it comes to waxing horror stories. I have several of my own and friends have shared theirs with me too. I recently tweeted asking if others had experienced waxing woes and there were plenty to choose from. Although at the time they can be excruciatingly embarrassing and painful, they are also pretty funny tales to share with the girls. It was while sitting around the dinner table a couple of Sundays ago with four of my best friends that we stumbled across bikini waxes as a topic of dinner party conversation.  Tasteful no but useful yes!
My friend has just moved to a new area, meaning she has had to leave her trusted local beauty therapist. Much like when you have to find a new hairdresser, it can be a daunting prospect. It’s not about letting any old person loose on your lady garden! Whilst enjoying our Sunday roast my friend raised the topic of waxing etiquette.  She has only ever been to one therapist and her way of working when perfecting her Brazilian is to get her up on the couch, pants off and up on all fours. She asked whether she should assume that the new beauty therapist would work in the same way. Should she rock up, knickers off, in position ready for her to do her work? It was a unanimous verdict around the dinner table that she should most definitely wait to be told what to do. Every one of us around has had a Brazilian wax and the conclusion was that all therapists work in different ways. Some get you up on all fours, some leave pants on and whip them to the side, others demand you’re  pants off, on your back or side, legs and bum in the air, all obviously very undignified but whatever it takes to get the job done! There was a potentially awkward moment heading her way if the new therapist was more of a pants to the side, on the back kind of lady and she waltzed in up on all fours naked from the waist down.

How do you know where to go when you decide you want some grooming? I’m a qualified beauty therapist but I almost butchered myself when I opted for some DIY bikini waxing at home. I am a very competent waxer but it’s all about the angles, and as far as I am concerned, it’s well worth the money to pay somebody else to do it to make sure you get the best job done.  However, I’m not going to lie, the whole experience can be pretty excruciating. You’re hardly feeling at your most confident laying on a couch, pants off with ungroomed nether regions and if the therapist isn’t up to scratch, it can be a whole lot more painful. You assume the therapist is the expert so you let them get on with it. I say it can be excruciating because like most things in life, it depends who is providing the service.

 In my experience, it’s not always about paying more to get a good result. I’ve had some bad experiences in more expensive establishments. Despite some less than pleasurable waxing sessions, the pain and a short moment of feeling undignified is always worth it if it’s neat and tidy when it’s finished.  I hate being ungroomed. I don’t wax for anybody else, I do it for me.  I’ve read Caitlin Moran’s ‘How to Be a Woman’ with the chapter about waxing (or the avoidance of hair removal) and while I get it and it made me laugh out loud reading it on the train, feminist protesting in this manner is just not for me.  It’s all about the Brazilian!

Some of the tales I have heard include burns, blowing on the client after each strip has been whipped off (yes, there!), super slow therapists using strips more suitable for eyebrows so that the eye watering job has taken nearly an hour and pushy sales girls peddling vajazzles to surprise my boyfriend (you’ll be relieved that the sales girl didn’t get her way). It was only when chatting with friends that I have been give recommendations of places to go but I know some groups of friends may not be as open. I have a few horror tales of my own to share along with some I’ve pinched off friends who will remain anonymous and hopefully I can help you to avoid some waxing woes in the future with a few of the lessons I have learnt along the way.
The barber style; short back and sides
One of the most disappointing things in life is going to be waxed and going home to inspect the job, only to still be greeted by a growler. Ok, it may be a slightly tamed one but a growler nonetheless. Some beauty salons don’t offer Brazilians and you need to know what to ask for otherwise you may end up being disappointed.
Experience has encouraged me to be more forthright in my dealings with the therapist and I nowadays, I am always very clear about what I want.  You’re paying for a service after all, just because you’ve got no pants on you still need to make sure you get what you are paying for. I understand that you can feel pretty vulnerable laying there with your bits out and you trust the therapist to get on with it but if you aren’t clear about what you want you may be disappointed. It’s always a bit uncomfortable when they finish and ask you what you think. A bit like when a waiter gives you the wine to taste in a restaurant and then watches as you taste it waiting for your verdict.
The lesson: A temporary moment of cringe is definitely better than an under groomed lady garden and always do your research before you take your knickers off.

The nervous therapist
This is never going to end well but in all honesty it can be a little tricky to wriggle out of because by the time you realise she’s nervous, you’ve probably already got your pants off and she’s started ripping your hair out. I’ve experienced this several times and I get the impression that it’s down to experience or lack of it. I totally get that practice makes perfect but I’m not about letting my beaver be a guinea pig! If the therapist is not confident when she’s whipping the wax off, it can be way more painful, take far longer and the results don’t last as the hair tends to break rather than being removed from the root.
The lesson: Try and always go to therapists based on recommendations so you know what to expect and quit whilst you are ahead. If you are feeling really uncomfortable then ask the therapist to stop and discreetly talk to the manager after the treatment.

The slowcoach
Personally, I prefer to be in and out within 20 minutes and this isn’t a problem when I’ve visited experienced therapists. On several occasions though, I’ve had ones that like to wax a centimetre at a time. This is absolutely excruciating for both client and therapist! One time the therapist was using a weird kind of disposable roll-on type of waxing device which was narrow and meant it took absolutely ages.  To add to the uncomfort factor, it turns out she was best friends with an old uni friend of mine. I established this as I developed verbal diarrhoea triggered by the waxing fear. There was a lot of time to talk in the hour it took her to wax me. Just brilliant! I came across a slowcoach very recently too. I have been going to the same place for about 2 or 3 years now but it’s in central London. I flew to Thailand on Friday and had a busy week before I left so thought I’d try a local salon rather than make time to head in to town. It was cheaper than my regular place and meant I could pop round one evening. I know, I know, I should have known better. It ended up taking ages, the room was hot and the whole thing was just embarrassing. She was nervous, I was nervous and I ended up having to help her out because she was sticking wax all over the show. It all turned out in the end but it wasn’t pretty!   
The lesson: Don’t go to a new salon before checking out reviews beforehand.

