Category Archives: opinion

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.

altura A/W womens cycling kit review

Altura cycling sent me some of their A/W kit to test out on my daily commutes. 

When Altura Cycling sent me an email asking if I’d like to try out their AW range of kit. The first thing I did was check their website to check if there were any images of women on the landing page.

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Sadly there are none. There are pictures of women when you navigate to their women’s section but none on their home page including the instagram and twitter widgets when I checked.

It’s one of those little things that I like to logic test with brands. I don’t think there should be quotas, but I’d like to think that the people behind brands would think to put up images of women in their kit, especially on their homepage. Unfortunately, not much of the cycling industry passes this test.

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So, in a “you can’t influence change without being a part of it” mood I agreed to test out their new Women’s A/W kit and get a few images out there of women who cycle in quality made-for-women kit.

WOMEN’S SPORTIVE TEAM LONG SLEEVE JERSEY

My only caveat for the testing kit was, NO PINK, so they kindly sent me a selection of their black & blue kit.  This jersey wasn’t something I thought I needed for cycling (short sleeve jersey and a jacket is fine for commuting) but it’s the thing I’ve worn the most since the weather turned from the hot hot humid summer. It’s a really nice not-too-baggy-fit but still looks sleek on. It has a bit of a lined insulation inside but is still breathable when I work up a sweat passing other cyclists Amwell Hill 🙂 I have found it’s the perfect thing to wear with bib shorts (and fancy socks) autumn when it’s not raining. It also keeps to my most important rule – not too much faff. I know it will be inevitable, but I want to avoid wearing loads of layers when commuting as it’s only 30 minutes and the faff of changing in/out of so much kit every day is just annoying.

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WOMEN’S SYNCHRO WATERPROOF JACKET

I had been wearing my vintage (2 year old) pink Aldi jacket for cycling and didn’t see any need to upgrade, except to get away from the pink. This Altura jacket is a lovely shade of blue and so so so light. It’s like wearing a feather. When I get out on longer weekend cycles this will always be in my back pocket.  I love that when I’m wearing it the sleeves are long enough that there is no pull on my arms and the thick cuffs hold gloves well so there’s no wrist gap on chilly mornings. It’s a very slim fit so I can only wear it on cycling only days (ie. if I’m going to coach or run after work I wear a different jacket that can layer up)

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WOMEN’S SYNCHRO PROGEL BIBTIGHTS

Oh my god. These are lush. It hasn’t been especially cold so far, and I held onto shorts as long as I could, but as soon as I put these on I knew I was a bib tight convert. They are lined with soft fleecy fabric so it is like a warm, cuddly hug for your legs each morning. My only gripe is they’re just a bit too short for my long legs so I have to make sure my socks match.

Again, having a bib just makes life so much easier. There’s no “is my shirt riding up” worry (ahem, I’ve cycled behind enough men to know this is something they SHOULD be worrying about) and no wind gets in those little spaces between trousers & top. They’ve got reflecty-bits on them too so I feel safer now that it’s going to be dark for my commutes for what seems like forever more.

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THERMOCOOL LONG SLEEVE BASELAYER

At first I was like, who needs a base layer? And now I answer myself, “people who are cycle commuting when there is frost on the roads will really enjoy base layers” If I wake up and hear people scraping their windshields outside my window I know it’s base layer time. This one from Altura is really nice. It’s tight but not compression squeezy tight, fits under my bib tights nicely, and looks pretty cool and sleek when I’m wandering around my flat in a hungry daze post-commute. I wore it with the long sleeved jersey and jacket on the especially chilly days, but often just wear it under the jacket for normal London weather commutes.

So there you go. Hopefully, some honest, real reviews of kit I have now worn for 2 months commuting daily. It’s reasonably priced for what I think is pretty nice looking women’s cycling kit so chuck it on your Christmas list and hope that Santa is nice to us cyclists.

As mentioned above Altura sent me this section of their
autumn/winter cycling kit for free to test out and share on my blog. 

oxford half marathon

It’s the Higher Education league table you didn’t know you needed. Cambridge vs. Oxford: Who hosts the better half marathon? Running both this year, I consider myself highly educated and confident to present the following dissertation as an expert in the field.

