Fit friends: My secret weapon for winter training

When it’s cold, dark and rainy in the winter months it’s really easy to let your motivation for exercise slide. A lunchtime run suddenly seems less appealing when it involves getting soaked through, and the pool seems less alluring when it’s subzero outside. What I find makes things even trickier is the running routes I frequent during the summer become more difficult to navigate in the winter. I don’t like to run home alone along the canal in the dark, many of the parks I like to lap close at 5pm and the off-road routes become so muddy underfoot that I end up walking sections to avoid slipping over.

IMG_2840 (1)While I could use all of this as an excuse to bed down until Spring, I’m making the effort to dig deep and keep going with my training, allowing my fitness routine to take a slightly different form to account for the season. And although my weekly mileage is down, my yoga hours, pool and gym times are all up and I’m focusing on building strength and flexibility alongside a toned down version of my usual cardio.

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Each evening, my good intentions see me packing my swim/run/yoga kit ready for the following day, but what has been really helping me to get out of the door for an exercise session is having training buddies on hand, who are already kitted up and waiting for me outside.

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It’s so much easier to get to the gym or out for a run when you have someone to go with. I’m so lucky that my friends at work are also keen to keep fit throughout the winter and we can all head from the office to the gym/pool/yoga class, or else enjoy a lunchtime run together. And we have a mutual understanding that once we are working out we all follow our own programmes, so there’s no chatting by the water fountain or long rests in the weights room!

Fitfluencers

If you haven’t got fit friends at the ready to keep you on the straight and narrow, I also find following ‘fitfluencers’ on social media really helps. I find it hard to see other people leading an active life and exercising without being taken over by the urge to exercise myself!

On Instagram I love Alice Liveing, Shalane FlanaganCharlotte Kalla, Samantha Gash, Kaisa MakarainenA Pretty Place to Play, The Runnerbeans, Running with Mo Yogi Bare, Tina Muir, Alex Puccio and Shauna Coxsey.

Podcast persuasion

Another great way to make sure I get out for a run is to download a podcast episode I really want to listen to, but only allow myself listen while on a run. Running and fitness podcasts, such as Run to the a Top from Runners Connect, Marathon Talk and Rich Roll are great to stay focused, but I also love escaping run chat with the High Low, This American Life or Reasons to be Cheerful.

Strava stats

Accountability and a little healthy competition with myself also helps keep me going, which is why I love tracking my runs on Strava. It’s a great way to keep an eye on my mileage and gauge how I’m getting on, but I’m also aware that my  running data is public so I can’t slack off too much in case my stats become conspicuous by their absence!

Home workouts

I love at-home, early morning workouts and during the winter these really help to get me going for the day. YouTube is a cornucopia of great yoga videos – I love Sarah Beth Yoga, Yoga with Adrienne and Boho Beautiful – but workout apps are also great for short, focussed fitness sessions. I’m currently using Power 20 Prenatal fitness app, but before this I loved the Weight Loss Fitness app – both free to download.

If you are struggling with winter workouts, or if you have other hints and tips to keep on track when it’s wet and cold outside do let me know.

Now I just need to go out for my Sunday run…

Until my next, happy running.

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Ski Slovenia

I was introduced to skiing by my husband 2 years ago and fell in love.

As an expensive holiday we haven’t been able to go as often as we would like, but this year we took the opportunity to book a last minute trip to Slovenia for some skiing, hiking and sightseeing.

While Slovenia may not seem the obvious first choice for a ski holiday, a recommendation from a Slovenian friend combined with a bit of research and the availability of £80 return flights to Ljubljana (albeit at 6am in the morning) confirmed our decision to book.

There were a number of ski resorts to choose from but we settled on Kranjska Gora, an alpine resort situated in northwestern Slovenia, near the mountains and glacial lakes of Triglav National Park, approximately 5 miles from Austria to the north and 10 miles from Italy to the west. Getting there couldn’t have been easier; a straightforward one hour drive from the airport (in a very reasonably priced hire car) without any of the perilous, steep and winding roads that I associate with getting to Austrian and French resorts.

