What’s in a name? When you think of a name for your blog, you might think of all sorts of things. What interests you, what’s your message, who are you reaching out to? When it came to naming my blog, I had a pretty clear idea of all of these things.

I started this blog to share my interest in fitness (mainly running), and to show how fitness could change your life beyond losing a bit of weight and discovering an ab or two. I wanted to demonstrate the positive impact fitness had had on my life and how it improved my mental health. I wanted there to be more examples of strong, healthy women in the media. I wanted to share my own story, of how I overcame my eating disorder by educating myself about nutrition and building self esteem through exercise.

While I was right in the midst of suffering with my eating disorder, I was a member of a site that purported to be a support forum for ED sufferers. I signed up with the hope of finding people to talk to who were in a similar situation to me, without having to confront my issues in real life. In reality, being a member of that site definitely fuelled my disordered behaviour, not only ‘normalising’ it but also providing me with ‘tips’ (low calorie foods, coping with hunger etc) and the opportunity to ‘buddy up’ with another sufferer for support.

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This is a photo from my recent shoot with Greg Woodward. I’ve chosen it as my profile photo for the new blog because I think (hope!) it represents me well; strong and determined.

 

My eating disorder was my secret, and that site felt like my secret community. When Dayve did find out that I was using it, he helped me realise how damaging it was. In starting this blog, I wanted to create a space on the internet that was the antithesis of that site. That site was called Pretty Thin (only referring to it by name now because it’s been shut down) and I liked the idea of Pretty Fit for two reasons. (1) It referenced the old site, but was the healthier, fitter version, and (2) I hoped that somehow, people searching for Pretty Thin may come across Pretty Fit and would come across a very different, much more positive message.

I’ve been thinking for a while now about changing the name of the blog because, on face value, it doesn’t really represent me at all. While I have an ongoing obsession with skincare, I’ve never really been that in to make-up and have my haircut about once a year. I generally dress like a teenage boy and have zero interest in being ‘pretty’.  However, I just can’t think of anything else that sums up the message of my blog any better. Obviously, the blog has evolved over time and I feature a wider representation of my interests (fit fashion, races, cool events etc.) but my own personal ethos remains the same. I’m keeping the name because, when I consider it properly, nothing represents me or my journey better.

Other bloggers – I’d be interested in hearing how you decided to name your blog!

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I’m stuck in a bit of a downward spiral. It’s been going on for a while now, and I think I can pinpoint where it all started. A few years ago I bought in to the hype of changing your gait, and switched from a heel strike to a fore/mid foot strike. I wanted to be faster and more efficient and so, after attending a couple of group sessions tackling technique, I spent months putting those lessons in to practise on my own. 

Despite those many months practising, I’ve got to admit that I don’t think I ever really nailed it.

During my ‘transition period’ I lost a lot of speed, spending my sessions running slowly and focussing on technique. I may have taught myself to land on my midfoot, but I never learnt how to do so quickly, or with my grace. Before changing my technique I was running sub-8 minute miles pretty regularly. As someone who is not a natural runner, this is a pretty good level for me. Now I can barely manage sub-9 minute miles. My calf muscles hate me. I don’t get my feet underneath me properly and run more like a dainty deer than a human.

This ‘transition period’ also coincided with the start of my career. I work as a lawyer in the City and, as you can imagine, the hours can be pretty demanding. I’ve been working as a lawyer for three years now and I still haven’t managed to figure out how to balance work, training, nutrition, blog and social life. My running has suffered as a result of the constraints on my time and sometimes I am just so busy I can’t manage anything but work/eat/sleep/repeat. 

Somewhere along the way my passion for running died and it’s never fully recovered. I consider this a downward spiral because the less I run the less I want to run and the worse my running gets. When I convince myself to go running my running isn’t as good as it used to be, which is demoralising. In turn, this makes me less likely to go running and I run less.

I think the problem is partly that I put too much pressure on myself, and partly that I’ve been burying my head in the sand. Rather than acknowledge and admit that my running has deteriorated and I could have done something about it, I’ve carried on and thought “I’ll go later” or “I’ll sort that out tomorrow” or “Starting next week I’ll start looking for technique coaching”. By doing this, I have wasted three years. If I’d have spent those three years being proactive, reacting to my changing lifestyle and training accordingly, who knows where I could be now? 