The Oxford Half Marathon didn’t have the best start. Train tickets to Oxford aren’t cheap, so after getting a spot in the race from Brooks Running I quickly booked advance tickets for £6. The first train from London was scheduled to arrive at 9:12am which I took as perfect.

The race organisers then decided to put the race village (with bag drop) at a different location from the start. I had to make a choice a) jog to the start and run the race with a small pack and make it in time to get into my starting pen or, b) jog to the bag drop, hope it was still open and then jog to the race start joining the back of the starters. Because I was going for a time goal I wanted to be in the right pen and and hoped I’d find the promised 1:50 pacer (there wasn’t one, only 1:45 – race brochure lied) to stick with. I’m used to running with a big pack run commuting so my little race vest wasn’t a problem.

Another bummer of Oxford is you have to take a train from Paddington (Cambridge departs from the always convenient and now on the 24 hour Victoria line Finsbury Park). Paddington is close to nothing and impossible to get to without 3 tube changes. Luckily early on a Sunday morning, it’s a quick 40 minute cycle along the empty canal, which turned out to be one of my favourite parts of the day.

On the train with a few other time-confident runners who chose to ignore the race organisers warning of delayed trains. The one hour train ride was the perfect amount of time to eat, drink and use the toilet before arriving and jogging the 1 mile to the start as a warm up.

made it to the start!

made it to the start!

I made it into my pen with 2 whole minutes to spare, and then waited another few while the start was slightly delayed. Starting right in the city centre was beautiful and there were loads of people out cheering the runners on.

Right away I turned my watch off the pace screen. I knew I was going to have to push the pace to get to my goal, but for the first two miles I wanted to run at a sustainable effort and not start worrying about pace right away – that would make it a long long two hours. The first few miles felt fast but eventually I passed the two hour pacer (who was running very fast 8:45s to start) group and finally felt settled in to the effort pace. Being the first time I’ve raced in a while I got used to the “This is hard but I’ve got to keep going” feeling. I used a mental tip from my friend Laura to say to myself a few times, “You can slow down but you can’t stop”

I passed the 10k in 53:21, a bit fast but knowing I didn’t have the endurance base from consistent training this year I was happy for the bit of a time buffer in the second half.  I kept slowing down a little bit when it all got a bit too hard, and then pushing again when I felt OK (confession: or decided to pick someone off ahead of me!)

Just after 9 miles though after a long out and back that felt uphill both ways I didn’t need to look at my watch to know my pace had slipped down while my effort was still sky high. I think at that point I quietly accepted I wouldn’t get my goal but also felt OK (just the normal hard effort tired) so would keep pushing to the finish to see how close I could get to my goal.

The course went through lots of lovely neighbourhoods of Oxford and surrounding villages, and then the last 2 miles were through a park. The dirt path was welcome to my pavement weary feet, but it did get quite narrow and being a solid mid-pack runner this meant that it was almost impossible to push ahead even when I felt like it. The route snaked around the park too which, at this point in the race, you couldn’t help but feel like, “Ohmygod another cut back loop to here?”

I saw this guy at the end of the race. If I could have caught up to him I would have had some choice words about his interpretation of 400m

I saw this guy at the end of the race. If I could have caught up to him I would have had some choice words about his interpretation of 400m

Once out of the park it was half a mile to the finish but about 5 or 6 turns on to different streets. Again, since it’s been a while since I raced a race I forgot how badly you just want to see that finish line (no matter what your watch says). I had a few choice words for the 400m to go sign that was at least 800m from the finish (!!!) but made it to the finish without anything left for a sprint.

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After the finish we got our medals, race t-shirts, and a goody bag. All you can carry bananas and lucozade too. Wrapped in the foil cape I shuffled out past all the spectators and found a sunny patch to de-race and get some dry and warm clothes on. The goody bag had a wet wipe in it which was ace. I love actually useful items you need post-race.