We chose the perfect time to travel too, arriving to a gentle downfall of snow, a forecast of sun and further snow showers and daytime temperatures of 0 to -4 for the week ahead.

Our hotel was even prettier than the  picture and our room was just perfect – big but really cosy, with a balcony and a beautiful view of the mountains, a sofa, coffee table and plenty of space to read and relax when we weren’t skiing.

The hotel also went out of their way to make sure I had plenty to eat for breakfast everyday, buying in soya milk, vegan cheese, vegan butter and three flavours of soya yogurt, not to mention the extensive range of cereals, fruit, nuts and seeds, breads and jams.

The resort was picturesque, with wooden-fronted chalets lit up with fairy lights. There were plenty of cosy little restaurants and cafes, sports and souvenir shops, stalls serving mulled wine and waffles, a well-furnished supermarket and a pool with a spa (where we may have treated ourselves to a swim and a massage!).

 

Our hotel was only a short walk to the slopes but there were also lockers directly next to the piste so we could leave our skis, poles, helmets and boots at the end of each day and stroll back through town in the comfort of our walking boots.

All of the pistes were below the tree line, offering a stunning alpine, snow-topped landscape wherever you looked. I love being outside and this, almost too perfect setting, combined with the gorgeous mountain air, made getting out everyday irresistible! We were even lucky enough to have warm sunshine on a couple of days, allowing us to sit outside the mountain huts for a hot drink or snack during our breaks, but even taking the lifts up the slopes was made pleasurable as it gave you the opportunity to enjoy the the views.

The runs were graded blue, red and black, with some of the blue routes beginning as red runs. As a second-time skier the resort was perfect for me. I was happy to spend the first few mornings on the blue button and chair lifts, taking lessons to get me back up to speed, while R was able to go off and ski the black runs at the other end of the resort. We would then ski the reds together for the rest of the day, with the occasional stop for a hot drink and some leg rest.

The pistes were open 9am to 4pm and we were on the first lifts everyday. There was also night skiing available every evening from 7pm to 10pm.

We only went one evening and while it was really fun it was pretty busy and there were a lot of kamikaze kids which meant that it wasn’t quite as relaxing as the daytime runs! Still, I enjoyed the incredible full-body workout offered by skiing during the days and was certainly aching by the end of it.

If you are looking for a picture-perfect resort for up to 5 days of skiing, provisions for cross-country and night skiing and a chance to watch ski jumpers in training at Planica, which is just a 15 minute drive away, some spa time, a beautiful little village with lots of delicious restaurants that are more than happy to cater for vegetarian and vegan tastes, then I can’t recommend this resort highly enough.

 

There is also some great hiking nearby and a short walk away from town is the beautiful Lake Jasna, which is well worth a visit.

Skiing holidays are such a unique experience and I feel so lucky that we were able to discover this little gem of a resort. While we were too sad to leave I hope we will return!

The art of good health

(image © David Shrigley)

Art helps us access and express parts of ourselves that are often unavailable to other forms of human interaction. It flies below the radar, delivering nourishment for our soul and returning with stories from the unconscious […] Making and consuming art lifts our spirits and keeps us sane.
Grayson Perry

While a large proportion of my physical and mental health is sustained through time spent running, swimming, practicing yoga and going to the gym, there is another element of my general wellbeing that is nourished through the arts. Whether it is in the hours spent wandering around an art gallery or lost in a book, at a life drawing class or choir practice, the moments when I engage with the art world bring me a sense of total peace, joy, presence and fulfilment.

Over the past year I have found myself thinking more and more about the positive role that the arts can play in our mental and physical health. To this end, last summer I set up a life drawing course at work. With funding support from our staff Wellbeing Committee, the group was established with the primary goal of taking colleagues away from their desks and into a creative space where they could engage in the moment through a practice distinct in pace and style from their everyday job. In these classes the process of drawing – being creative and present, looking, seeing and recreating shapes and forms – served as a meditative and mindful process, with the success of the class being measured as much by the feelings and reflections of the participants, as by the results of charcoal on paper.