The hand
When I’m getting my legs waxed I’m not offended by the hand. When training as a therapist we were taught that it helped to reduce the pain if you compress the area that has just been waxed with your hand. This all starts to feel wrong when it’s down there though. It’s probably less than a second or two that therapist places her hand on the freshly waxed area but it feels like forever and I don’t like it. It’s not something that every therapist does but when they do I still haven’t plucked up the courage to voice how I feel so I lay back and cringe until it’s done.
The lesson: Don't be a coward like me and if something makes you feel uncomfortable, tell the therapist.
The fire starter

I have been burnt on several occasions and I’ve heard several horror stories from friends too. I knew that the wax felt quite hot but I didn’t say anything as I trusted the therapist’s expertise. It’s not normally until the next day that you often realise the damage that has been caused. It’s pretty normal to feel sore after but your skin should not be bright red and peeling the following day.  

The lesson: Again it comes down to communication with the therapist and therapist recommendations. Of course waxing is not pain free but trust your instinct. If it feels too hot then it probably is!  

The blower
I have never had this happen to me and if I had I think I would have run a mile and then showered for a very long time. Upon sharing this with others, it seems my friend is not alone though which is worrying. After every strip of wax was ripped off the therapist lowered her head and blew on her bits. I’m not quite sure what she was trying to achieve and it totally freaks me out. I expect the therapist was trying to be helpful but breathing all over you is not professional, it is just plain weird!  
The lesson: If you hear of this happening to any of your friends, take down the name of the salon and make a note to never go there!

I thought it may also be quite useful to write my own little guide to demystify the waxing menu. There are so many things that you can ask for now. What is the difference between a bikini wax, a Brazilian and a Hollywood!? I am working on this now and hope to have it up within a week.

Disclaimer: Sorry to all the males who may ready this or the waxing guide who were unaware of the lengths we go to in order to look like we do.   



Saturday, 17 November 2012

My Bubbly Guilty Pleasure

I love good food and the majority of the time I’d opt for savoury over sweet. Give me a starter over a dessert or a packet crisps over chocolate anytime, however, there are couple of sweet treats that do win me over and they are Aero bubbles (the mint ones) and a peanut butter Kit Kat Chunky. These are the things I sneak into the shopping basket when my boyfriend isn’t looking. When I was invited to a preview of the Bar of Aero on Thursday night I jumped at the chance.  The Bar of Aero is described as the ultimate bubble playground filled with innovative technology, a multi-sensory chocolate extravaganza. My love of Aero bubbles and the thought that there may be a hint to the magic in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meant cough or not, I was going.  
Walking in to the pop up bar located at Dray Walk Gallery at the Truman Brewery just off Brick Lane, I was greeted by a minty, bubbly paradise. Bubbles and Aero everywhere and a delicious peppermint scent throughout. Obviously there were also stacks and stacks of Aero chocolate. My hunch was right about my Roald Dahl favourite and there was a hint to Mr Wonka as the promotional staff were dressed top to toe in Oompa Loompa orange.

Experimental food designer Andrew Stellitano showcased the science behind the famous bubby treat in a specially designed master class. Who’d have thought there were 15 factors that went into making the bubbliness just right!? Burst or small bubbles leads to a dense chocolate bar experience and bubbles too big means it just doesn’t go down as well and melts a little slower as the chocolate is thicker. We got to try some of the ‘wrong’ Aeros followed by the perfect balance of bubbliness. I have to say, I loved them all! There were discussions about launching limited edition bars with oversized bubbles or tiny bubbles for a different experience but it was a unanimous decision that the perfect Aero was in fact the best.  

Andrew shared a couple of tailor-made recipes designed to showcase the different ways that chocolate can be aerated to create a different bubbly chocolate experience. The carbonated Aero Mint Float was like an upgraded amazing mini milkshake with multi-bubbly layers and the Aero Mess was a combination of frozen aerated orange Aero with orange meringue and chocolate powder. Again, it was delicious but I can’t help thinking it would have been even better if there was something gooey in there such as cream or melted chocolate. I washed these treats down with some bubbly champagne and then a bubbly hot chocolate from the Aero fountain. The perfect medicine for a persistent cough I kept telling myself.

I was very grateful for the goodie bag full of bubbly, chocolatey treats and I have to say I am relieved that it has taken until now to discover Aero biscuits. They are amazing! I am due to wear a bikini next week as I’m off to Thailand and a whole packet of Aero biscuits, bags of Aero bubbles and bars of Aero chocolate are not helping with my bikini body mission but I’ve had fun eating them and I eat healthy and exercise regularly most of the time. Well, that’s what I’ve been telling myself.

The Bar of Aero is completely free and will be open all weekend from 12pm-7pm. As well as lots of free chocolate, there will be prizes on offer so if you’re planning to be East tomorrow, pop down and get your bubbly fix.  Find more info here

