Author Archives: lauraestewart

Feet & Toes 👣

As a running coach I’m always hearing from my runners that they want to do more technique drills to improve their running. I’m all for this, especially when it’s a 30*C night on the track.

Last night I made our Serpentine runners take off their shoes and pay attention to what their feet and toes are doing. All too often as runners we stuff our feet into socks and shoes and forget about them as we run. Give those feet the attention they deserve! Your lower legs will thank you.

I’ve compiled some of my favourite drills & stretches below if you want to have a go at them. They’re great to add to your running sessions, or do on the kitchen floor while waiting for the pizza to bake.

Start with bare feet on a solid surface (preferably not soft carpet)

  1. Stand straight with feet hips distance apart
  2. Lift all your toes and place them down one-by-one starting with the outside (pinky!) toes first spreading them out nice and wide.
  3. Lean from the ankles forward/backwards and side to side a few times eventually finding what feels like a comfortable centre.
  4. Big toe presses: Press ONLY your big toe down for 5 seconds x 5
  5. Bit toe lifts: Lift only your big toe x10. Do this 3 times
  6. Alphabet foot: Lift one leg in front of you and write the alphabet with your toe (like a paintbrush!) Repeat with the other foot.
  7. Walk forward on your toes 30 steps
  8. Walk backwards on your toes 30 steps
  9. Walk forward on your heels 30 steps
  10. Walk backwards on your heels 30 steps
  11. With flat feet walk forward with your toes facing out (duck walk) 30 steps *do not lock your knees*
  12. With flat feet walk backward with your toes facing in (pigeon walk) 30 steps *do not lock your knees*
  13. Curl all your toes under your feet and walk forward 15 steps
  14. Point all your toes in the air and walk forward 15 steps
  15. Toe & plantar stretch. Sit down and grab your foot with the opposite hand and try to get each finger in between your toes with the aim to get your knuckles right up touching the toes. Feel the stretch already and then move your hand and toes around in circles (each way) stretching those toes and feeling the movement on the top and bottom of your feet.

Of course, my favourite Jasyoga has a lower leg reset video which is the best out there and great if you want something to follow along to!

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pregnancy yoga classes

I haven’t blogged much about being pregnant and pregnancy but when I have spoken up it’s been to remind everyone that pregnant women are still individuals and there is no one piece of advice that should be given by medical professionals, fitness professionals, or well meaning friends and family.

The only advice I will demand you listen to is to buy Birkenstocks. They are the most comfortable things ever.

Just like there is no one-size-fits-all pregnancy, I’ve found there is no one size fits all pregnancy yoga class. Almost everywhere you turn once you get pregnant is advice to practice pregnancy yoga. There are so many benefits to doing yoga while pregnant, relaxation techniques, breathing control, movement, stretching, active recovery, you name it yoga has it. But, the advice “go to a yoga class” is so general and I’ve found there is a huge difference in the types of yoga you can practice while pregnant and the classes offered. Below is a quick review of the classes and styles I’ve practised in the past 6 months to hopefully add a bit more to the conversation and help women make their own choices in a healthy pregnancy.

Obviously the classes I’ve taken have all been in North London and close to home. Above every benefit of doing pregnancy yoga, convenience is key. If the specific classes aren’t relevant to you then hopefully you can take the themes from each one and use them in your search.

Self-led yoga

Fitting in 5 minutes of yoga where and when you can each day is better than any class you can take. These wise words are from my friend Erin and just so true. The early days of pregnancy can be a roller coaster and getting to a yoga class might not be in the cards. Simply putting your legs up the wall for a few minutes or doing one or two of these prenatal yoga poses will help. Personally I have found the side stretch to be a life saver. Anything that finds more space between my hips and my shoulders feels amazing.

Yoga classes can be pricey and while I think it’s money well spent during pregnancy, it’s not always in everyone’s budget so don’t feel like you have to pay for a class to get the benefits.