This class is, of course, only a tiny fraction of a much wider and ever-growing movement from within the the arts and cultural heritage sector to consider the role that the sector can play within the field of health and wellbeing.

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© David Shrigley

In 2014 an All Party Parliamentary Group for Arts, Health and Wellbeing was launched to discuss developments and policy in the field of arts and health. Two years later, the group published an almost 200 page report entitled Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing in which they assert that:

More and more people now appreciate that arts and culture can play a valuable part in helping tackle some of the most challenging social and health conditions. Active participation in the visual and performing arts, music and dance can help people facing a lonely old age, depression, or mental illness; it can maintain levels of independence and curiosity and […] it can bring great joy and so improve the quality of life for those engaged.

This paper offers a formal acknowledgement of a shift within the sector surrounding the question of who arts and heritage spaces are for and how they can serve audiences beyond the traditional academic and curatorial visitors. Within the gallery world there are signs that institutions are increasingly keen to schedule health and wellbeing initiatives into their programming. Manchester Art Gallery, for example, have a whole of section of their programme dedicated to wellness, with events to encourage visitors to engage with arts mindfully and wellbeing tours of their galleries.

These, and other initiatives hosted within both arts, care and clinical settings, are designed to be expressive, restorative, educational and therapeutic, working preventively, to enhance recovery, or to improve the quality of life for people with long-term or terminal conditions. Here the arts can play an important role in giving patients a greater sense of self; as Eva Okwonga notes in Creative Health:

Artistic self expression gives participants an identity beyond illness.

Programming around dementia is also increasing, as Nicci Gerrard highlighted in her Guardian article last year, pointing to projects including the Wellcome Foundation’s Dementia Research projectManchester Camerata’s Music in Mind, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s Music for a While and the Alzheimer’s Society’s Singing for the Brain. As Gerrard observes:

Dementia is an area where the arts can radically enhance quality of life by finding a common language and by focusing on everyday, in-the-moment creativity.

This is a sentiment shared by Lord Howarth of Newport, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group, who stated that:

The arts have a vital role to play for people with dementia. Research demonstrates that visual arts, music, dance, digital creativity and other cultural activities can help to delay the onset of dementia and diminish its severity.

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© David Shrigley

Meanwhile, organisations such as the National Alliance for Arts, Health and Wellbeing, the National Alliance for Museums, Health and Wellbeing and London Arts in Health Forum, have been brought to the fore in recent years, at their hearts the belief that:

By supplementing medicine and care, the arts can improve the health of people who experience mental or physical health problems. Engaging in the arts can promote prevention of disease and build wellbeing.

Working in the arts and cultural heritage sector myself, with a passion for art and an interest in health and wellness, this movement fills me with so much hope and excitement. The growing possibility that through the arts – be they visual, practical, musical, theatrical or literary – we can work together to promote health, happiness and wellbeing and that we can help people through times of distress, illness and trauma, has to be a positive thing.

I want to finish with this quote from Nicci Gerrard:

Art can be medicine, for body and soul.

 

2017. A good year.

I wasn’t quite sure how best to follow my last post, hence the recent hiatus in writing. I was reflecting on this last week while browsing through pictures on my ‘phone and it struck me that while that one awful event did cast a long shadow over elements of last year, on the whole I had a really rather good 2017.

Looking at these pictures filled me with such happiness, love and gratitude for all the amazing people in my life and the fantastic opportunities that have come my way. And while I know my friends sometimes laugh at my desire to ‘snap’ everything, looking back over pictures of the year I was so pleased that I’d captured so many great moments.

So to counterbalance the sobriety of my last post, this is a lighthearted recap of 2017; the unadulterated best bits!