Saturday, 10 November 2012

My Running Journey

I still struggle with calling myself a runner but I think I have earned myself the title now. I may not be super slim or speedy but I do have a healthy little medal stash under my belt now which I’m pretty pleased about. I hate the word journey but I think it's the best way to describe this long post.
Back on 16th October 2010 I signed up to run the Paris Half Marathon which was my first proper run. When I started training I remember being totally overwhelmed at the prospect of running for more than two hours. I’d tried to run before but never very seriously and all that really meant was a bit of a jog around the block with a lot of stopping and heavy breathing. I like to aim high and work better if I have a goal, so after volunteering at the London marathon as a sports massage therapist, I entered the ballot but didn’t get a place. I took up the invite from Bangs and a Bun to run the Paris Half Marathon instead.
It was tough but I rigorously stuck to the training no matter what the weather. Looking back I was a little na├»ve and very unknowledgeable about some of the technical aspects of running people talk about. But I kept my goal insight and trained hard finishing without stopping in 2 hours and 11 minutes. Although it was 1 minute slower than my original target I was absolutely thrilled.  Looking back, I didn’t complicate things, I just ran. You can read more about Paris here.
I learnt a lot about myself when I finished that run. It is amazing what you can achieve if you work hard and keep your goals in sight. I have now run a total of 5 half marathons since March last year and last month I ran my first full marathon in Amsterdam. I still can’t quite believe I did it!
Charlie Dark from Run Dem Crew has said that you learn a lot about yourself throughout training and on race day and I can honestly say that with every race, I most definitely have found out something new about myself. Running gives me time and space to think and although it is hard work it also allows me to switch off and have some time of my own. Running is more than physical activity- it is a metaphor for life. So much of what you achieve is down to what is going on in your head. I am absolutely convinced that positivity and determination were what got me across the finish line in Amsterdam with a smile.
If I’m being honest, my training didn’t really go to plan but I did stick to my long runs. It was the midweek runs that I found more difficult. I started out with great intentions but sometimes life gets in the way and certain things have to take priority. However, there was no way I was backing down. I signed up to a couple of half marathons to take part in during my training.
Firstly, the Burnham Beeches Half. We had a rubbish summer this year but I seem to have history that whenever I sign up to a run we get a momentary one day heat wave. The run took place on one of the hottest days we have had this year.  It was a tough run with tough hills and even tougher because it was a loop that you had to run twice which is pretty hard going. No PBs were set on 21st August but I did manage a sprint finish at the end and I ran up every single one of those hills. It was a very organised race and I would definitely do it again even though it was quite a challenging course. The race starts and finishes at Caldicott School in Burnham Beeches. There is a great family atmosphere and an outdoor swimming pool within the grounds that you are able to use after the run which was particularly popular this year.

I then ran the Royal Parks Half Marathon on 7th October. I went along and cheered some friends last year. London is my home and I love running in my city. I have to say I absolutely loved Royal Parks. It was a perfect cold and sunny running day. It’s a beautiful course and I loved it even more because my family, boyfriend and the Run Dem Crew Cheer Dem Crew were all there cheering. Getting a cheer en route makes such a difference.  No PBs were set but it more was more about keeping it steady and staying injury free until my marathon at the end of October.
I absolutely loved it. The course was a little windy and repetitive in the parks at times but it didn’t bother me. I really enjoy running in the London Parks and the atmosphere was electric.  The scenic route runs through four Royal Parks (Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, St James’s Park and Green Park) and takes you past some key London landmarks such as Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Houses of Parliament and the Royal Albert Hall.  It was brilliant to run a great course with so much support and I finished in pretty good shape. Don’t get me wrong though, although I was trying to ignore it there was a little voice in my head asking me how I was going to run double the route in Amsterdam. This voice continued to pop up uninvited but I just ignored the question afraid of my answer.

I set myself some goals last year and originally thought about trying to get a pace in the New York marathon but decided Amsterdam was a more realistic option. Soon after I had signed up it was then announced that it was going to be the next Bridge the Gap run so more than 100 friends from Run Dem Crew were going to there as well as the other running crews from around the world such as the New York Bridge Runners, Paris Run Club and of course Patta, the Amsterdam hosts who were amazing hosts indeed.
As the marathon got closer I got more and more terrified even though I tried to keep my fear hidden. In training the furthest I ran was 25k (a marathon is more than 42k). I am normally the type of person that trains more than I need to so that I am confident I will be able to do the distance on the day. However, I was having a few ITB issues and didn’t want to aggravate it. I took the decision to scale the training back so that I was in the best shape possible for the day.
We went to collect our race numbers the day before and then had a very chilled day where we hydrated and fuelled to give ourselves the best chance. My boyfriend is usually the resident photographer, cheer squad and bag holder but this time he was going to be running his first half marathon. He admitted that in the past he had always felt a little bit jealous when I collected my race number but I have to say he did look a little green as he walked towards me race bag in hand. Before going to bed I glanced at the course map and I had to look away quickly. Doubt was trying to rear its ugly head when I saw just how far I was going to be running.

Amsterdam Marathon Course

Walking to the race start I felt sick with nerves. All the others that were going to be running the full are hardcore and had trained very hard.  We arrived at the meeting point and I felt out of place and like I didn’t deserve to be there. I hadn’t trained as much as I wanted to and rather than a high tech Garmin on my arm I had a rubbish basic digital watch so that I could keep track of my start time. There was talk of race pace and tactics but my goal was just to finish and to enjoy it. I didn’t want to be consumed by clock watching and disappointment. I wanted to go out there and prove that I was strong enough to do it. I had trained on my own and I was going to be out there on my own on race day. I went a bit mutey as we walked towards the stadium.

"What am I doing here?"- Looking totally out of my depth

The race started and finished in the Olympic stadium which was incredible. It gave me just a little glimpse of how an athlete feels on a big day. I got a little bit emotional at the start, overwhelmed at what I was about to do. My tactic was to keep positive, enjoy it and smile a lot and it all went to plan. I absolutely loved it! The wall that people talk of never appeared and I felt great the whole way round. Seeing my friends Guy and Kaye at 2k was great and I shouted “I’m running a marathon!” as I ran past, still trying to convince myself I think. I knew that I wasn’t going to see anybody until about 26.5k so I turned my music up and just got on with it.
The marathon route has an additional 13 miles along the River Amstel on top of the half marathon route. Personally, I loved the run along the river as I train along the Thames in London and it was a smoother surface with Windmills dotted along the route which pleased me. Families were lining the route cheering and handing out water so I tried to engage with as many people as possible and said thank you for their support. It was cold and windy too but I was actually grateful for the cold weather.  Some of the Run Dem Crew guys had planned to be at 26.5k to cheer the marathon runners before the start of the half marathon but my pace was a little slow and they had to leave before I got there. I was on track for my time I’m just not a 3:45 marathon kind of girl. Despite having a race of his own my boyfriend stayed to support me and I was thrilled to see him. I remember shouting “It’s brilliant, I love it!” as I ran past and I really was loving every minute.

