2015

Happy New Year everyone! We are about 40 hours in – how’s it treating you so far? I have spent it catching up with excellent friends, curling up on the sofa at my mum and dad’s, and making time to really think about the things I wanted to achieve this year.

I decided a couple of years ago not to do new year’s resolutions any more, and instead set myself goals, things to work for. Sometimes they’re small and seemingly silly (one of last year’s was “make a pie”…) but they’re all little achievements, things that make me smile, stand back and say, “I did that!”. And more often than not, post a picture of it on instagram.

My most recent stand back and smile moment? Having my family up for Christmas. And it being exactly the day I wanted – relaxed, fun and full of food.

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Drastic behavioural U-turns just don’t work; you just feel restricted, making you less likely to keep your good intentions up, and beat yourself up if you crack. Not a healthy way to be. And if there’s something the last couple of months have taught me, it’s not to take your health for granted.

And a big part of your health? Being happy. A few things happened in short succession at the end of 2014 that showed me just how important that is. Why waste your life on things that make you miserable? It’s way, way too short.

With that in mind, my aim for this year is to be the person I want to be. To do more of the things that make me happy, and that make me, me.

Firstly, writing. I am a writer at heart, but any actual writing seems to have gone out the window over the last few months. And I’ve barely picked up a book this past year. I haven’t finished one since August. What happened there? That isn’t me.

Secondly, nourishing myself, body and spirit. I started to get quite into nutrition while I was training for the Great South Run, and I’m hoping my new Christmas pressie (which I’ve finally had time to read!) will give me some more inspiration. And hopefully allow me to continue to capitalise on my 2014 avocado obsession.

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I’ve also got a copy of I Quit Sugar in the post, and have developed something of a Deliciously Ella obsession in the past few months. Don’t get me wrong, I still did a shedload of Christmas baking – and very much enjoyed eating it! But it’s about balance. The things we put into our bodies matter, and I want to fill up on things that make me feel good. Most days that will be a ginormous veg-packed salad, but hey, when did a gingerbread man ever make anyone sad? And when you mostly eat the former, there’s plenty of room for the latter. I’m already a pretty healthy eater, but could do with some new advice and ideas, so I’m going to try and make one new recipe each week… and see how different I feel.

It’s also partly running fuel. This is going to be the year that I finally do the half marathon that my back injury stopped me from doing in the summer. I’ve been back at spinning and have started circuit training – which I thought would be like a horrendous year 9 PE flashback but am in fact absolutely loving! – to make my back stronger. The Great North Run Ballot opens tomorrow morning. Eek.

Spending more time with friends is another important part of my new nourish-me plans. Time spent with the people we love is a powerful, restorative thing. It makes me happy. And stops me worrying that I haven’t seen someone, that something may have happened to them, that they may be going through something horrible and I Didn’t Know. Which will in turn make me happier. I’m going to plan more visits and make more time.

Time for myself is on there too. I feel like I am always on the go, always writing lists, making a plan, always on my phone. While Christmas was brilliant, it’s been so good to just r-e-l-a-x for a couple of days, take stock and clear my head a bit. How do you know what you want to do if you’re too busy doing things all the time? I like the idea of mindfulness. “Life gets so busy” and “life gets in the way” are two refrains I’ve heard a lot, and said a lot, this year. Sometimes I need to just… pause for a bit.

And just… be more me again. Sometimes we can get carried away with what we think we should be doing, now or next, and I feel like if I don’t make some changes, I could wake up in 20 years time and realise, that wasn’t what I wanted. I have a good feeling about 2015, though. This is going to be my year. I hope it’s yours too.

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POW! (part 2)

So you know I was writing that award entry the other day?

Well, I got back from a meeting this afternoon to an email saying…… I’ve been shortlisted!! Woohoo!

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It was pretty unexpected, as it says on the website they wouldn’t be announcing the shortlist until the end of July. Unless they do a second shortlist? Hmmm.

I feel like I should be celebrating, but this week marked the start of Operation Bikini Body, sooooo… I went to Pilates. But I did enjoy Pilates, if that counts??