January

Mr S and I started the year with our traditional, rather chilly, New Year’s Day walk, followed by cups of tea in the Breakfast Club to warm up afterwards.

January also saw a reunion of my hens. We went to see Kinky Boots, danced to awful music and drank many, many cocktails.

February

In February I went on a weekend trip to Brussels with my wonderful Abbeville Road girls. We enjoyed sightseeing, great art, strong beer and most importantly, lots of quality time together chatting and generally putting the world to rights.

I also started the year with PBs in both my half marathon (1:47:08) and 10km (48:08) as part of the Victoria Park race series.

March

In March I went on a residential leadership course with Clore, where I learned more about myself in a week than I had done in years prior and met some of the most inspiring and supportive people I’ve ever known.

I also marched with these amazing ladies to raise money for the Royal Marsden hospital.

April

In April I went to Chicago for a work trip and had the opportunity to catch up with my favourite snail running buddy who now lives State side. We went running, bowling, spent time at the Art Institute of Chicago (one of my favourite places) and he introduced me to margaritas!

April also saw a trip to Tate Britain for the David Hockney show and to the top of Tate Modern for a view of London with some of our wonderful pals who were visiting from Manchester…

…and we went to Sheffield to meet my friend Kathryn’s little girl, Rose, for the first time.

May

In May I went to Wembley with these great guys…

and we celebrated my father-in-law’s wedding in the beautiful Yorkshire countryside.

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June

June saw us in New York and Philadelphia for a friend’s wedding, as well as plenty of sightseeing, art galleries and the mandatory bagel or two!

Back in the UK, June was also the month of my sister’s baby shower and when I met beautiful baby Leo, the son of my family friend and running inspiration, Jess.

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And it was the month R cycled the first leg of the Tour de Yorkshire while I manned the support team with these great guys.

July

In July I ran away to Portugal with my polo girls to celebrate a 30th birthday and to enjoy some sun, inflatables and general nonsense.

And from Portugal to the Peaks for a fabulous family getaway.

August

August marked the arrival of a new member of our family, baby Frankie, as well as the birth of my friend Lucy’s son Arthur.


It saw me in the Wilderness (well at Wilderness festival at least) for my first ever festival.


As well as bouncing off giant inflatables at the Olympic pool in Stratford.


I enjoying Raphael and time well spent in Oxford with my pal Georgina. We went on a visit to the seaside and enjoyed a visit from these chaps.

September

In September I went on my first ever vegan cookery course, walked in the Malvern hills with my wonderful friends and even braved some outdoor swimming.


Mr S and I also celebrated our wedding anniversary and my 32nd birthday at Lake Como with lots of hiking and even more Prosecco!


September also saw us back in Oxford for the wedding of these fabulous folks.

 

October

In October I enjoyed some time in Stoke with my favourite boys, and headed out to Frankfurt for the book fair.

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I did yoga at the top of the Shard with my fabulous pal Sophie, and we also enjoyed the Om Yoga show, London Veg Fest and Birmingham half marathon together!


October also saw a beautiful autumnal trip to Kew with these beautiful girls.

November

In November Mr S and I watched the fireworks in Clissold Park and went walking in Epping Forest.

We visited my sister-in-law and family in Leeds and enjoyed a beautiful stroll in Roundhay Park.

I ran a study day with my Clore team at Alexander Palace, a pop-up life drawing class at the Museum’s Association Conference in Manchester and went on an introduction to art therapy course in Angel.

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I was reunited with my home girls for a pampering day of face masks, nail varnish and lots of hot tub action, and met another wonderful addition to our family, baby Alexander.

December

In December I celebrated Christmas…on several occasions.

We went to the theatre to see the Ferryman with mum and dad and I saw the Modigliani show at Tate Modern, Dali/Duchamp at the RA and Graphic Design at the Wellcome.

We went walking in Yorkshire, spent lots of time with our wonderful families and played many, many boardgames!

And then the year ended, with fireworks and fabulous friends on a rooftop in Clapham Junction.