Triyoga

Speaking of expensive classes, Triyoga is up there with one of the most expensive studios I’ve ever attended. Their Camden location is huge though and I think could stand alone as a self-sufficient yoga city if all else crumbles around it. I had a few recommendations for their pregnancy yoga offerings though so used their £40/30 day introductory offer to try them out.

I started these classes around week 20 due to some travel and life commitments before, but also because I didn’t really feel like I needed pregnancy yoga before that since I was still doing my regular weekly yoga classes, running, and going to the gym.

That said, I learned that of the benefits of pregnancy yoga is meeting other pregnant women and the information shared in the class. Some of that information needs to be taken with a grain of salt, but I found them to be a nice chance to just be pregnant after long days and weeks operating out in the non-pregnant world (if that makes sense!)

Triyoga class 1 – Wednesdays at 6:15pm at the Camden studio

This was my first pregnancy yoga class and after the first class I’m not sure I would have kept attending any pregnancy yoga classes if I didn’t have the 30 day pass. The class started off great with some amazing bolster positioning for maximum relaxing, but then as the class went on there was a lot of unstructured talking and not a lot of moving. Each week we did some very useful breathing exercises (which I still practice today) and some classes did some partner massage practice.

No one yoga teacher is going to be perfect but I saw a warning flag when this teacher said to a student, “I wish you’d reconsider your planned cesarean and at least try a vaginal birth.” Like I said above, expert or not, I think pregnancy should be led by the individual and each choice positively supported by those around her.

Through the classes there was a lot of time to bring up anything that you wanted to talk about and the teacher had so much experience to draw from, but I personally just didn’t gel with it all. I continued to go to this class for the 4 weeks and am glad I did as I enjoyed some of the classes and learned a few things. Overall though it just wasn’t my cup of tea though.

Triyoga class 2 – Saturdays at 11:00am at the Camden studio

A friend recommended this class before I was even pregnant. The teacher, Nadia, is very well known in London as a pregnancy yoga teacher and Doula and a lot of people come from around the city to her classes.

Nadia’s class is everything you could want in a pregnancy yoga class. No nonsense advice, funny anecdotes “Think of it like getting ready to have sex, I know all of you in this room have done that at least once” touching moments of reflection (that even left me crying one day!), and a really really good workout that gets your body moving and feeling so much better than when you walked into class.

Post Saturday morning yoga watermelon became a necessary tradition.

There is a lot of information shared in Nadia’s classes but it is structured in a way so you still are moving and there isn’t any wasted time. It all seems well planned out and the class flows well. For a large class with one teacher she seems to always be there adjusting those who need it and offering advice from her wide network.

Classes are £17 each (£15 if you buy in packs of 5 / £13.50 in packs of 10).

Mindful Movements

For my entire life I thought it would be the worst to be pregnant over the summer. Wrong. It’s the best. Flowy dresses, birkenstock sandals, swimming in lidos and lakes, and outdoor yoga classes make it totally worth the stuffy hot tube rides.

I saw a flyer for Mindful Moments pregnancy yoga classes in Finsbury Park (in the winter they’re indoors at the athletics track) on Saturdays at 11:15am but they clashed with the Triyoga classes above. These classes are closer to my flat and outdoors, so I waited to try them once my Triyoga membership was up.

I went to my first class on Saturday and it’s already my favourite class. The flow of the class is great and we were always moving (not strenuously but stretching, breathing, etc.) and included some nice yoga flows that really got you up and energised. The teacher was really clear and helpful with adjustments for each student since we were such a wide range of weeks. Plus, there was a box of chocolate passed around after savassana. Could life get any better?

Nothing can beat doing yoga under a massive tree on a sunny, warm morning so I might be a bit biased but if you are pregnant during the summer I suggest you take advantage of the weather instead of working against it!

Ashtanga yoga

Not pregnancy yoga, but I have been practicing ashtanga yoga every week for almost 3 years now and once I was pregnant I kept that up. I told my teacher around 11 weeks, and he mentioned that it’s not advised to do ashtanga yoga during the first 12 weeks, oops but I had found it fine and my midwives hadn’t said anything about stopping it. That said do check with your own teacher & medical professionals first!