The next stage is a panel interview, with 3 judges, to “talk through my entry”. Eek!! For once it won’t just be Rob doing practice interviews of an evening! I’m a bit nervous, obviously, but also quite excited. It’s a great opportunity to meet some people in the industry (and hey, I’m in PR, I like meeting new people!). And in a way I’m glad there’s a face-to-face part. I always think you come across better in person – they can get more of a feel for who you are. I remember when I was job hunting and got rejected from things, I’d just think – if you just met me, I’d convince you I’d be good at this!

So things to remember: big smile, good handshake… wish me luck for 2 weeks’ time!

Top Ten Tuesday – Girl worries

This is a slightly belated Top Ten Tuesday; as (as explained in my previous post) we’ve been off the grid for a few days. But some of the conversations had during those few days has inspired this week’s countdown.

As a girl lumbered blessed with 3 brothers, I am well aware of the vast differences in the things that affect boys’ and girls’ lives. There are SO many things that boys just do not have to worry about. Don’t worry, I’m keeping it lighthearted – though I do suggest you all go and read this!

This post is mostly triggered by the things running through my mind in the lead up to our trip to Spain in a few week’s time, for Rob’s cousin’s wedding. I have SO many things to do in 4 weeks, and on a small pay packet. Rob basically just needs to buy a shirt. Um. Fair?!

Which leads me to this week’s Top Ten: Girl worries.

1. Weddings.

Girls hear “wedding” and a list unravels – flowers, dresses, rings, venues, food, car, guest list… . Boys hear “wedding” and think “STAG DO!”. Two of my best mates are getting married next year, and… I kind of don’t believe them when they tell me how stress-free the planning has been! Though I am the lady who once took half an hour to pick a nail polish colour. Although modern grooms often want to be more involved (and quite rightly so, it’s their wedding tool!), they often just aren’t aware of the hundreds of things to tick off the list…

2. Going out clothes.

Big bugbear of mine. It is SO much easier for boys when it comes to what to wear on a night out. They have 3 options: shirt, polo shirt, or t-shirt. And let’s face is, a polo shirt is basically a subset of the tee. They may possible have to wrangle with jeans vs chinos and trainers vs shoes, but come onnnn. “Dress shopping” is one of the most stressful types of shopping, second only to “jeans shopping”. And am I the only one that has to repeatedly teach the man in my life the difference between the words “dress” and “skirt”?

3. Accessories.

Closely related to Going Out clothes. Because it’s never as simple as just the dress is it? You’ve got to think about the shoes, the bag, jewellery or no jewellery… GAH. It’s a load of extra money and hassle, that massively takes the fun out of getting ready.

4. Make up.

Something that will never be on most boys’ radars. Yet we have to spend so much time, hassle and money on. I don’t wear a lot of make up – I have my day to day routine, don’t mind nipping bare-faced to the shop, and pride myself on being able to get ready before Rob is. Yet I still managed to take 3 types of mascara away with me for the weekend – and thoroughly enjoyed the look on Rob’s face when I explained the differences (“differences” – pah!) between them.

5. Body hair.

Talking of time, money and hassle! Eyebrows, underarms, lips, legs. Razored, bleached – reviled, apparently! This is top of my “Things To Stress About Before Spain” list. I don’t need a hair cut right now, but will I in 4 weeks’ time? Will my razor be enough, or should I splash out on a wax? And why, oh why oh why, are we women obliged to use hot wax on our pubic hair!?!? But that’s another blog post. I dropped the phrase “bikini wax” into conversation the other day, just to see what Rob would do. I’ve never heard a conversation change topic faster. Sheer. Terror.

6. Having babies.

Absolutely bloody terrifies me. TERRIFYING. Painful, scary, and yes, you get a lovely beautiful baby out of it, but your body, your emotions, even things like your taste in food can change. And just not change back! That’s huge. And is it wrong that one reason I enjoy keeping fit now is that it makes me think it”ll be easier to get fit again afterwards? Why should I have to worry about that??