So all in all, a pretty amazing 12 months. 2018 has a lot to live up to!

Why don’t we talk about miscarriages?

It was while listening to an interview on the High Low podcast with Vanity Fair and New Yorker editor, Tina Brown, that I began thinking about writing this post. While you may not be familiar with the name, you will certainly be familiar with Brown’s work. She was the editor responsible for the 1991 Vanity Fair cover featuring the Annie Leibovitz photograph of a heavily pregnant, naked, Demi Moore. This image, now a right of passage pose for every pregnant celeb, was ground-breaking in its time and marked a massive shift in the public presentation of pregnancy. No longer were women expected to hide their expanding waistlines beneath floral smocks; now they could wear their baby bump with pride. And why not? 

But while in recent years the full bloom of pregnancy appears to be something that society can stomach, we still tiptoe around the 12 weeks (that’s almost a third of the pregnancy) prior to the first scan when women must go to ridiculous lengths to conceal their condition. We find ourselves dodging glasses of wine and cups of coffee like bullets, with every social occasion posing a risk of exposure. Work offers little sanctuary either, as you’re forced to hold it together when all you want to do is throw up, fall asleep under your desk or cry. 

And why do we go to such lengths to conceal what is, in all probability, glaringly obvious to anyone close to us? (When I turn down a free glass of wine and go cold turkey on coffee anyone who knows me at all knows something is awry).

The answer, for many of us, is that in those high risk, eternally long 12 weeks, we might lose the baby and have to share that fact with others. And yet, as it turned out for me, the one thing that would have made going through a miscarriage worse than it already was, would have been going through it alone and in silence. 

The truth is that 1 in 4 women will experience a miscarriage in their lifetime. Yet this seems to be a statistic that the social presentation of pregnancy and the public dialogue around miscarriage conceals.

I found that learning more about the prevalence of miscarriage and hearing about the experiences of other women who had struggled to conceive or who had also miscarried helped to make me feel less like the anomaly – less like the one failure where all other women seemed to have succeeded. Yet it wasn’t until I had made this rite of passage into the 1 in 4 club that these stories were shared with me. 

We discovered that I’d lost our baby at the 12 week scan. I had a ‘missed miscarriage’ – no symptoms, no pain, no blood – at 9 weeks our baby’s heart had stopped beating but my body just wouldn’t let it go. 

The scan was on a Monday morning and I’d planned to go straight to the office afterwards, ultrasound picture at the ready to show off to friends and family. Instead, we found ourselves sitting in the Early Pregnancy Unit, waiting for hours upon hours, watching a silent TV screen, consumed by the horrible gut-wrenching knowledge that all of the plans we had made for the next nine months and beyond had been torn away. 

In the three days that followed between the ultrasound and having surgery to take the baby away I felt like an empty vessel. I spent a day at home and my mum came to visit, I then, rather selfishly (as I was no use to anyone) spent two days at work, sitting in front of my computer, occasionally crying and just trying not to think about what was happening. The team in the EPU, the surgical team and all of the nurses we encountered at UCLH were amazing throughout that awful week. Even more amazing were our family, friends and colleagues who rallied round and supported us more than we ever could have wished for. 

We hadn’t told our friends or colleagues about the pregnancy but circumstance meant that we had to tell those closest to us about the miscarriage. And yet now I can’t imagine how we would have got through the weeks that followed without them on our side. My boss was an absolute powerhouse and let me go through the whole spectrum of emotions from the comfort of my desk. My friends and family let me talk and cry and talk some more, and held me close even when I tried to push them away.  

I don’t think I was ready for the onslaught of emotions I had after the miscarriage. The initial feeling was one of failure on my part – that I had let my husband and myself down by not carrying our baby to term. I suddenly found it difficult to be around pregnant women and felt a bitter sting every time I gave up my seat on the tube to a woman brandishing a ‘baby on board’ badge. I found myself sobbing in the toilet every time someone announced that they were pregnant and then overwhelmed with guilt for feeling so sad and selfish. Weeks later I felt annoyed at myself for still feeling so sad and told myself that I should be over the grief and that I needed to pull myself together. Later still I went to see a therapist about how I was dealing (or not dealing) with what had happened.