Right away I was given some modifications to do (no twists, no bandas, shorter stride length, etc. which for the first few weeks felt like I wasn’t even at yoga class. It was SO BORING. But week after week the modified ashtanga class felt harder and harder and I’m at the point now at 27 weeks where I’m modifying the modifications! I still love it though and with the support of my great teacher (he even opens a window just for me on the hot days!) I hope to keep this class up. I’ll need my Chatteranga arm muscles for lifting that baby once it comes.

Don’t be afraid of continuing non-pregnancy yoga classes as long as you have a comfortable and open channel of communication with your teacher.

*Update* I’m still doing a weekly (sometimes twice weekly) Ashtanga practice at 34 weeks and while modifying the sequence more and more (no more upward dog – lots more child’s pose) it’s often the best hour of my week and beats sitting at my desk. Like how yoga benefits running, it gives my body the opportunity to move in different ways than usual and I still definitely feel the benefits.

Couples Yoga – Active Birth Centre

I signed Alex and I up for the 2.5 hour Couples Yoga class at the Active Birth Centre mainly because yoga had become such an important part of my pregnancy I wanted to share that with Alex so when it came to the later stages of pregnancy and labour he would know why I was insisting on being in certain positions and learn a bit about the benefits of yoga overall.

The class is taught by the centre founder Janet Balaskas, who has an impressive history of yoga, pregnancy, birth, and post-natal training. She was one of the first people to campaign the NHS to allow women to move around (and not be required to stay on a bed) during labour. There were about 20 people in the class (in the one I attended it was all pregnant women and their partners but all are welcome with any partner or not) and it took place in the impressively kitted out classroom that had every single yoga prop you could want. Finding a way to be comfortable during this class is not a problem.

The class went through relaxation exercises, yoga positions for labour, and some massage techniques. There was a tea & biscuit break in the middle, and some handouts to take home at the end. Overall I felt it was more of a preparation for labour class than anything yoga-y. We didn’t do any yoga sequences and other than practising a few variations of childs pose, didn’t really even do as much yoga as a normal pregnancy yoga class. I’m never going to complain about relaxing on bolsters and getting massages for 2.5 hours, but it wasn’t what I was expecting. There’s still a gap in the market for a “bring your partner to pregnancy yoga class” class in my opinion.

Alex himself said that after the class he still doesn’t find yoga “relaxing” and would rather go to a spin class (we are complete opposites there) but did enjoy the massage practice (duh) and thought it was good to go to this kind of class together to at least try it out.

The classes are only every 8 weeks and almost always sell out so I recommend booking in to them early if you’re interested. It’s £70 for a couple so not cheap at all either. I love what the Active Birth Centre does and want to support them so was OK with the price but do think it is prohibitively expensive for a lot of people already impacted by the extra costs of pregnancy and childbirth.

So, overall I’d say do some yoga while you’re pregnant, but don’t think you have to go to certain classes just because. There are a lot of options out there and the benefits can be found from just a few minutes of your own practice wherever, and whenever you find the time.

cheering not running

I’ve been cheering at a lot of races lately, and I love it. There’s always a little twinge of “oh I wish I was running” but I’ve found if you really commit to cheering on your friends and other runners you will enjoy the day as much as someone who ran!

Here are the top tips I’ve figured out to make for a great day out.

Plan ahead and make a sign

If the race is abroad I grab some flipchart paper that can fold up in my suitcase, if it’s closer to home it’s better to make a sturdy one that you can holds up better against the elements.

Plan your route

I have found it’s better to skip the start and pick 2/3 places to catch your friends along the route. The starts are often “runners only pens” and always crowded so you’re not going to get much value for your company. I’ll usually walk close to the start with my friends and then wish them luck as I go get a coffee on my way to the first cheer point.

I also take a photo of the route map on my phone so it’s easy to access (don’t count on having internet at busy races).