I had aimed to try and run to 25k without stopping but I got there and I was fine. I reached 30k and I was fine. I reached 35k and I was still fine. I couldn’t quite believe it. I looked forward to seeing Bangs and a Bun who had told me she was going to be cheering between 37k and 38k. I saw her from afar cheering loud and running up and down. It meant a lot to me having her there as I ran my first half marathon with her and she has always been so supportive.  I have to say I got a little emotional as I ran past but I still had a smile on my face.
My ipod and me had our own little running party the whole way round and I sang as I run. I listened to everything from dancey stuff to the Madonna Immaculate Collection. Like a Virgin felt very fitting as it was my first marathon. I also listened to some slower, more relaxing music which I never, ever do when I run but it really helped me to stay relaxed, calm and steady. I got to 39k and Kaye and Guy were still there cheering loud. I screamed as I ran past saying “I’m still running!” I couldn’t quite believe it. A race picture at 40k sums up how I was feeling.

The last 2k was tough but knowing the end was so near kept me going and as I was about to enter the stadium I saw a Run Dem Crew logo in the distance. I screamed at Terry as she cheered and I shouted “I’m actually going to do it!” I ran into the stadium and around the track to the finish line where I said the same thing again to a woman running just in front of me. I crossed the line and after a massive smile I just cried. I couldn’t believe I had done it.

The last 18 months has been really hard for several reasons but crossing that line meant so much more to me than just finishing a run. It was about achieving something even when things hadn’t quite gone to plan. It proved to me that staying positive can be so powerful and even when things go wrong you can pick yourself up and achieve things you never thought possible. That may sound dramatic but it’s truly how I feel and I believe that this sentiment can be transferred to other things outside of running. Don't let doubt creep in, take each step one at a time and never take your eye off the goal, whatever that goal may be. I have been really lucky to have great support from people around me. Charlie from Run Dem Crew has always been supportive. He has helped me to feel more confident and the email from him before we left for Amsterdam meant a lot. I'm sure he won't mind me sharing a couple of the lines that really got me (and made me cry!) but I thought about what he wrote as I ran on the day. Thank you for your kind words Charlie!
 "I know that life hasn't always been easy but Sunday is a chance to leave it on the road. Know you are going to totally rock your way through it. Run your own race and celebrate how far you have come with every step. We'll be cheering you along to the finish line."
I finished in 4:49. My original goal was just to finish by secretly I wanted it to be under 5 hours. I am confident that with training I could definitely finish more quickly. It seems I may well have the bug. However, before I even think about another marathon I’m going back to Paris where it all started to run at another Bridge the Gap event and this time my boyfriend is going to train and run with me. Happy days!

Monday, 9 April 2012

Happy 30s Progress Update

Back at the end of October I set myself some challenges for the year and I thought that now we are a quarter of the way through the year I would check in on my progress. I set myself a mission statement and five goals. You can see the original post here.
Mission Statement
I want to live life to the full every day and appreciate everything and everyone around me. I am determined to have more fun and success in my thirties than I had in my teens and twenties combined and to do this I need to continually challenge myself, even though it may be uncomfortable at times. Whilst I will learn from the past I will not dwell on it and will concentrate on moving forward and listen to advice that others are kind enough to give me. Rather than focusing on what I haven’t achieved, I will acknowledge what I have and will be proud but not cocky. I will learn how to build on and improve my achievements so that I can be the very best I can possibly be while being supportive and encouraging to those around me. Helping my friends and family to be happy will make me happy too.

Goal 1- Shape Up
I have been taking pictures of my body as it has changed over the last few months. I’m not quite brave enough to share them yet. However, what I have realised is that since I’ve shifted the focus from weight loss on the scales to increasing fitness I have seen more dramatic results. My clothes are most definitely looser and I feel fantastic! I’m no angel and I still have treats but I am doing more exercise than I have done before. I run with @rundemcrew, I train with @Chakabars #SpartanFamily and do my homework, I’ve been trying out the Sexy In The City Bootcamp Classes and I’ve even tried a pole dancing class. Variety is most definitely the spice of life! I think I can safely say that progress so far in goal number 1 is positive and I am hoping I continue to see some more changes. When I get a little braver I may even share some pictures.  I will be doing some separate posts on the other exercise I have tried in the last few months.

Spartan Family at work

Goal 2- Run Faster

Last weekend I had the most amazing time and completed my third half marathon with my @rundemcrew family in Berlin. I had set my sights on a sub-2 time and I had every intention of going for it. I even headed way out of my comfort zone and took part in a track session. However a month ago I was massively knocked off course with some news in my personal life. To say I was shocked was an understatement. I carried on with my training but my confidence took a bit of a knock and my healthy diet went out of the window. I didn’t start eating junk food but balance was not a word that could be used to describe the fuel I was providing my body with (or lack of).
In the lead up to Berlin I did move up a group into greyhounds. I’d been threatening to do it for a while and was glad I finally plucked up the courage. It wasn’t scary at all, I managed to keep up and I really enjoyed it. In fact, I always enjoy running on a Tuesday night. I put my target time to the back of my mind and when people asked if I had a time in mind I lied and said “not really”. In all honesty, it was still there hiding away but I wanted Berlin to be a positive experience and I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself.
The whole weekend was absolutely amazing. I enjoyed spending some time alone and I loved being with friends too, both old and new. The atmosphere before the run was electric. Nike had been kind enough to provide a pre and post-race location for us to meet. Alongside  70 @rundemcrew were running crews from all around the world, including the New York Bridge Runners.  Amongst the excitement it was easy to forget we had 13 miles to run but I just knew it was going to be a good day. Throughout my training there seemed to be a trend. On the days I saw a pug on my run I had a good run. Walking up the race start, I saw this little beauty.
The lucky pug