Going through a miscarriage is a very personal experience and while it isn’t something that everyone wants to share one of the most valuable things for me was being able to talk openly to friends and family about the experience, as well as reading other women’s blog posts about what they had been through. Listening to others helped me to realise that experiencing so many mixed emotions is totally normal and not something to feel guilty or ashamed about. While my husband was such a rock throughout and while the experience welded us even more firmly together, we were both glad of the support and perspective that being able to talk to others offered us. While at the moment I still can’t imagine having a successful pregnancy, what this experience has taught me is that even if this does happen again we will be ok; we will be stronger together, and the amazing support network that we have built will be there to catch us if we do trip and fall.

A Rude Awakening

Last week I found myself taken aback, angry and confused to see an Instagram post from the company Rude Health declaring their support of the dairy industry. For those of you unfamiliar with the Rude Health brand, they produce an array of high-end, dairy free nut, oat and rice milks, and I have to admit their products are, well were, among my favourites. Like many of the other people who saw this post, my initial assumption was that either their account had been hacked or someone on work experience had made a massive PR error. However, a quick search on their website revealed neither of these scenarios to be the case. In fact, what I discovered was a ‘rant’ blog post from their Co-founder and Brand Director, Camilla Barnard, in which she categorised vegetarianism and veganism as fad diets.

While I don’t often get angry about many things, the messaging from Rude Health really wound me up, not least because it shows such a total lack of understanding on so many levels. It’s a lack of understanding of the motivations behind a plant based lifestyle (which Barnard describes as a fad diet ‘to save you from cancer and early death’ and a means by which to ‘claim the health and moral-high ground’), a complete misreading of who the people are who actually buy their products, and from a brand and marketing perspective, an apparent ignorance about how and why people align themselves to particular brands and brand identities.

Since seeing the Instagram image and reading the blog post, I have found myself morbidly fascinated in following the backlash of these postings, reading the thousands of comments that have resulted – many from people like me, who really don’t understand why any company in its right mind would seek to alienate one of its core audiences – and watching and waiting for some kind of explanation, apology or rationality from Rude Health. None has come.

I have also decided, along with many other vegans, to boycott Rude Health products. Reiterating the points above, my decision to buy Rude Health’s dairy-free milks was not just based on the fact that they were tasty; just as my decision not to eat animals and animal products is not just part of a fad to ‘save me from cancer’.

The fact is, that many vegans, myself included, made this lifestyle choice because we are fundamentally opposed to the meat and dairy industries and the impact they have on the well-being of animals and on the environment. We have seen the dark side of these industries and have come to our own conclusions not to play a part in the perpetuation of them. I didn’t become a vegan on the back of a ‘celebrity exclusion diet’ or to claim ‘the moral high-ground’. I became a vegan because I find the idea of killing another sentient being and consuming its corpse for pleasure totally barbaric and abhorrent. If my decision not to eat meat at the age of 8 was a fad, then it has been a bloody long one. Likewise, I don’t see that I have any business in drinking the breast milk of another species, not least when getting that milk involves cows being raped, having their calves taken away from them, being pumped full of hormones and steroids, being forced to express milk to the point of suffering from severe mastitis and then being culled when they are no longer of any use to the industry. No Camilla I am not ‘forced by an allergy’ to follow this diet, but I am compelled to, by the facts of an industry which I find to be inhumane. Eating may be a social activity and you may want ‘positivity and fun around food’, but this is equally possible while following a wholly plant-based diet and the fact is when I eat what I eat, no one has to die in the process.