Share your plan

Runners have their own plan for the race but I like to let my friends know approximately where I’ll be along the route so they can look out if they need it.

Enjoy your day

Get a coffee, pack some snacks, get your own run in between cheer points, get your bike out, whatever you want to do for the day with a bit of planning you can have as much fun as the runners.

Camera ready

Everyone loves photos of themselves running. Even when they’re complaining about the “bad” ones, trust me. I always try to take a few photos of my friends running buy on my phone’s camera burst mode so I can send them the good ones. My friend Laura boasts that hers are always better than marathonphotos 😀

Be a minimalist

This tip is from my friend Katie. After a few great races cheering friends on we kept adding more things to bring. Props, signs, cameras, food, balloons, and cowbells, forgetting we still only had 2 arms to hold all these with. Now, if I’m bringing I sign I usually leave the cowbell at home, but it all depends on the event. At the London Marathon I was in the second row of spectators on a packed Embankment route. At Hackney Half I was the only person around for miles so had some room to spread out and be heard.

Well done!

Please. Cheer. Everyone. On. (this is where a cowbell comes in handy if your voice is tired) If you’re waiting for friends you can still send some smiles and well done, great running, keep it up, looking strong-s out to the runners passing you. It helps so much and selfishly you might get some thank-yous back, but it’s the ones who don’t react that sometimes need them the most and take it all in.

Clean up

At the London Marathon and Hackney Half I walked past the organised cheer stations of Run Dem Crew/London Brunch Club long after the race finished and there was confetti, posters, food packaging, etc. all over the streets. If you have time to organise a cheer station then you have time to organise a clean up after. Bring some bin bags and take 5 minutes to pick up a few things each. Litter is litter even if it made for a good instagram photo. If you are cheering yourself, bin your rubbish or pack it out.

I gotta pee

Pee before (while getting your coffee is a good time) and pee far away from the race. Please don’t use the portaloos on the race route. Obviously things come up (being pregnant I am much more sympathetic of this than before) but do your best to leave the toilets for the runners who, trust me, need them more than you.

The end

Like the start of the race, I tend to stay away from the finish lines. They’re always too busy and I like to think the runners enjoy my cheers a bit before the finish when there isn’t all the cheering and official race stuff to get them over the line.  Plan a place to meet after the race, if it’s a big race sometimes it’s just easier to meet at a local pub, or if it’s smaller you can probably find your runner lying on the grass metres from the bag tent.

After cheering the Hackney Half on Sunday I had to have my own jasyoga reset session & epsom salt recovery bath. I had a great day out, got my own exercise in and totally enjoyed being a part of all these runner’s great day.

English Cross Country Nationals 2017

This year I competed in the English National Cross Country Championships. It was the perfect race to end a great xc season on, and included a mini road trip to Nottingham with friends to add a bit more fun to the mud.

I caught the bus with my Serpentine team members from London and one service station stop and a few hours later we arrived at Wollaton Park which has a great history of hosting the Nationals.

I met up with Laura & Katie and we wandered around the park to find the excellent cotton race shirts (£12 or *top tip* 2/£12 if you waited until after the race!)  and our team tents.

The spikes for sale indicated the level of mud on the course, clearly it was going to be a minimum 12mm to get any sort of traction through the boggy bits.

As a club we made our way to the start tent and huddled together to keep warm in our vests while the Junior Boys race finished up their laps. The start was classic cross country. A wide start at the bottom of a hill with hundreds of women lined up in colourful vests ready to run full steam ahead.

After the big hill at the start there was a downhill and some flat track before the bogs started. We were warned of water features on the course, but I didn’t realise they’d be so deep and big. It was so fun charging through them and trusting (hopefully) your legs to land on something solid and keep you upright.

After the first bogs it was up a sharp hill to Wollaton Hall and a hairpin turn back down the hill. From here the course was mostly solid and flat so it was a good time to catch my breath and settle into a pace. I ran most of the behind a blind runner and her guide and it was so interesting to hear him describe the terrain the first lap and then how well she remembered it the second lap.