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Suitably wet-wipped, my friend Katie took me to the most amazing brunch after at Malmaison. I almost want to keep it a secret for myself but I’ll just say that an all you can eat brunch buffet is EXACTLY what I needed before my train back to London. Cycle > Train > Run > Brunch > Train > Cycle and I was home with my legs up the wall by 4pm. It was a great half-marathon day trip from London if the organisers can figure out the train situation.

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So, even with an all-you-can-eat brunch right at the end trying to sway me, I have to say that Cambridge wins top spot in the 2016 Half Marathon League Table. Oxford Half was a great race and I don’t have anything bad to say about it at all. The only thing is that as another Vitality race it all seems a bit samey-same. The same branding, similar t shirt design, almost identical medals across the series. It just doesn’t entice me to go all the way to Oxford to run a race when it will be super similar to the Hackney Half in my neighborhood. Cambridge was a great race, great organisation, great course, massive unique medal, and overall just that much better.

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Brooks UK gave me entry to the Oxford Half Marathon, these leggings above and a sports bra to wear for the race. It was too warm for the leggings but I wore the sports bra and loved it so much bought a black version as soon as I got home.  

 

6 months of yoga

Earlier this year I moved. Same neighborhood, but now I’m closer to my favourite running route, the best sandwich shop in the UK, and a yoga studio that is across the street from good coffee & tasty burritos.  I started going to a few classes and really liked the vibe of the studio (literally just a room, no swishy reception, no expensive clothes on sale, just yoga mats in a room with the buses going by the giant window outside. It’s called More Yoga.

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A friend had to move away from North London and offered to sell me her unlimited yoga pass for the rest of the 6 months on her contract. The studio said it was fine, and it was such a good deal (she got in before the studio opened with a Founders Membership for £49.99/month) I couldn’t say no. So, there I was with 6 months to do as much yoga as I wanted.

It’s no secret I love yoga. I do some jasyoga meditation/yoga every day and do an Ashtanga class every Friday at lunch. I think the best part of yoga is the opportunity to move in different ways from your everyday movement. Taking the time to hold some poses, move sideways, upside down, and just be in your body rather than asking it to be doing something for you.

So, how much yoga did I do?

I averaged 2.7 classes per week in addition to my other yoga stuff. One of those was always a restorative/yin/meditation class, and the others were a range of yoga styles. I tried lots of new-to-me yoga classes (Forrest!) and found I got along with some teachers way more than others. Let’s just say I didn’t go back to the class where the teacher was militant about our pigeon poses. I went to one class that STARTED off with handstands and turned into a proper circus by the end. One class was full of American Football players from nearby Finsbury Park. I went to a challenging Asana flow class one week and couldn’t keep up on the first sun salutation, but afterwards found myself beaming and booking into that class every week.

I didn’t see this as a challenge but as a part of my life. Yoga every day was never going to work for me (even if it is a hashtag someone added the word damn to make it cool), nor was a rigid schedule. It wasn’t even about having a specific goal like stretching more or developing strength. Having unlimited access to a studio did allow me do more yoga than usual and I found myself checking the schedule if I had unexpected free time.  It didn’t hurt that I even learned you can order a burrito across the street from Street N4 before class and they’ll have it fresh and ready for you post class.

I’ve cancelled my membership for the end of this month even though I really enjoyed it. Yoga classes, pool & lake admissions, races & events all add up, and liking something doesn’t mean I have to do it all the time. I see a lot of people online trying to live up to an identity they’ve created rather than living their actual right now life. Everything has to be a big goal, a series of blogs, updates, highs and lows. I’m hoping that this can be a voice in the obsessive-wilderness of the internet that says just trying is OK. Doing something for a little while is OK. You don’t have to be the “most person to do the thing ever”. Writing a blog to talk about the yoga I’ve done might seem like just that that, but I still think there is value in sharing beyond bragging. I found a good studio, tried out how it felt to add more yoga classes to my lifestyle, and ended up feeling better for it overall.

real women in sport

I have only seen two truthful images of everyday women in sport in the media.