Race day
Me and Kaye

Me and Alski

The weather was perfect long run Sunday weather; crisp, blue skies and bright sunshine. I was going to go out there and do my absolute best for myself. Not to make anybody else proud but to make myself proud. I set off and I felt great. I started my stop watch and decided I wouldn’t look until I got to 10K.The crowds were fantastic and the long flat, straight roads were just what I needed to focus. I kept my head down and concentrated on the goal, looking up occasionally to admire the amazing landmarks such as the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, the remains of the wall or a glimpse of a fellow RDC runner which was a guaranteed boost. As I crossed the 10k marker I reached into my belt and grabbed my phone. I glanced down and I was over 57 minutes. If I had any chance at all I needed to seriously pick up my pace so I stuffed my mouth with some Haribo teddy bears and set off determined to not let anything get in my way.
 I’m not going to lie. It hurt, there were times I wanted to stop and give up but I stayed positive and thought about how hard I had worked. As I passed clocks I was continually trying to work out how I was doing and I could see the 2 hour mark slipping away. At times I wanted to slow down but even if there was only a small chance I wanted to give it to myself. I normally run with water but decided not to on this occasion because I thought it would be best to leave my hands free. As the sun beamed down I felt myself getting thirsty. Drinking out of the plastic cups was tricky and I didn’t take in enough fluid but I was conscious I didn’t want to waste time at the water stops. Most of the cups of water ended up over my head and my mouth got more gloopy with the sugary sweetness of teddy bears.
By 16k my whole body hurt. My neck and back were aching and the blisters on my feet were burning but I knew that my friend Gemma, who I ran my first half marathon with, was going to be at 17k. She is one of the nicest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting and she flew to Berlin for one day just to cheer us on. Amazing girl!  The thought of her at 17k kept me going and it gave me a real boost as I heard her calling out my name and smiling at me.
The gorgeous Gemma...look at that smile!

I kept going and as I glanced at the next clock I knew there was still a teeny tiny chance that I could beat my Paris time. I’m not really sure how I did it but I managed to cut 10 minutes off my Paris PB coming in at 2:01. Ok, I know it was 1 minute over my ultimate goal but I am still extremely proud. It seems to be a bit of a trend. The first time I ran a half marathon I was aiming for 2:10 and achieved 2:11. At the end of the day, it was one minute and I am still absolutely thrilled that I ran the race 10 minutes faster than my last. I have also managed to improve my Parkrun time by a total of seven minutes.  I consider Goal 2 to also be progressing well. I’m not done with this goal yet and will be frequenting the track this summer.
It feels right to mention @rundemcrew here too. Without the support of @daddydark the @rundemcrew founder and my amazing @rundemcrew friends there is no way I would have been able to achieve what I did so thank you for all of the kind words and encouragement. Just look how happy I was to cross the line.

Look what we 'spotted' at the Brandenburg Gate

Goal 3- Swim better and faster
The less said about this the better at the moment but it is the next thing on the agenda. For those that are wondering, yes, I am terrified at the prospect of a traiathlon!
Goal 4- Run longer
I decided that 2012 would be the year I run a marathon and I now have a place in the Amsterdam marathon. This scares me but I am willing to rise to the challenge. I researched a number of races and Amsterdam felt right. It is also flat which is a definite attractive feature for me. Even more excitingly, it seems that Amsterdam is going to be the next @rundemcrew destination. The rest if the crew will be doing the half that takes place on the same day but I know there are a couple taking part in the full. When I applied Amsterdam wasn’t even a thing but the thought of an RDC cheers squad is exciting me a lot!
Goal 5- Speak even more than I do already
The German practice didn’t start until late but I did get a chance to speak quite a bit when I was there last weekend and I loved it. I love Germany  but I have to say, when I arrived late Friday night on my own, I did feel a little like a woman out of a German text book as I asked for directions at the huge Hauptbahnhof train station. Being on my own all day on Saturday forced me to speak German and I loved it. I even indulged in German TV and watched Superstar, Undercover boss and some strange breakfast TV all without subtitles and generally understood what was going on. I guess being greeted in German wherever I went (because I do look quite Deutsch) was a good thing and encouraged me to respond in German. I’m going to try and keep it up and I’m also keen to visit more places in Germany. I’m also really keen to pick up my Spanish again. I love the freedom it gives you when you learn a foreign language and it’s also great to show that you are making an effort when talking to the locals. Goal 5 is also going well but there is definite room for improvement.

I can honestly say that I have stayed true to my words in my mission statement above. I have had some serious obstacles come my way in the last few months but I have learned a lot about myself and I am a stronger woman as a result. The biggest lesson I have learnt is that in life we have a choice.  Bad things happen but it is essential to stay positive and take control to turn things around. Sometimes it is scary to stray out of your comfort zone but it will always be worth it and doing scary things opens up so many opportunities. Life is there to be lived and I know I don’t want to look back with regrets because I have been afraid.
I’m pretty pleased with my progress so far and despite a number of obstacles that have come my way, I am actually in a really good place and feel content.  I think it is a really good idea to jot down your goals as it makes it harder to back out but is also a benchmark to demonstrate just how much you have achieved. People don’t always remember to tell you when you are doing something well but if other people aren’t going to, it is especially important to stop and take a moment to acknowledge you are doing a good job. And if you’re not then there is always time to make things right. My Happy 30s challenge is well on track!

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

You are not welcome!

Last Tuesday I completed Janathon and I was on a huge high. This Tuesday I was ill in bed and miserable. After a three day rest from running, which I felt my body deserved, I came down with a stinker of a cold and I have still got it. As the snow began to arrive so did my high temperature, blocked sinuses, conjunctivitis and  cough. Yum!

I made it very clear that illness was not welcome in January but it is also not welcome in February, March or April. I am going to have to sit this out and wait for my body to recover and then I am going to get back out there and work twice as hard. I’m ready to hit the track and to give the hills a go too because I mean business in Berlin. I just need to listen to my body, eat healthily and wait until I’m well enough to go hard again.  

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Janathon day 31: Crossing the finish line and the 100 mile mark

I made it! Last night I completed Janathon with no breaks but I just couldn’t muster enough energy to blog. I set out to exercise every day and if possible, I wanted to run every day. I managed to run 28 days out of a possible 31 and even though there were days I really didn’t want to exercise, I am really pleased that I did it.