Well, enough is enough. Writing this post is pretty embarrassing, but also pretty necessary. Today is the day I get my running well and truly back on track and, to give me some level of accountability, here’s what I’ll be doing about it:

  • Getting running coaching. Just before the new year I bought a bundle of technique classes from The Running School. So far I’ve had three (including my biomechanical assessment) and I can already feel the benefits. I can feel the strain coming out of my calf muscles and my hamstrings and glutes are definitely “firing”! I’ve been making sure I take the time to do all the homework set for me, and I am determined to sort out my running style once and for all.

  • Getting earlier nights. I’m a night owl, but realistically I know that my best chance to exercise is first thing before I get bogged down with anything at work. To give myself a fighting chance at getting up on time, I’ll be trying to be in bed much earlier (aware of the irony of writing this up at gone midnight).

  • Shorter distances. Before I start training for the Hackney Half in May I’ll be sticking to much shorter distances. If I only have smaller distances to run I am more likely to get out there to train on dark winter morning and cold winter nights. I’m going to take away the pressure of distance and speed and I’m just going to focus on getting back in to the routine of running. I feel like this is half the battle.

  • Sorting my nutrition. Realistically I know that I don’t have time to prep all of my food. While I’ll try to make sure I do prep food at the weekend, a mid-week session is harder to find time for. This is fine as there are plenty of places selling delicious, nutritious meals (I practically live in Pod) but I need to make sure I don’t get caught out by late nights or random hungry days. I’ve placed a bulk order with MyProtein (using their 25% off everything offer they were running last week) and will keep protein snacks at work to make sure I always have a backup. 

I’d also love to find someone to run with, so if you fancy running (kind of slowly) in London any time soon then I’d love to join you. 

I’m going to make 2016 the year I finally kick my butt back in to gear and sort my running out. 2016 is the year I start running properly again, and hopefully setting a few new PBs along the way!

Do you have any other tips? x

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2015 was a seriously mixed bag. While some parts of my life reached lifetime highs, other areas sank or got discarded. I felt like I went through immense change, as did some of my family and close friends, and it’s made me feel elated and excited but also occasionally sad and usually out of control. I haven’t really blogged much recently but, in an attempt to reconnect with my blog and in the spirit of the January fresh start, here’s a round-up of 2015 (good and bad) by way of catch up.

The Good

I got engaged!

My number one top highlight of 2015 was when my boyfriend of thirteen years asked me to marry him. He proposed on our thirteen year anniversary in the most amazing way and I am super pumped to be marrying him! I’ve been umming and aahing about doing an engagement post, because it isn’t really fitness related, but I might do one anyway because I love telling the story. 

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We bought a flat!

Close second in “amazing things that happened in 2015” was buying our first home. We’ve been living in Bow Quarter for four years now and I’ve always dreamed of owning a flat there, and this year that dream came true! We bought a top floor one bedroom flat in the converted warehouse building and I love it. I am so grateful to everyone who helped us (especially Dayve’s family and their amazing generosity) buy a home. I thought we’d never be able to have our own place and here we are! It’s definitely a fixer-upper but I’m enjoying the renovation process so far.

I got a new Nephew! 

I was already an auntie of six (three nieces, three nephews!) when, at the beginning of the year, my sister found out that she was expecting a baby. In September we welcomed little baby Arthur in to the world and I am really in love with him (obsessed). Now we have seven little bear cubs running around and they are all amazing. I am so lucky to have such a big beautiful family!

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I haven’t been fired!

I survived my first year as a qualified solicitor and now have 1 years PQE under my belt. I love my job (despite the very occasionally gruelling hours) and love being challenged every day. Sometimes it feels like I’m hanging on for dear life, but I am definitely enjoying the ride.

I survived an expedition!

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“Looking away” is the best pose to disguise the fact you haven’t showered for a week

I was lucky enough to go on a once in a lifetime trip to Ethiopia with my work to trek the Simien Mountains. This was physically and emotionally challenging for me but an absolutely incredible experience. You can read all about it in my write up.