7. Career aspirations

Another thing I catch myself worrying about – then get angry that I’ve somehow become convinced I need to worry about it. But it does creep across your mind, doesn’t it? We’re expected to be go-getting, angry, ambitious, ceiling-smashing powerhouses. Which, on some days, I am. I find it strange that every other PR Account Exec I know is female, yet in a quick straw poll of agencies round here, nearly all the Directors are male. But equally there’s nothing wrong with wanting to just do well, for you. Not necessarily be a trailblazer, and sacrifice all else just to Make It. Just to achieve… enough. So that career-wise, you’re happy. Because as much as I flipping love my job (and I do) – there should always be more to life than what you do 9 to 5, and it’s important to champion that too.

8. Cleaning

After much market (my office) research, the verdict is in. Boys just do not understand the need to clean. They just don’t get it. They wait until things are dirty, and then clean them, rather than keeping things clean. I’ve had to train the boyf that you don’t have to wait til everything is visibly, stickily (ew!!) dirty to clean it. You could just, you know, CLEAN IT. Girls have “higher standards”, I am told. No, we just HAVE standards.

9. Topshop.

Ugh. I am not a fan of Topshop. I am not a fan of scowling, skinny, scruffy-but-it-took-me-£200-and-3-hours-to-look-like-this Topshop girls. It’s overpriced, up itself, half of it is just ridiculous (who REALLY wants to wear a lime green cut out tassled crop top?), and yet I’m constantly made to feel not cool enough because I don’t spend my money in there. Glad I am old enough to recognise now that a £40 t-shirt is genuinely not the answer to my problems.

10. Inadequacy

Just in general. Magazines telling you what you “should” buy / wear / slather on your face. It’s well known that women dress for other women, not for men – Rob loves me glammed up in bodycon and heels, or in my denim cut offs and his tees. Yet part of me still feels like a failure because I still don’t know how to curl my hair with my GHDs, and still don’t really have a skincare routine. Why do we do this to ourselves?

Don’t listen to them, girls – the external and the internal worry-voices. At the end of the day, it’s nonsense. We have enough Real Issues to deal with without being made to feel like we NEED to worry about all this crap. And at the end of the day, a lipstick or a pair of shoes is not really going to have an impact on how your life pans out. Relationships, experiences, choices – they might, but all this Girl Crap won’t! So don’t let yourself start thinking otherwise.

And with that I am crossing half the things off my “For Spain” list! 🙂

Rewarding

Awesome weekend in the sun. Is there anything better than sunshine?

We were meant to go surfing in Porthcawl yesterday, but while gorgeous, the sea was flat as a pancake. Booo! It’s okay though, we’ll rebook it in a couple of weeks – and I still got a day at the beach. I swear, I don’t know what it is about being by the sea, but I just feel… better. Calmer, happier, like I’ve been filled up, if that makes any sense? I joke that I’m part mermaid; I genuinely pine for it. Every now and then, I just need to stand on a clifftop and look at the sea.

Today was more landlocked but still pretty perfect! A lazy morning and an afternoon reading on a blanket in the park. I always think that the whole “Sunday night blues” conundrum only really comes out of guilt from not making the most of your weekend. Granted, it’s much easier to do that when it’s beautiful outside, but still…!

It’s also easier when you’re, like me, lucky enough to genuinely enjoy your job. Don’t get me wrong, I still relish the Friday clocking-off point, and 2 days without looking at my emails! But when you have that you don’t really mind Mondays.

I spent a couple of hours pre-park today writing an award entry for work. We’re entering the CIPR Cymru PRide awards, in two categories, Outstanding Small Consultancy and Outstanding Young Communicator – yep, erm, me!

I was so chuffed when my boss said he wanted to enter me. I really feel like I’m on my game nowadays – I’ve grown so much in confidence since I started at the agency, and especially in the past 6 months. And while I’m a bit embarassed about blowing my own trumpet, I am good at my job (*cringe*)! So it’s nice that they have faith in me too, and want to put me forward.

It’s a little bit daunting as I’ve read some of the other entrants, and some of them are like Account Directors. Anyone under 30 can enter, so there are obviously going to be people with a few more years on me in the running. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll win. I just need my drive and my strengths to come across.