We went through a few more much stickier bogs near the end of the lap before starting up the start hill for another go. There was a lot of support all around the course which was great and you couldn’t help but smile for the cameras as you made your way through the mud.

The finish was up one of the hardest hills I’ve ever run up with large mole hills, tufts of earth and sludgy streams making it almost impossible to find any rhythym let alone solid places for each foot to land. Once up though it was all downhill to the finish and no matter what the race plan was at the beginning a cross country finish straight begs to be sprinted.

I found my friend Katie waiting at the finish and we cheered a few of her club members in before finding our way back to tents, warm jackets, and cake.

For the record I finished in 48:15 good enough for 673rd in the country.

Once the results came out for the English National Cross Country Championships no one did the math and figured out I was 3 months pregnant at the time of running it. In fact no one in the media has reported that I was pregnant for 8 out of the 9 cross country races I ran this season.

At the pub after the race I actually sat on this chair without looking behind me.

That’s because it’s often quite normal and OK for pregnant women to keep doing what they were doing before they got pregnant.

Don’t believe me? The Cut has some anecdotal research on it. Every GP, midwife, osteopath, medical professional I spoke to in my early days of pregnancy said to keep doing what I was comfortable doing in terms of exercise if anything changed come back to reassess. I’ve learned that every single day of pregnancy is different and the only mistake you can make is to plan ahead! By taking everything one day at a time and consulting with my PTs, coaches, and teachers I’ve been quite happy with (what seems to be a shocking revelation to most of the media thanks to Serena Williams) living my normal life while pregnant.

swimathon 2017

It’s not often I compare myself to Serena Williams, but I’ve got to say I felt a like her BFF when I heard her when I heard the news about her winning the Australian Open while pregnant. While not quite a major grand slam tournament, I had just squeezed into my swimsuit and completed the 1.5k Swimathon.

I was late to sign up for swimathon this year mostly because it wasn’t taking place at my favourite London Fields Lido due to construction closures. I couldn’t get excited about swimming laps in any old pool and was flying to Canada Friday evening anyway.

But, the Wednesday before swimathon saw me open an email with a last minute discount code, looking up pools that had an early Friday start time, and messaging my trusted swim buddy Josie “Last minute swimathon Friday morning at Kings Hall Pool in Hackney?”

Probably due to our late sign up, we didn’t receive any information about the event and only had the rough hours of the pool from the (poorly designed) swimathon website. Thinking we had a leisurely 4 hours to complete the 1.5k we planned to meet mid morning and Josie even took an unplanned walking tour of Hackney round and around the leisure centre. Being the first swim in a while for both of us we needed some extra time in general I forgot my 20p and Josie forgot her bra, but eventually we made it to the pool deck!

At the poolside we caught the swimathon staff cleaning up and they let us know we were 2 hours late to start. Oops. But being generally awesome swimmer people they took one look at us and said, “oh well, let’s get you ladies a lane.” We had to promise we’d count our own laps and not cheat while the organiser went out to get a croissant, but it was the perfect set up with Josie and I swimming American style (just me who calls it that?) up and down a side of our own lane.

I hadn’t been swimming much in the past few months so started feeling it after 500m, but kept going at my slow and steady pace with a few breaks to high five Josie when we met at the ends. With 100m to go my trusty 4 year old goggles finally broke down the middle after an especially strong push off (come on we all do it) with the end in sight. My hero Josie had already finished so she waded out and tossed me her goggles to finish the last few laps.

We finished, grabbed our medals from the box and let ourselves out.

Debriefing over PB toast at a cafe across the street we decided the Kings Hall pool was lovely, if only a bit warm and in need of a bit of TLC to really bring out its unique architecture. Swimathon is always a lovely event and even without being there for ours, the staff go above and beyond to make sure you have a good experience in the water.

Berlin half marathon

Last weekend I went to Berlin for a reason, to cheer on my friends running the Berlin Half and drink all the free Erdinger Weisbier Alkoholfrie I could get my hands on.