The Bad

My Running 

I’ll explain more about this in another post but my running (and, to be honest, fitness in general) went massively downhill in 2015. I had so much going on that it’s always taken a back seat, but my mental health has definitely suffered as a result of moving less. Having to drop out of Berlin was the final straw really – I felt so heartbroken and humiliated and I never want to feel like it again. I’m hoping I can find a way in 2016 to get a little more balance.

My Health

As I mentioned, my mental health took a bit of a beating this year, mainly in the latter half of the year. I sought some help from my doctor but it has been a bit of a turbulent time. I’m pretty confident that getting back in to a regular exercise routine will really help, and that’s my main motive to get back to it really. That and my ever expanding arse.

This Blog

I have been terrible at blogging! When you don’t exercise as much, you don’t have so much to write about. When you’re not really digging yourself, you doubt anyone else would be digging you either so you don’t write anything, or you write it and then delete it for being boring/stupid/a failure/a fraud. When you’re working a lot, you don’t really feel like sitting at your computer after that’s what you’ve been doing all day, so you don’t write a lot. For all of these reasons (and many others) I have no written very much. I love blogging as a way of connecting with like-minded people and I’m hoping I can get back to writing more regularly going forward.

That said, the blog has given me some amazing opportunities this year (Berlin with adidas, going to Bestival, swimming my furthest ever distance, filming the campaign video with adidas, getting chased by David Coulthard at the Red Bull Wings for Life, having a ball doing the Nike #werunlondon run with my best bi***es, etc) and I am incredibly grateful. I’m hoping I can be a better blogger in 2016!

The Ugly

To be entirely honest, the ugly parts of 2015 have happened to those around me and not to me, so they’re not for me to share on the blog in any detail. However, seeing friends and family go through awful things is heartbreaking and I’m hoping that there are better days ahead.

I hope you all had a wonderful 2015 and that your 2016 is even better! x

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I’ll admit that I had trekking down as an easy activity. It’s just walking right? If I can run for hours on end then I can totally walk all day. Bearing this in mind, I had a bit of a shock during my trip to Ethiopia when I learnt that trekking is actually quite hard work. It’s exhausting, but in a completely different way from running. It slowly wears you down without you noticing, and then takes you by surprise when you reach camp and all you want to do is eat plates of pasta and sleep for 10 hours a night.

I was in Ethiopia as part of a charity trip organised by my work. I work for a global law firm and the challenge is our inaugural ‘Global Challenge’. The idea of the Global Challenge is to take colleagues from our offices all over the world and bring them together to tackle a big physical feat and raise money for our global charity partner, UNICEF. The firm does a lot of work worldwide with UNICEF, but the trip was in aid of our child justice programme in Bangladesh, which aims to improve the treatment of juveniles caught up in the justice system, whether as offenders, victims or witnesses. To date the Global Challenge has raised over $250,000 for the programme and I understand that our trek is the largest corporate fundraiser of its kind ever, which is pretty awesome!

The trek took five days and we summited at 4,500m, which is the highest altitude I’ve ever experienced. The trek covered lots of varied terrains (including some steep rocky climbs and sharp descents!) and we trekked through so many different types of weather. We also camped every night, which added to the exhaustion and the general discomfort. I could ramble on forever about the trip but that would probably be boring, so I thought I’d sum up my highs (and lows!) for your reading pleasure.

The best bits!

I loved summit day! It was amazing to reach our goal of summiting Mount Bwahit. We worked together as a team throughout the whole trip and I think our summit sums up the team’s attitude really neatly. The team was of mixed abilities and there was a small group of people who chose to take it easy and bring up the back of group. They’d struggled on some of the tougher climbs but had persevered and never ever gave up. As a surprise we arranged to stop just short of the summit for a re-group and then let those who’d been at the back lead the group to the top, so that we could all summit together and that no-one was left behind at the crux of the trek. They were really touched by the gesture and if I could have bottled the mix of emotions at the top of that mountain I would have done. Amazing moment!

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I met some amazing new people. I am generally terrible at socialising and get terrible anxiety in big groups. Before I went on the trek I knew that my biggest challenge would be staying afloat in a group of 50 strangers, not the trekking itself! I did find it difficult but I also met some wonderful people and really enjoyed making new friends. I got on well with my tent mate and actually really enjoyed finding out about my trek mates. This felt like a massive achievement for me.