I’ve actually enjoyed writing the entry, as it’s really helped me clarify what my strengths are, and the bits of my job and of the industry that I love the most. I haven’t had the opportunity to do as much on the strategy side before now, managing two of our clients, and I really enjoy it. And while it was scary to lead on the accounts as first, to be the first point of contact for some pretty high-profile business – to have to have the answers – that responsibility doesn’t daunt me any more. If anything it’s pushing me to step  up, to do the best job I can.

It’s been a strangely enjoyable process, and has left me even more determined to do well in this industry. I’ve written in my industry that I hit the ground running in PR – I did my first work experience placement when I was 15, and once I’d had that first taste, I never wanted to do anything else. And that’s true. So it’s incredibly rewarding to know I’m getting there. Even if I don’t win 🙂

In a spin

You know how the other day I was all fitness-mode, ‘I’m looking for a challenge’…? Well, guess what! I started spinning. Yeah! Me!

The idea of spinning has always slightly terrified me. I was always hugely impressed by anyone who did it, thinking, ‘they must be super fit…’. One of my mates went quite a lot when we were doing our Masters’, but I met any invitation to join her with a trembly head-shake and apprehensive ‘Me?! Nooooo…’, convinced I’d be the one puce-faced in the corner, fighting to keep myself on the bike after the warm up.

But since the 10K I’ve been quite into the whole fitness thing – I genuinely impressed myself with how much I could actually do. So, the other day, I thought I’d give it a try!

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I started typing “feeling brave”, then, but that wasn’t even it – I was honestly really quite up for it! And you know what? It was actually really, really fun. And while it was hard, it was hard in the really good workout way – my lungs felt about 3 times the size by the end of it! I’ve been twice since 🙂 .

For the uninitiated, it is pretty random. It’s just cycling, mixing between low-resistance sprints and higher-resistance climbs. With the lights off. To pounding music! I’ve definitely never felt more like a hamster, albeit a hamster trapped in a disco. I had heard horror-stories of mental instructors (not unlike the woman I once dubbed the Aerobics Nazi – bloody hell), who just scream at you as you try not to throw up (nice)… but the guy was really nice! It’s very much go at your own pace. You control how hard or easy it is, and you can definitely fake-move the lever when he shouts “Turn it UPPPPP!”… though I promise I won’t cheat quite so much next time. Maybe. And I want a bike even more now – first Holland, now this! 2013 is turning out to be quite cycle-centric.

Genuinely loved it. I’m One Of Those People now! And I actually kind of love that too…

Looking for a challenge

There has been much talk of marathons in our office of late. The week after my 10K my manager ran the Hague Half Marathon (consider myself trumped) – her second one in a year, after the Cardiff one last October! My boss is also a bit of a fitness afficionado, having done the New York marathon 5 times ‘back in the day’. We may eat a lot of cupcakes in this office, but we’re good influences on each other too!

It’s got me wondering, though… Since the run I’ve found myself hankering after a new challenge. I’m going to do the 10K Race for Life in June (hola bikini-bod for Spain in July) but I’ve also been thinking… what about something a little bigger?

I’m a firm believer that there are many things in life you can’t really be “ready” for until you just go and do it. You grow into it – you may be chucked in the deep end, but you learn to swim. Uni was one, starting my job was another – hey, I’ve got to have two fillings in a couple of weeks, and have no idea what that’s going to be like. The best way to do it is not to over think. Just do.

If you’re drinking a cup of tea (I am) I’d recommend you put it down for this next part, as it may make you laugh. Which we all know, while drinking tea, can result in snorting tea out of your nose. Consider yourself warned. Discussing challenges in our lovely, jolly, and particularly fitness-friendly office… it was suddenly suggested that we enter this as a team. Yep. A fancy dress mini triathlon.

The weirdest part is… I’m kind of considering it!!

I’m also considering a half marathon myself. When I asked Twitter what my next challenge should be, a half was my instantaneous response from a uni friend of mine. She’s doing the Reading half this weekend, having never run a 5k or a 10k. Obviously she’s been training for this – and as long as you’ve prepared well, surely that’s all you need. The Race for Life is in June so… potential Cardiff half in October!? If for no other reason, it would give me free reign to eat SO MUCH birthday cake the week after…

I want to be one of those people, like my boss, who can look back and tell stories about the Things They Did. Like I said, the best way to do something is to just do it. And if you never do anything, well, you’ll never do anything! So I’m thinking… why not!?