A few of us signed up for the race weekend away last fall but since then and now I’ve been running less and getting pregnant more so racing a half marathon came off my weekend to-do list.  Still, there is nothing better than a weekend in Berlin and cheering on friends in a great race so off to Berlin we all went.

Right before the trip Karkoa luggage sent me an email to see if I wanted one of their runners travel bags to try out in exchange for a review of it. I have a tried and tested pully bag that I can pack for a race weekend in my sleep and still have room for duty free chocolates at the end, so I checked if Alex wanted to test it out and he was keen. We got the Sport Bag 40 which was the perfect size for our 4 day trip.

Arriving in Berlin we saw the familiar green lines on the race route and started our trip with a sandwich from an all vegan food truck outside our hotel. We didn’t realise it was all vegan until we got to the front of the line but it was so good. I’ll happily be tricked out of meat anytime.

Then we made our way to the expo to pick up race packs and some beers.

My top tip would be to read every single instruction on every email the race sends you. They were pretty serious about everyone having their race pass and photo ID, even not letting one of our friends in until he could locate some ID. After our race bracelets were attached we were given our numbers, luggage bags, a gel , some shower soap, deodorant, and some waterproof kit wash and sent out to the expo for all our sample and neon euro kit needs.

Alex and I found our old friend Fraudolin Fink and then set up at the inexpo beer garden to wait for the others.

We discussed race/spectating strategies and bartered goodybag items (“I’ll trade you a gel and the deodorant for your protein infused post-run shower soap?”) After half the group went to watch the football and the rest of us to eat all the brauhaus specialities.

   

The next day we did some sightseeing around central Berlin. This was our third trip we knew what we wanted to see and since it was such a hot and sunny day we took advantage of all the open patios for much needed sitting and drinking.

More food and drinks as we met up for a great dinner at the amazing Meisterstueck.

Race morning we were up and out of the hotel and walking the racers to the start before finding our first cheer point at the Brandenburg Gate. Laura and I planned our own 3 mile spectating run to try to catch our friends at a few places before the finish line. The Berlin Half marathon is huge with 30,000ish runners and we did our best to cheer most of them on, especially the ones in British running club vests.

After Brandenburg Gate we headed to Potsdamer Platz to see our friend Katie flying past at the 17km mark and then hopped on the u-bahn to the finish near Alexanderplatz.

There were a lot of smiles at the finish line and with the weather still warm we rounded up a big group and headed to a beer garden for a recover metre of fresh beer.

Alex and I capped off the day with dinner at our favourite restaurant in Europe Henne. That potato salad is so so so good!

The next day we took it easy at the hotel and walked around to find one more great Berlin meal at BurgerAMT. Trust them and try the peanut sauce.

Fed and recovered it was a great weekend in Berlin with some running, all our friends, and as always the most food and drink possible.

(Photos: Thanks to Laura & Katie for their excellent selfie taking abilities)

Altura: made by women for women

When I was sent the A/W kit to test out from Alutra, one of the labels caught my eye,

“Made for Women by Women”

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I ripped the tag off but kept thinking about it, who are these women making cycling kit? I wanted to know more about them and their process for making kit for women. I don’t know about everyone, but before this I associated Alutra with those big bulky neon cycling jackets that 1 in every 5 commuters seems to wear. So, what’s changed now ?

Emma & Sophie from Alutra both kindly took some time out and answered my questions about being product designers for Altura.

Emma Robertson: Product Line Manager for Altura
Sophie Laliberte: Product Creation Manager for Altura

Cycling hasn’t been the most welcoming industry towards women in the past. How did you get into the cycling industry and what would you recommend for women wanting to break in as well?

Emma: While at university my direction was always sportswear and when I graduated I was looking for roles that allowed me to enter the sportswear industry. Fortunately a few months after graduating a cycling brand was recruiting and I got the job!! I really wanted to have a job that works with my lifestyle, we spend so much time at work, why not spend some of that on the bike too. I have now been working in the cycling industry for 5 years and love it so much. I think you should always be true to yourself if you have a passion for cycling what ever the discipline let people know, shout out about it on your Linked in page or cv that’s what I did.