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Yoga at camp! (I promise more people did it; I was too busy doing the yoga to take a photo of said yoga!)

Yoga at camp! (I promise more people did it; I was too busy doing the yoga to take a photo of said yoga!)

Sunshine and scenery. The Simien Mountains are absolutely stunning and it was such a privilege to be surrounded by such beauty every day. My favourite part was the latter half of the trek where we were consistently above the clouds – it felt so peaceful and it was just so beautiful. I also know I said we experienced a whole variety of weather but the beginning of the trip was mostly sunshine which was glorious. I haven’t been on holiday this year and I forgot how happy the sun makes you feel!

"Looking away" is the best pose to disguise the fact you haven't showered for a week

“Looking away” is the best pose to disguise the fact you haven’t showered for a week

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This jungle climb was one of my favourite parts of the trek!

This jungle climb was one of my favourite parts of the trek!

That time we trekked through a cloud and had to wear FULL waterproofs

That time we trekked through a cloud and had to wear FULL waterproofs

Our guides. We were guided through the mountains by a team of scouts from local tribes. They were hospitable, kind, knowledgeable, fun and very friendly. They really looked out for us on the mountain and set up an amazing camp in what feels like the middle of nowhere. They were also pretty savvy and gave us tips on how to behave when passing through local villages, which was really helpful. An amazing bunch of dudes! At the end of our stay we donated any camping equipment we no longer needed. They split it in to equal size lots and divided them up using a raffle system, with unwanted items going in to local communities. I thought this was great.

Our wonderful guide at the summit!

Our wonderful guides at the summit!

Casually sat with his feet dangling over a 2500m drop...

Casually sat with his feet dangling over a 2500m drop…

Our head guide Mulat giving us a history lesson about one of the villages we passed through.

Our head guide Mulat giving us a history lesson about one of the villages we passed through.

Spending so much time outside. When you do an office job and live in London you forget how brilliant it is to spend time outside. Properly outside; going to Victoria Park or Epping Forest doesn’t count! I’ve made a mental note to set more time aside to get out of London more often and breathe the non M25 encircled air.

I may have burnt my face to hell but it was worth it.

I may have burnt my face to hell but it was worth it.

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Being without social media. I was pretty anxious about being out of contact with my friends and family for a week but it was actually one of the best parts! I barely even thought about my phone and when I did get back to reality I actually found it all a bit tedious and boring. I don’t care what you ate for breakfast or what trendy pop-up you’re going to or who you went to pilates with or about that stupid quote you think is inspirational but is actually a bit judgmental. It’s embarrassing that there are grown adults sub-tweeting each other so boring that people spend their lives caring enough about insignificant things to bother being passive aggressive on the internet. I had definitely missed speaking with my nearest and dearest though and the first thing I did was send them all a hideous picture of me and my sunburnt nose.

When I woke up here I didn't scroll through twitter for an hour before getting out of bed.

When I woke up here I didn’t scroll through twitter for an hour before getting out of bed.

Day one. I still had clean hair and phone signal.

Day one. I still had clean hair and phone signal.

The unexpected. The most wonderful thing about exploring the world is coming across other cultures. It always shocks me how different things can be a few thousand miles away and my time in Ethiopia was no exception. Overall I found the people of Ethiopia to be warm and welcoming, very ambitious and fiercely patriotic. I think my favourite example of culture shock was ordering takeaway fries in Dubark and (40 minutes later) being handed a mountain of greasy fresh chips in a couple of carrier bags. Wonderful.

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The not so best bits…

The toilet situation. Each camp had long drop toilets which, if you’re not versed in “camp” translates as holes in the ground (doors optional). I don’t think I need to elaborate more than just saying that it sucked.

This is a nice photo of some not very nice toilets (in the distance).

This is a nice photo of some not very nice toilets (in the distance).

Social anxiety. Although I met a lot of amazing people I did find it hard at points. Some people on the trek were less friendly than others and being stuck on a mountain with people I didn’t feel relaxed around was very difficult. By the time the trek ended I was very much ready to go home.