  1. The moment in the This Girl Can commercial where the swimmer adjusts her bathing suit over her butt. Nothing is more familiar to a woman in a swimsuit than this adjustment.thisgirlcan
  2. The photo of the sweaty neck on the cover of Eat Sweat Play by Anna Kessel. Everyone who has ever sweat knows the feeling of bits of hair sticking to your neck drenched in sweat.

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That’s not to say I haven’t seen images of professional women in sport in the media, but when it comes to real women doing real sport and exercise, these two images have nailed it.

I bought Eat Sweat Play after going to a talk by Anna Kessel at the Stoke Newington Literary Festival (I ran 10 miles to get there so had my own authentic sweaty neck to meet dress code) and after hearing Anna read the chapter about getting changed after gym class as a teenager I was hooked. The book does such a good job balancing speaking the truth about what it is like to be an active girl and woman and highlight how far we still have to go. Most importantly I think it points out that while it’s popular and trendy to be seen as active and #fitfam (ugh) on Instagram and in glossy magazines decked out in Net-A-Sporter high end kit, there is still a lot of less glamorous work to do to get all women comfortable sweating and playing.

Her chapter on periods is the best. YOU GUYS THERE IS ALMOST NO ACTUAL RESEARCH ON HOW SOMETHING THAT WOMEN EXPERIENCE EVERY 21 DAYS EFFECTS THEIR PHYSICAL PERFORMANCE IN SPORT. Like not even with elite athletes! I’m not a huge fan of the way sport tends to do things for elites then filters it down to the rest of the population, but wouldn’t UKA or British Cycling want to know a bit more what happens to their gold medal athletes bodies and how they can tailor the training to it? Forget marginal gains, we’d be talking menstruation gains!

To steal a great quote in the book from Caroline CriadoPerez, “Luckily I’m old enough and feminist enough to ignore the cat callers.” I feel the same way. The barriers to women doing sport bother me but I get more angry about their effect on women as a population rather than me, hence why my comebacks tend to include a lecture on misogyny and their male privilege (tough when you’re out of breath running the other direction…). I don’t think it’s fair for every woman to have to grow a thick skin if they want to be active and Anna does a great job dissecting what this actually means for the general population.

When I read a book I fold over the page when there is an especially awesome quote I think I’d like to go back to.  Eat Sweat Play has more than any other book I’ve read recently. Thanks Anna for writing it and thanks to the women out there eating, playing and sweating,

ride london 46

I have never said the number 46 more in my life than in the past 2 weeks. “Oh! Are you doing the 100 mile cycle?” “Nope, the 46” “There’s a 46? Why not 50?” “Not sure, only a 46”

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Ride London has put on the 100 mile sportive for a few years now, as with all big events it’s a ballot and as with all ballots I always enter *just to test my luck.* Keeping with tradition I always get the Hey Loser! magazine on my doorstep each year and don’t really think too much about it.

This year after my Hey Loser! magazine came they announced they’d be putting on a shorter 46 mile sportive on the same closed roads essentially missing out the Surrey Hills. My friend Emma, who has in the past also convinced me to enter the London Brighton Night Ride and London Duathlon, was keen so we entered the ballot for the 46. I say ballot but I think it was like the Paris marathon ballot in which everyone gets in, lucky us. Paying for a 46 mile sportive isn’t usually something I’d budget especially for, but being a part of the bigger event and the chance to cycle on closed roads convinced me it would be worth it.

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I found myself googling cycle superhighways to the ExCel centre on Friday after work trying to get to the expo to pick up my race pack. I was pretty grumpy about having to go all the way out east to pick up a race pack for a 46 mile sportive until my friend Helen suggested we make an evening out of it and after sampling the best free food the expo has on offer, jump in the water at the Royal Docks OWS for a few laps in the sun. Suddenly it was the perfect Friday night.

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Race morning saw my friend Emma and I furiously checking googlemaps and the unhelpful photo map on the Ride London website as to where our wave was to start. Ride London PLEASE create an interactive map for next year. Stratford is massive and no one wants to be cycling around in circles all morning. We ballparked it and cruised down the canal for 7 miles to our green start. Having to be “in” our pen an hour before our wave start was a bit hurry-up-and-wait but it was sunny so couldn’t complain.