Sophie: I have always been active and participated in various sports growing up. I studied fashion design and I always wanted to work in Fashion, for some reason I ended up working for a sports brand.
I was introduced to the cycling industry working with a cycling brand on the west coast of Canada many many moons ago. While working with the cycling brand in Canada I started to cycle with other people so I could have a better understanding of the product and how to evolve the collections.
You don’t need to be the best and the fastest (as I’m usually the last/slowest) but it is important to have an understanding of the sport and the product that you are creating.
Don’t be afraid, always try and never give up. Believe there is a place for you in the industry and you can make a difference.

Now that “shrink it and pink it” is firmly behind us (for the most part), what are you and Altura actually doing to provide technical cycling kit to the wide range of women out there? What kind of research, measurements, etc.?

Emma:We have female designers and developers that firstly do not want to “shrink it and pink it”, that’s the best part about our team, we want product for us. If we don’t want to wear it on our weekly ride, then we start again.

We also work with WGSN to ensure we are following global trends across Womens lifestyle/fitness not just the cycling industry, and have worked closely with Alvanon for our fit blocks and have fit mannequins. They have conducted extensive research across gender body types to determine an average fit form for their mannequins. We have custom made Alvanon Mannequins in the Product Creation Space to ensure that the fit is correct for the rider. We also conduct weekly fit sessions on various riders/ body shapes to ensure we are catering for various female riders.

Sophie: All of our colours in the range are bases on trends, we refer to the WGSN trend forecasts to understand the global trends. Yes the thinking of “shrink it and pink it” is not our philosophy, although if you find something pink in our range, it’s based on Colour Trend!

We work with specialists in the industry that provide global standard measurements that we use when developing all of our styles. We use universal fit Mannequins in the office, these provide standard body measurements . We also conduct fit sessions on real female riders to give feedback on comfort and technical points that a mannequin can’t provide.

What do you think is the next big advancement in women’s sport/fitness kit?

Emma: This is definitely the ‘Golden Ticket’, isn’t it? We have found that, what you describe as a ‘big advancement’, is generally stumbled upon during design and research stages. Sure we set out to achieve a goal, but often the direction changes along the way and we arrive at a more exciting and productive result. Take the development of our women’s cycling pads as an example. We knew that we needed a gender specific pad and, after researching women’s skeletal hip measurements and ischium pressure points, we developed our new Altura ProGel Pad and went into sampling. During test riding we found that we had done it wrong and had to go back to the drawing board because of pinching to female riders tender areas. The design team got together and we arrived at researching the design and shaping of sanitary pads – as we all felt this was the best example of comfort. Our new Altura ProGel Pad draws design cues from these and I can honestly say that it is the most comfortable pad that I’ve ever ridden. This an example of how small changes to a project can affect big change and advancement in design.

Sophie: Women are very educated on sports apparel. Women are influenced by a lot more elements then just the PERFORMANCE side of the product. Women want more from their apparel… they expect performance, but also want beauty. Women like to shop, it’s a lot more appealing for women to buy clothing then a wheel. Technical innovation comes with style these two factors are very important. The fit and fabric used on the product is key too, women want style, fit and function.

If Altura gave you unlimited budget and resources to work on women’s cycling kit what would you design?

Emma: This has never been a restriction for Altura – We always approach a project based on what is right for the rider and how we can improve their riding experience. So, we are already working on new and exciting projects for female riders that mirror the successes we are experiencing across our other riding categories. We have a great Product Creation Team of female riders who are all super passionate about what they do and are always bring new ideas to the table.
The 2018 season is going to be exciting for Altura.

Sophie: Umm, it’s coming soon, you will see in the future collection!

Huge thanks to Emma & Sophie at Altura for their time answering these questions. And I think we can all agree that the more women designing cycling kit for women the better!