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Now, the triathlon. The real question is – what are we going to dress up as?!…

Running lessons

This is the start of the fifth week of 10K training – and from here on in it gets hard! :-S

Having a training plan – I just googled “10K training for beginners” – is really helpful. When it’s just me, I don’t know how far to run exactly, or how often, but this does the deciding for you. It also keeps you motivated – instead of thinking ahh I won’t go tonight… I plan at the start of the week which nights I’ll go running. Plus, I remind myself that if I miss one I’ll not only have more to do the next night, but I might not be race ready on the day! I know it’s not the furthest distance ever, but for me it’s a challenge – and I want to make sure I’m up to that challenge.

Did just under 5K this evening, and have a smaller one on Thursday and then Saturday is Big Run Day. When I was at home at the weekend I ran from my beach hut to Boscombe Pier, and back again, without stopping. It’s just over 4 miles – and the first time I did it I had to stop almost every 10 minutes. Boom!

All the training is also teaching me some valuable lessons. So – things running has taught me (so far!) :

1) There is no wall you can hit that Beyonce can’t help you break through. Seriously. When it comes to running there is no such thing as too much Beyonce.

2) That being said, my ipod REALLY needs updating. Diana Vickers? Really?

3) You can always, always, always, do more than you think you can. And once you know that, it’s always a lot easier! I’ve been feeling a bit cold-y today but knew I would feel proud of myself for doing it anyway. Running’s not fun until I’m about 2km in, and forget I’m running…

4) If you’re tired, don’t stop, just go slower. I swear 50% of the effort is mental – stopping yourself from stopping!

5) STREETTTCCCHHH. Oh my goodness, stretch! It was the first tip my half-marathon-smashing friend gave me and I’m seeing why. Not stretching enough after hat run on the beach did my calf some mischief, leaving me with a nice pirate limp for a few days.

I’m bang on half way to my fundraising target (for Bliss, remember?) and am actually already planning my next one (Race for Life in the summer). Oh yes – I’ve become One Of Those People. I am “A Runner”!

Happy New Year!

Well! 2012. It’s been a funny old year. Some highs, and some serious lows – but definitely not boring. I’m off out to ring in 2013 with my best mates at my friend’s flat in a bit, but while driving the boy back to Salisbury station earlier we picked our best bits of the year, and I wanted to preserve them for posterity. If a blog can be considered that! I was a pen and paper girl not long ago… Though I have got “buy a notebook” on my To Do While Rob’s In Holland list, for reasons I will explain later.

1. Absolute top moment of 2012 – going to the Paralympics. To be precise, two bits of the day are tied – walking into the Olympic Stadium with Coldplay’s “Paradise” playing… I can feel my spine tingling again just thinking about it! And, oh yeah, we held a gold medal. Amazing.

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2. Casually walking down the road with the boy to get sweets, secretly a bit annoyed with him for being late, when he just drops into conversation that he’s been offered a job and would I like to move in with him? Erm… Yes! I had been so stressed about where I was going to live post-June – though I realised as I was driving today, I hadn’t done anything about it, clearly some part of me was waiting to get a definite “no” from him. We ended up moving not once but twice, in the end – probably a low of the year, but exacerbated more by the bad timing than the fact itself. If I’m honest, this summer wasn’t great – but we got through it. What doesn’t kill you – even when it leaves you lower than you thought you could go – makes you stronger. I’m not looking forward to more of the same this summer, but I’m enjoying becoming the domestic goddess I was born to be, and we’ve got contingency plans (aka a holiday!) in the pipeline…

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3. Another soppy one I’m afraid.  My boyfriend passed the bar this year. Watching him put his wig and gown on, after everything I had watched him go through (and knowing, thanks to this summer’s education, that this is by no means the end), I have never been more proud. ❤

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4. Dancing up and down Temple Bar in Dublin! And getting photographed by Japanese tourists, who thought we were part of some kind of folk show. That whole evening was kind of awesome. Just one of those evenings where you feel part of something, where an atmosphere picks you up and links you to a whole bunch of strangers. I’ve said before that it’s amazing what music can do. And busting a spontaneous groove the way we did just felt awesome – it just felt like shaking a lot off, feeling free-wheeling and free. Good times. Galway Bay was beautiful too, and I’m glad I’ve been somewhere lesser known. Being able to recommend places makes me feel more like a real traveller.