I haven’t really experienced any negative comments on my blog before but on Monday night this comment was left.

Janathon has most definitely not been about torturing my body or being virtuous about it. For me it was about setting myself a challenge. I knew it would be tough but I wanted to prove to myself that even when things get tough, you can succeed and surprise yourself. I was so determined to succeed because I wasn’t able to complete Janathon last year.
It was also about kick starting my training for the Berlin Half Marathon on 1st April. I want to complete the course in under 2 hours and I am prepared to work hard to achieve my goal. There are going to be days that I don’t want to train but if I’m serious I need to learn to get over that feeling and get out there no matter what.
Throughout January I ran over 100 miles and I was ecstatic that the last day of January fell on a Tuesday so that I could run my final Janathon run with my Run Dem Crew friends. I was grinning the whole way to Nike Town and back and when we arrived back to the arches at 1948, I was greeted by this. What an inspiration! I'm done with just dreaming and this year I'm willing to work hard and train for what I want to achieve.

Janathon has been great. I have had the chance to follow some really inspirational and determined people as they ran and blogged their way through the month and I have really enjoyed the group training mentality. Thank you to every single person that tweeted or posted a message of support. It may be the end of Janathon but it is only the beginning of a long road of training. I am determined to work hard and be the absolute best I can be but I am definitely looking fowarrd to a sports massage and some rest days.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Janathon days 29 & 30: One more day to go

I was planning a long run yesterday morning and I was also planning a surprise baby shower for my best friend. I decided the least stressful plan was to bake in the morning and get everything ready for the baby shower to then pick my heavily pregnant friend up at 1:30. Trying to squeeze in a long run before was just not going to work so I planned to do it in the afternoon. The baking was a success and we managed to suitably surprise the mummy to be.

By the time I got home it was late, dark and I was tired. I was still feeling sore and Janathon had really started to take its toll. I could have happily snuggled on the sofa but I wasn’t giving up this late in the day. I headed out of the door and did my 5k route. I was tired and thirsty as amongst the excitement I had managed to forget to drink but I didn’t do too badly and felt really good once I’d been for a run. However my legs were throbbing when I got home. I am really in need of a sports massage and a rest.
RDC West was starting tonight and I had set my heart on going but when I woke up this morning, I knew it wasn’t a good idea. I made a decision before I left for work and left my kit at home so that I wouldn’t be tempted. When I started my training on 1st January I was clear that I wanted to exercise every day and I was going to try and run every day but only if my body would allow. My body needed a break tonight. I thought it was the best option to have a day off from the running and head to the pool instead so that’s what I did. I swam 40 lengths (1000m) and felt great and I’m now more excited than ever about RDC tomorrow.
I have enjoyed Janathon but if I’m being honest, I am looking forward to finishing tomorrow and having rest days. My body feels like it needs a break and so does my brain. I have managed to blog most days but there have been a couple of double whammies when I have just run out of hours in the day.  I am proud that I have managed to exercise every single day, although I swam on two days and walked on one. It still means that I have run for 27 out of 30 days so far. I am thrilled that day 31 has landed on a Tuesday and I can finish in style with my friends running by my side.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Janathon day 28: Can I call myself a runner yet?

As planned this morning I decided not to run today, but I didn’t slack off and walked 11.5km instead. 6.5km of that was with way too many shopping bags and my arms were ready to drop off when I got home. It was the first day that I haven’t changed into my kit to do my exercise and it felt strange so I’m looking forward to my long run tomorrow now. I did get the urge to just go out and run but it really is important to listen to your body. For me, Janathon has been a great way to kick start my training, but I want to stay healthy and injury free so I vowed at the start I would be sensible.
I got a pleasant surprise today when I found out that I’m in the March issue of Runner’s World magazine. A few months ago I volunteered myself as a case study for a feature on how to get your running mojo back. I sent this blog post and spoke to the journalist about how difficult I found it to get back to running once my first half marathon was complete. My solution was joining Run Dem Crew and running with friends. I never received any confirmation of when the feature was going to run so it was a good start to the weekend to hear that I made it in. I’ve always had a bit of an issue with calling myself a runner but I guess I’m a little step closer if I’m in a running magazine, right!(That’s what I’ll keep telling myself.)

Running can be solitary and although I enjoy my own company, I found running with friends to be really inspiring and motivating. It helped me to get back in the swing of things and to keep up the training too. Throughout Janathon, I think the most important thing that I have discovered is to not overthink and to just do things. The more you ponder, the more chance you will actually end up not going to the gym or out for that run. We are all different but I like the balance between running on my own and running with my friends. Agreeing to meet with friends commits you to the cause and it is much harder to back out.
We all have to get to know how we tick and what works for us individually but reading the feature in Runner's World today made me realise just how important my friends have been. Not only my friends at RDC, but my Twitter friends too. Throughout January I have received so much support and encouragement and although I am stubborn and giving up has not been an option, having so many people knowing what I have vowed to do has really helped me to knuckle down. I know it’s not over yet but I wanted to say thank you for every tweet, every comment on my blog and every word of support. Janathon day 29, I can’t wait to see you. The same goes for Janathon day 30 and Janathon day 31, I’m even more excited to see you. I think I will feel even closer to calling myself a runner if I can go out with a bang on Tuesday!

Janathon day 27: My guardian angel

After the track session on Thursday night I was feeling sore but if I was going to stay in the Janathon game on day 27, I needed to go running in the morning as I had plans for the evening. I reluctantly squeezed myself into my kit and forced myself out of the door before work. It hurt!
Whenever I am having a really tough run and I want to give up, I seem to have a little guardian angel that appears and snaps me back into reality just in time. I have seen this man in numerous different places and it’s always on days that I am struggling. On one occasion I was ready to give up in Richmond Park and I saw him and it made me determined to carry on. The same thing happened along the towpath in Putney. He has a prosthetic leg bladelike Oscar Pistorious to allow him to run as he only has one leg. I was struggling and hurting but he was looking strong and absolutely determined. He wasn’t letting his so called disability stop him as he sped past me, so I gritted my teeth and decided I wasn’t going to let my sore muscles stop me. Thank you to my running guardian angel that always seems to be in the right place at the right time, and helped me complete my short 3.5k morning run yesterday.