My work colleagues seeing my tattoos. Most lawyers don’t have tattoos. So many questions I didn’t have answers to!

"It's a ship." ... "No, I'm not a sailor."  ... "No I can barely swim actually." ... "No special meaning at all! Just like it!" ... "Haha yeah funny I know..."

“It’s a ship.” … “No, I’m not a sailor.” … “No I can barely swim actually.” … “No special meaning at all! Just like it!” … “Haha yeah funny I know…”

Altitude sickness. I got a touch of altitude sickness on day two and it was really difficult. Luckily mine was quite mild and limited to just a headache, but a killer headache at that. Altitude sickness is often compared to a hangover and it definitely felt that way. My head was throbbing and every step I took made it throb even harder. It felt like my head was going to explode! Luckily I acclimatised overnight and was fine for the rest of the trek, but some other in the group were hit quite badly. I’m proud to say that our entire group made it to the top in once piece, which is apparently very unusual. In fact, our guides said that we were the first group they’d ever taken where every single person had summited. I think this says a lot about lawyers and stubbornness.

If you’re thinking of doing a trek like this then I would recommend it 100%. It was definitely the experience of a lifetime and worth every penny. Our trip was organised by Discover Adventure and they were incredible, so if you’re looking for somewhere to start I can definitely recommend them! Now I just need to plan my next challenge; Kilimanjaro or Everest Base Camp?!

My trekking is in aid of UNICEF UK and all donations go directly towards child justice projects in Bangladesh. My justgiving page will be open until the end of December if you fancy donating!

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There’s a beginner’s option at Barry’s Bootcamp, but I think the term “beginners” is used quite loosely. Before I went to try out the new Barry’s East studio I’d heard that BB was a brutal workout, but I’d thought to myself…”how hard can it actually be?”. Turns out, really hard.

I joined the “Legs and Butt” 7:50pm Tuesday class with Alex. The class consisted of two different sections, one on a treadmill and one floor based workout. You go through three rounds of each. Half of the class start on the floor and half on the treadmill, and you rotate between the two.

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I started on the treadmill. Alex the instructor gave three different speeds, one for beginners, one for intermediate and one for advanced. Being a runner I backed myself as an intermediate runner and set off at a warm up speed of “8”. Turns out the Barry’s treadmills are set to miles per hour, not kms per hour, and an “8” equates to a 7:30 minute mile. I don’t know about you, but that isn’t a warm-up for me! The treadmill sessions consist of sprints, threshold runs and recovery periods, and they’re pretty hard work. Be prepared for them to be fast – I switched from following the intermediate speeds to beginner speeds pretty quickly, and I still struggled!

The floor sessions were equally brutal. As this was the Legs and Butt class the floor sessions were lower body specific, utilising a step and dumbbells in a series of tricky moves. Squats, lunges, step-ups, some crazy hybrid of a burpee and a squat….it was relentless! By the time I got to the last round I was absolutely exhausted, and one look around the room told me I wasn’t the only one. I wondered to myself whether anyone has ever completed a full hour at Barry’s, only stopping in the permitted breaks. If you have, I salute you.

Make sure you pick water up on your way in! I didn't realise it was there and nearly disintegrated in to dust.

Make sure you pick water up on your way in! I didn’t realise it was there and nearly disintegrated in to dust.

Even though it was hard, the feeling of satisfaction at the end of the class was unreal. I also think that the class is actually really complementary to marathon training; the treadmill sections are good training for the legs and good speed training, and the floor workout really gets in to the areas where you need strength and power. For a few days after the class I felt pretty sore in my glutes, hamstrings and quads, but my next run after the class felt great!

Every single trainer I saw at Barry’s Bootcamp was seriously buff, and having completed just one class I can see why. If you’re looking to shape up, it’s definitely the class for you! I would really recommend classes at Barry’s, but be prepared to work hard – even if you take the beginners option! The studio itself is gorgeous too – there’s a refuel bar with an amazing selection of recovery shakes and more Barry’s merchandise than you can shake a stick at.

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Huge thank you to Barry’s for inviting me to join one of their classes – I’ll be back soon!

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