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5. I suppose one of these should be work related, as my first year in the job! I signed on the line as a full time, official employee in February, and was caught off guard by a genuinely lovely, constructive and helpful appraisal in August. I’ve grown and I’ve learnt loads, developed a serious addiction to Twitter and been converted to herbal tea (apple and ginger especially). I flippin’ love it.

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I don’t really make resolutions any more. Instead I like to pick a few things that I’d like to do in the next year – then I can tick off my acheivements! So, things I’d like to do in 2013:

– Run a 10K

I got quite into running this year and managed a 5K without toooooo much hassle… so maybe if I’m brave enough, a 10K’s on the cards!? I’d be doing it by myself this time (unless you want to get involved!?) as it’s when Rob will be in Holland but… I know I’d feel awesome at the finish line.

– Make a carrot cake

I like to keep things simple! 2012 has been my Intro To Baking year – I now own a cooling rack, mixing bowl *and* a rolling pin. And many cookbooks. I know! Carrot cake is something my mum is quite famous for, so I’d like to give it a whirl. Then when I make it years from now, I can say, “this is my mum’s recipe….”.

– Do some writing

One of the best things I did this Christmas was our family reunion yesterday. 21 of us Taylors, Berrisfords and Hobbs’s met up for a curry (random choice of food, I know), some of whom I literally haven’t seen since the age of about 6. One of those being my cousin James, who lives in France and renovates houses while … writing a novel. A writer! Someone else in my family writes! This was a pretty cool moment for me. I’ve always kind of wondered where I got it from – it was nice to see the gene has manifested somewhere else along the line too. I felt quite inspired talking to him about it. He actually used the sentence, “I’ve got a 42 point story arc”… I want to use sentences like that!  It’s time to buy me a notebook and get scribbling.

Set a date… for travelling 🙂

I’ve got good vibes about this year. You know when you just get The Feeling…? Flipflops at the ready. And travel diary, of course.

Happy New Year to you all! xx

A Year in PR: What I’ve learnt

December marked a bit of an anniversary for me – 1 year in my job!

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Those of you who’ve followed this blog from the start may remember may anxious posts in the run up to starting, and the first few weeks I was here, as I started to find my feet. Thinking back on the past year, and who I was and how I was when I started, I’ve come a long way. I thought it would be a good time to make a note of some of the things I’ve learnt…

1) Be prepared.

Take notes. Read things through. Be ready. Meetings used to really scare me – but knowing exactly what’s going on, thinking through potential outcomes and preparing for what you may be called upon for really, really help. As does generally keeping on top of things. I thought I was organised before – now I see how important that is! Especially in an agency like ours, where we work across such a variety of clients simultaneously. Without the humble post-it note, the PR world could very well grind to a halt.

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2) Be confident in your own work.

We regularly take on work experience students here, and I’ll admit, in the beginning, this unnerved me a little bit. I hadn’t been in the job long myself – what if one of them is better than me? But this taught me that if you work to the best of your abilities, and have pride in doing so, you have no cause to feel threatened. Work hard, and aim to produce work you’re proud of.

3) Don’t be proud.

One thing has particularly struck me this year: teamwork. Although taking on a project and completing it well is a sure-fire way to make you feel AWESOME – don’t try and do it all alone. When you need help, ask for help – use your team. Our office is very team-focussed, and we really enjoy working together to bounce ideas around. This also encourages you to…

4) Have ideas.

When we’re having our team bounce-arounds (often accompanied by cupcakes of some variety!) I find myself wanting to have something really good to contribute. Be passionate – don’t just sit and think “oh, I wish I’d thought of that.” Think outside the box, and don’t be scared to voice your ideas.