One thing I have learned this week is that track hurts. My muscles are more sore than they have been throughout the whole of Janathon and my legs feel tender in places that they never usually do. As for my poor glutes, sitting down and getting back up again is proving to be a challenge. I'm not giving up though, I will be seeing a track again in the next week or so.
I was originally planning to run today but I am going to see how I feel. I have a long run scheduled for tomorrow and I'm going to Run Dem Crew on both Monday and Tuesday as there is a new West crew starting this week. I want to finish Janathon in style, not in a limping mess, so it may make sense to take it a little easier today and skip my run and opt for some brisk walking instead. I will just wait and see as that little Janathon devil will probably start nagging me and I may just have to give in to the trainers.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Janathon day 25 & 26: The only way is up!

This time last year Janathon was over for me. This year I am still feeling strong and I’m looking forward to completing Janathon on a high. I have run every day except one, where I chose to swim as my leg wasn’t feeling great. I headed to the gym last night to battle with the treadmill again. My music helped a lot last time, so I opted for some loud old school tunes.
I put my headphones in and started to run but my music was quiet, so I adjusted the volume to the max. Still the volume was pretty pathetic but I kept running. Soon after, my boyfriend was tapping me on the back frantically waving his hand at me. Oh yes, it seems the reason my music was quiet was because I had pulled the headphones out and the whole gym was in for a treat with my speed garage compilation on loudspeaker. Shame!
I wanted to do 5km and wanted to improve my time. I had 27:30 in my head but I was tired and I was struggling at 1.5km. I decide 3km would be my lot but as 3km neared, another good song came on, I got an extra energy burst, so I carried on. I was making good time, so despite feeling tired I just kept going. I had to slow down a couple of times as I had severe heartburn, caused by ramming crisp bread and jalapenos down my throat whilst heading out of the door. I would definitely not recommend this. I am pleased to say, I finished my run exactly on target with a big smile on my face.

Tonight was track night and I’m not going to lie, I was scared. I did say recently though that it is good to be scared and also that I need to take my own advice more. I travelled 18 stops on the tube so that some of my lovely @rundemcrew friends could show me the ropes. I arrived and as a complete beginner I felt out of my depth but you sometimes  have to do things that are a little uncomfortable.
Everybody made me feel extremely welcome, giving me advice and helping me out during the group drill session before the track laps started. I did 3 x 400m warm up laps before the session really started. I then did 6 x 400m laps, with small walking rests in between each lap. I knew immediately that I hadn’t hydrated enough so after lap 3 I grabbed my bottle of water and felt much better. I ran at a speed that it was difficult to talk at and though it wasn’t fast compared to some of those speedy people whizzing around the track, it was faster than what I am used to. The warm down lap felt surprisingly easy after the fast laps. I'm hoping that a few mnore regualar track sessions will make my half marathin feel easy.

I finished, I survived and I was still smiling. I am determined to get quicker and I am happy to commit myself to track. I may not go all the way to Mile End every week (which really felt like Mile End on the journey home when I was ready to chew my own arm off) but I am going to venture along to my local track on the weeks  I don’t get to train with the RDC guys. It was great running with some really experienced people tonight  that were happy to share their knowledge. Thank you to @BangsandaBun and @RunUrb who encouraged me to come along and thank you to each and every person that took time out tonight to help me. Berlin Sub two hours, you will be mine!  

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Janathon day 24: Well and truly beaten

This time last year I had the worst run ever! I was aching, felt terrible and was on the verge of tears the whole way round. Little did I know at the time, but the reason I was feeling so ropey on 24th January, 2011, was because I was on the verge of coming down with flu. Not just a cold, but real flu where I couldn’t move from my bed.  I am so stubborn that even though it was my last run of Janathon 2011, I still stubbornly tried to exercise on day 25, only to crash and burn in style.

I was determined that I was going to enjoy tonight and it was only ever going to be positive that it landed on a Tuesday, as Tuesdays mean Run Dem Crew. I felt good when I arrived and was greeted by this. The Nike Make It Count campaign relates to me and really captures how I feel.All I ever want to do is to do everything to the absolute best of my ability. I touched on this in my Happy 30s post.
There were 147 people at RDC tonight and it was fantastic. There was such a positive and exciting vibe in the room and I chose to run in the fast hares.
RDC at 1948 (Picture courtesy of @RuthHooper)

It felt good and we saw some great Lomdon sights along the way. According to my endomondo app on my phone, we ran 8.3km but when speaking to other members of the group after the run, it seems we actually ran nearer 9.4km. This makes me happy, as it means I am probably cutting myself short on my runs but I’m cool with that. I guess it's better than not running enough.Our group split into two groups as it was quite large and I opted to go with the 'sightseeing runners' who were keen to get a glimpse of Tower Bridge. I've lived in London for most of my life, but I am always so impressed by it. The lovely @glennhancock led our smaller group and we had a fantastic run. Thank you all for letting us stop so that I could take the Tower Bridge snap below. I regretted not taking one last week so I wasn't going to let it slip through my fingers again.