Moreover, I’d be really interested to see who are actually buying Rude Health milk-alternative products. In insulting the vegan community, Rude Health clearly believe that there is a large enough market of non-vegans who are prepared to pay a minimum of £3.50 on a weekly basis for a carton of cashew milk and I just can’t believe that to be the case (although I’d love to be wrong on this). Even living in the lefty, middle-class bubble of North London, I don’t know any non-vegans who would be prepared to splurge on three different types of dairy-free milks on a weekly basis in the way that my vegan friends and I do. I know a few people who might buy almond or soya milk as a one off, but even then it is usually a cheaper brand, not Rude Health.

Finally, you don’t have to be a marketing expert to see that people buy into brands not just products. Whether it is in fashion or food, we like to align ourselves to the brands that we feel either reflect our personalities and our values, or that we aspire to imitate. In pledging their support for the dairy industry, Rude Health have isolated themselves from a massive vegan community who are fundamentally opposed to that industry.

And the big question for me is, why say anything at all? Why kick up this storm so unnecessarily? Is it just a case of massively misjudging and underestimating your audience, or is there something more sinister like a cash injection from an interested party behind it?

I’d be really interested to hear both your and Rude Health’s thoughts around this. I’ll also be keeping a keen eye on the Companies House site for their next accounts statement. 

Why ‘me time’ matters

Try to do one thing each day that nourishes you.

This was the takeaway message from a yoga event I attended this week at the Shard in London. The event, sponsored by California Walnuts, saw me and my good friend Sophie getting up at 5:30am to join a group of yogis for a 7am yoga session with Mandy Jhamat from Yogasphere, a wellness talk by Julie Montagu and delicious breakfast, hosted high above the city on the 69th floor of the Shard. It was the perfect start to the day: a relaxing vinyasa flow class suspended above the hubbub of the city below, followed by a feast of smoothies, mini pots of overnight oats, fruit kebabs and vegan flapjacks, all enjoyed from a room with a spectacular view.

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Image with thanks to California Walnuts

The event finished at 9:30am and we left with a free yoga mat, a bag full of goodies (including a big jar of delicious California Walnuts!) and that warm fuzzy feeling that I can only describe as the post-yoga glow.

While I’ll admit that I found myself reaching for the coffee by 3pm (I’m a morning person but even I concede that 5:30am is that bit too early) the feel-good factor from going to the class and spending some time with Sophie stayed with me until bedtime.

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Image with thanks to California Walnuts

While this was an exceptional day, the message from the speaker, Julie Montagu, was that you don’t need a special event to feed your physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. Instead, we should find a little space every day for those acts that make us feel more like ourselves and contribute to our overall sense of wellness. Whether it be a 15 minute yoga practice, a short walk or lunchtime run, curling up with a good book, wandering around an art gallery, taking a hot bath, going for a cup of tea with a friend, calling your mum, listening to a podcast or baking a cake, it’s amazing how just a little act can quickly change your mood and the course of your day.

While (as regular readers may have gathered!) I find my greatest sense of self through exercise, another very different area in which I have found nourishment is while drawing. It’s amazing how taking the time to really look at figures and forms and then attempt to replicate them in graphite on paper, can be so meditative. To this end, a friend and I recently established a life drawing class as part of a wellness initiative. It is amazing how quickly the two hours of the class pass as we work on a series of 5, 10, 15 and 20 minute poses, working in silence, looking, sketching and being present in the moment. While I’m not the greatest artist, I’ve learnt to use the lessons from my yoga practice of leaving my ego at the door, focusing on my easel and working within my own parameters. When I began drawing I found the process more frustrating than therapeutic, but now I have evolved my practice, making it a much calmer space for engagement and self development.

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Image with thanks to California Walnuts

It is so easy to forget to spend that little bit of time feeding your mind, body and soul and to find that you’ve spent a day racing around with little to show for it. I’m now taking the message of this week’s yoga event and aiming to dedicate a portion of each day to self-nourishing acts as I know that by feeding my own soul I feel stronger, richer, fuller and more able to give back to those around me.

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