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5) Record what you’ve done.

Not only for client timesheets! It’s a great way to see how far you’ve come – and recording things will help you when you start thinking about moving on. Think – what have you done that you can talk about in your next job interview? And finally…

6) Enjoy it.

I’m well aware that my agency isn’t the biggest in the world or the busiest in the world, and I’m lucky that our clients are fantastic to work with and I pretty much always finish on time. I’m also aware that the next place I work might not be like this! But I love the variety and that I get to write every day, and it’s still exciting to see my release in print. Make sure you take time to enjoy what you’re doing.

Me on a client visit earlier this year - not your average day at the office!

Me on a client visit earlier this year – not your average day at the office!

So, a few lessons. It’s been a pretty good year 🙂 here’s to the next 12 months!

 

What happened?

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a little while. It’s about a recent article, that I read at a time when similar thoughts were going through my own mind.

You’ll remember by Olympo-mania a few weeks ago. How I very much loved it, and loved that it coincided with my own newfound running bug – and, more importantly, that us girls had some decent body image messages hitting us for once. Strong, not skinny. Remember?

… No?

Yeah, I’d noticed that too.

That passion, that fervour, that positivity – where did that all go?

I’ve never been shy about the fact that I’ve had a … fractious relationship with my body over the years. I’m by no means big, but equally will never be a single digit dress size. I am neither here nor there – in short, I’m healthy, which is what I am supposed to be. But we hear so many reports focussing on either extreme of the spectrum, the size zeros and the “I ate so much I got stuck in my house”-es, that us normals can feel we don’t have a place. And that, therefore, we are wrong.

Even the celebs championed for their “curvaceous” bodies, their “normal”, “healthy” attitudes to themselves and to food and to exercise are often no bigger than a 10. Hmmm. I read an interview with Emma Watson recently, who said she is “anything between a 6 and a 10”. Which suits her and her frame – I’ve never looked at her and thought oh my lord, eat a pie love – but is definitely on the slim end of things.

I’ll never be a 6, after much beating-up-of-self I’ve  seriously rectified my attitudes towards food. It’s not perfect, I still care about it a little more than I’d like to, but I am *so* much better than I used to be. And I love exercise for the right reasons – kicking the crap out of a treadmill after a full on day makes me feel awesome. And the days I don’t run as far as I’d told myself I was going to – I’m still beating everyone on the sofa. My body is awesome for what it is, and what I can do with it.

If that sounds a bit like I’m trying to remind myself of something… it’s because I am. That was the place I was in – and not just me, but everyone, seemingly – a few weeks ago at the height of the Olympics. And while I’ve seen a few bits and bobs on the Olympic legacy they rounded off the games by banging on about, sports for schools and more facilities and yada yada – all good stuff – what about the Olympic legacy of how we girls see our bodies?

This is the article I was talking about – by Afua Hirsch, a really great writer. While the “strong not skinny” message was not only all over the Olympic coverage, but was hugely positive, it feels a bit like we’ve already taken a step backwards when it comes to portraying female athletes. Strong women are once again being painted as intimidating, unwomanly. It’s not good to be strong – again.

As Afua writes – Only a few weeks after the close of the Olympics, I feel cheated. I thought the world was supposed to have changed.

The day before I read her article I was lying on a mat in the gym, feeling that horrible mix of guilt, failure and unrealistic resolve. I’d not been “on it” with the gym (even the phrase smacks of duty, doesn’t it), and despite a pretty good run, was beating myself up, not feeling “good enough” – importantly, specifically, not feeling “thin enough”.

And then I remembered. Lying on the same mat a few weeks ago watching the athletics. How I’d felt then. Not that skinny mattered, but that muscles mattered – how I felt, not how I looked. I remembered the sheer pleasure in realising the physicality of running for the first time. Not the desperate glances at the calorie counter (which I have now, once again, turned off).

It’s really, really important we remember this. Exercise for the right reasons. Not because you’re not “X” enough or “Y” enough, because you “need” to change. Do it because you care about your body, and your body is awesome.

Serena knows.

Strong, not skinny. Don’t forget.