The run tonight was considerably longer than last year’s poor attempt and the only glimpse of being near to tears, was when I saw one of the new RDC members run under the human arch that we created at the end of her run. She was nervous beforehand but she pushed on through, finished that run showing grit and determination and she made herself proud. That is what RCD is about!
It is magical when you see new people discover Run Dem Crew for the first time and even more special when they finish their first run with a beaming smile on their face. Tonight was always going to be better than last year because I was running with friends. Janathon day 25, I look forward to seeing you!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Janathon day 22 & 23: A little bit of of pug love

After an exercise filled month, my home was feeling a little neglected, so although I did my run yesterday, I just didn’t have time to blog. Yesterday the running gods were looking over us once more. I can’t get over how good the weather had been in comparison to this time last year. I have thoroughly enjoyed every single one of my long runs so far. Yes, it’s been cold but the sun has been shining and yesterday was no exception.  
I was aiming to run 13km yesterday and as it was such a lovely day I thought I’d do a figure of eight river run. I started at Barnes Bridge and ran along the Southbank towards Hammersmith. I then crossed the bridge and ran along the other side of the river up past Fulham Football Club and on to Putney Bridge. I crossed the river once more, past the many rowing clubs back to Hammersmith and then back across once again for the final leg past Dukes Meadows towards Barnes Bridge. You can tell it’s marathon training season as there were so many people running on the towpath.

Eastenders style running route

The highlight of my run was seeing two gorgeous pugs as I ran past Hammersmith Bridge. When I came round the corner to be greeted by their squidgy little faces a couple of kilometres into my run, I was instantly cheered up and I knew I was going to have a good run. As I ran I called out “thank you for cheering me up” to the ladies that were walking the dogs. I continued running but was annoyed that I didn’t take a photo.
A pair of uggs and a couple of pugs

I couldn’t believe my luck when I was running from Putney Bridge to Hammersmith Bridge. In the distance two familiar squidgy faces came into sight. It was like a mirage. I wasn’t letting them out of my grasp this time round and I confess, I did stop my run for a little stroke of the cheeky pugs and to take a picture. But look, how could I resist? I went on to complete my 13km with a beaming smile. It’s funny how things just crop up to keep you going.
Today I was not really in the mood for running. I ate a couple of crisp breads before pulling on my kit and heading out of the door. Within a minute or two, I realised that I was actually feeling pretty strong. I went on to complete my regular 5km route in the fastest time so far and when I arrived home I was feeling fantastic. Definitely a good start to the week and tomorrow is Run Dem Crew. Janathon day 24, I’m looking forward to meeting you. Last year you very nearly broke me but this time I am not about to be struck by flu and I will not cry! In fact, I know I am going to have a big smile on my face.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Janathon day 21: My first taste of yoga to end week 3

I went to my first ever yoga session today. I must admit that I was slightly nervous and didn’t really know what to expect but the nerves were a complete waste of energy. I came out feeling calm, relaxed and positive.
I will tell you a little about myself that many may already be aware of. I can be a bit of a stress-head although it’s not always apparent to the outside world. I’m just not very good at relaxing unless I am in a gorgeous spa resort. It somehow gives you permission to relax if you are away from home and the household chores, wearing a fluffy white robe. When I go for a massage, I am always being told to “just relax”, as my shoulders are normally tucked tight up into my neck. I am aware I need to chill sometimes but it is quite difficult to unlearn certain behaviour and let go.
I work in PR and have recently started working on the Manuka account. Manuka produce a range of gorgeous, yoga, Pilates and fitness clothes that are innovative and eco-friendly. You can buy the products online and in several stores but they also have a beautiful boutique and fitness studio on the New Kings Road.  I was lucky enough to be invited along take part in a class and I jumped at the opportunity. I have considered trying yoga previously and have several books at home but I’ve never quite plucked up the courage to go.
The Manuka studio is quite different to a regular fitness studio in most gyms. It is absolutely beautiful with attention to detail throughout providing a peaceful, tranquil atmosphere. Each class only has about five people per instructor which is perfect for a beginner like me. In fact, in my class today it was just myself and one other student which allowed the instructor Natasha to help me throughout to ensure I was carrying out each of the poses correctly.

As soon as I stepped into the peaceful studio, I instantly felt calmer. The first part of the class was focused on concentrating on our breathing. I don’t think I have ever paid quite so much attention to how I breathe but it was a relaxing and calming experience. I have a tendency to rush through life, ticking off multiple things on my to do list, but it forced me to slow down and focus on just one thing. Although my mind did wander a few times, as I am a multi-tasker by nature and I do find it a little tricky to concentrate on just one thing.
We progressed to a number of different poses, constantly being reminded to focus on our breathing . There are a number of key poses I remember such as the downward facing dog, the cobra and the plank. There was one particular pose that I can’t remember the name of but that I found to be really beneficial for my tight hips, after three weeks of running.  Natasha mentioned that the pose was great to release tightness in the psoas and although it may feel uncomfortable at first, it would be helpful to persevere to show you that you can achieve things that are at first uncomfortable. This really struck a chord with me and is exactly how I feel about a lot of things in life, including my running.
It was very different to any other exercise class that I have been to and although it wasn’t high impact and energetic, I certainly felt like I’d worked hard in a different way and I was even glowing. (Yeah, I do actually mean sweating but it it’s not very feminine!) I found the experience to be positive, uplifting and my body was loving me for it. It was like an extended calming, stretching session with positive reminders along the way. At one stage we were encouraged to inhale and think of bright colours, then exhale whilst thinking of the colour grey. It was like letting go of negative thoughts. It was only my first yoga class but I really think I will benefit from regular attendance as I felt like a new woman when I left. Thank you to Natasha for a fantastic introduction to yoga.
As well as the yoga class which was 1hour 15 minutes, I also did some other exercise today as I felt really energetic, even though I was calm and relaxed. I walked to and from yoga which was a total of just over 10km and I then ran the 3km to the gym, before doing a 550m swim. At the end of week 3 of Janathon, I have completed a total of 119km running,an extra 10km walking, 1050m swimming and my very first yoga class. I ran a total of 40km this week and did my first Run Dem Crew run of the year. It has most definitely been a good week! 
I am really pleased that I have managed to run every day apart from one. I can be stubborn but I also know it is important to listen to your body sometimes to avoid injury. Last year I did exercise every day (until I got ill with flu towards the end of January) but I didn’t run every day, so I am thrilled with my progress. I feel great today and I’m looking forward to my long run tomorrow. My ankles are niggling me slightly but I’m just going to take it easy and enjoy it. Janathon week 3, over and out!