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A lot of slow-stop-start-cycling lead us eventually into a start funnel. We had chose at sign up to start in Women’s Wave 1 which was awesome as we were surrounded by awesome women with the nicest bikes and coolest kit ever. The only disappointment was that Ride London didn’t mention it or even do anything to acknowledge it. At the start the announcer even said we were the Teach First charity wave and spent a few minutes congratulating the CEO for being at the start. BORING. A major opportunity to promote women’s cycling missed AGAIN (but who’s counting… just me).

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The riders at the front got to choose our start music and even though we were hoping for Katy Perry, We Will Rock You was chosen and it was actually awesome. The almost-all-male wave beside us was totally jealous. The first bit through East London was pretty fun. Getting to cycle fast (not like really fast, but fast for a city commuter like me) was great and Emma and I couldn’t stop smiling. The route followed big roads for cars so it was almost like seeing a new part of London. The novelty of no-cars didn’t wear off the whole time, it was glorious to cycle without worrying about who was coming up behind you, if they’d cut you off before the next parked car, would that parked car open it’s door, or sticking like glue to the left curb.

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We started just after 9 so there weren’t many people out as we cycled through Central London but the ones who were had cowbells and were really sweet cheering everyone on. Emma and I got a lot of “Yeah go girls!” cheers amid the sea of lycra’d men. Unfortunately, from the start we saw a lot of accidents. More than I expected to see, especially at the social end of the 46 mile event. Staying safe ourselves we kept chatting all the way as we headed out west trying to figure out where we were (Hammersmith Flyover? What? People who drive know so many different places in London!) The sun was out and we were keeping up a decent speed and really enjoying the riding. Out of nowhere we entered Richmond Park, which was beautiful as always. Again, with no cars it is literally the perfect place to be on a weekend. Sawyers Hill was lined with spectators doing their best TdF impressions (major kudos to the guy with the massive cow bell) to help us up the hill.

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A few miles after Richmond we pulled into the first Hub stop. It was so well organised with bike parking, lots of toilets and loads of water/electrolytes and FOOD! I had at least 3 fig rolls and 2 loafs of banana soreen (with a few extra in my pockets #justincase). Probably overeating for the final 20 miles but it was tasty… We slightly dawdled at the Hub enjoying the sun and a brief break for our bottoms since we weren’t in a hurry or close to the sweeper-van time. Back on our bikes we found our legs again and endured the uneven road through Thames Ditton (ugh) back through Kingston and then on the road back to London. The speedy Ride 100 riders were with us at this point and made for some exciting whizzzz-whizzzz peletons speeding by, we contemplated how long we’d be able to keep up with one but considering they were going at least double our pace we weren’t sure we even had the gears to make it possible. Most people were pretty good with the fast groups organised into peleton groups sticking to the right to pass and the rest of us on the left. The only problem came when fast solo riders who were not in a group for whatever reason (I could say so many things) were riding fast and weaving in/out of the slower riders. But, I always remember that these people are dicks in all aspects of their life, not just cycling.

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Riding over Putney Bridge and back along the Northbank into Central London was great. Emma and I had been chatting the whole time and couldn’t stop smiling. My legs were tired, and I was glad I wasn’t doing the 100 (not like I’d trained for it though). We decided the 46 was the best event for having fun but also pushing yourself more than you probably would. Plus. Closed Roads. I can’t say it enough. They just make cycling SO MUCH BETTER.

We turned into Trafalgar Square and down the mall (opposite way of the marathon!) and I managed some no-handed celebrating (no one passed me champagne though – Chris Froome is really lucky) before we cruised over the finish line.

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After collecting our goodybags and bag check we found some grass in St. James park and met our friends for a much needed lie down and picnic. I finally had my glass of prosecco (thanks Matt!) and a McDonalds cheeseburger. Recovery of champions!

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Overall I give 10/10 to Ride 46 for a great event. I’m not a competitive cyclist, nor do I want to be, and this event was the perfect balance of challenge and fun to get out and do a longer ride than I usually would have.

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