Shopping rules

With each of our wallets, we have a choice: to buy or not to buy. In fact the choice gets even better – with so many shops having so many ranges year round, the choice gets larger and larger. What should we buy? How often should we buy? Should we buy at all?

Everyone is different in their purchasing habits, which is why I can only speak for myself, but I am trying to make a conscious change at the moment to buy better. I find myself mysteriously wanting a midi leopard-print skirt the moment I see it being put on in fast-forward on Instagram, and thinking about buying a new gold mirror when I see a Made-dot-com advert on the tube. However, in this age of consumerism, waste and neglect, I am desperately trying to come up with ways to spend my money better.

As an ‘influencer’, I think it’s important to remember that gifting (when a blogger/influencer will get sent something for free in the hope that they might post about it) is not impact-free. Just because it didn’t cost anything, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an impact, so for the purposes of this post, I am including accepting gifting as purchasing something.

I am not perfect, and have constant cognitive dissonance with my job – do I work with a brand that promotes consumerism? What brand doesn’t? Am I perpetuating the problem by advertising stuff or by using my platform to educate and provide greener alternatives am I actually helping? I don’t think the answer is simple or clear-cut, but I hope that I can at least have some positive impact while I’m here on this earth.

So, without further ado, here are some of my self-imposed purchasing rules for non-essential items.

  1. Ask myself if I can imagine myself using/wearing an item when I am in my own house in 5 years time. At 5 years it has already significantly beaten the average lifespan of an item of clothing in the UK (2-3 years), so may well be worth buying. Timeless pieces and the perfect jumpsuit are often worth buying. Everything else is often not. Basically, you can do consumerism as well as you like, but if you’re still buying stuff, you’re still contributing to having more things. We don’t need more things, we need less.
  2. Message a brand if their product arrives in excess packaging. This isn’t to seem like a dick, but I think it’s actually really important to make your voice known when it comes to your purchases. I recently received a very generous amount of fitness clothing from a brand (that I didn’t know was being sent) and each item was individually wrapped in plastic. So I messaged the brand to ask if they had any plans to reduce plastic packaging in future – hopefully if enough people ask, they will consider taking the requests onboard.
  3. Share amazing brands doing amazing things. Small brands rely on dedicated people and word of mouth. I work with an incredible brand called Freda that sells sustainable and ethical period products with a social mission. For me, buying from a brand like this is a no-brainer – they’re not significantly more expensive than Tampax, have a MUCH lower environmental footprint and have a ‘giveback’ (a proportion of the profits go towards ending period poverty in the UK). However, as start-ups, brands like Freda don’t have huge advertising budgets, or the ability to gift to hundreds of influencers in the hope that they’ll post. It’s by getting loyal customers who share by word of mouth that the message gets round, and each and every one of us can provide that service to brands we love and that we feel should do well. Put your money and your mouth where your values lie – it’s only in this way that small brands that do good can compete with big brands that don’t!
  4. If a highstreet brand has a ‘sustainable/ethical’ range, purchase from that (if you have to buy something). If I’m just looking for ‘something’ (e.g. for an event), I will often head to highstreet stores. Ideally I would be able to shop in advance in more sustainable shops, but sometimes it’s not possible in time, so the highstreet offers a speedy alternative. Whilst a ‘sustainable’ range from Zara is unlikely to have anywhere near the positive credentials as something from a small eco-friendly brand, imagine if Zara suddenly find that 25% of their customers are preferentially buying from their small ‘eco’ range compared to their ‘normal’ clothes. The proportion of ‘eco’ clothes are going to increase, and at that point we can ask for more from them. We have so much purchasing power and brands really are listening!
  5. One in, one out. When it comes to clothes, the vast majority of us have too many. We forget what we own, end up buying more and then check everything back into the same drawer. I do quarterly clear-outs to friends and charity shops, and then maintain that level of clothes – a level where I know what I own, know my special-occasion outfits and try not to buy more. If something new comes in, something I haven’t worn recently goes out. It’s a good system that means everything gets worn!

These are just some of the ways I try to improve the way I live through my purchasing power. I’d love to hear your ideas and tips!

My marathon journey – the lowdown

When I was asked in December by Asics whether I wanted to run a marathon in Tokyo I was so excited – for any long distance runner, being flown out to Tokyo to run 42km is an absolute dream come true. However it took me a little while to respond to the offer – believe it or not I’ve actually spent my life saying that I have no interest in running a marathon. I’m a short distance runner (5km is my vibe) and have been plagued by injuries since I started running properly at uni. Not only that, but I don’t see running a marathon as the epitome of fitness – so many people seem to sign up, train, run it and then give up running altogether, as though they have ‘proven’ their fitness and can now give up forever. I much preferred running for fun (with the occasional 5k parkrun to assess time), and the thought of training for a marathon over 2-3 months (and probably giving up my other favourite sports, such as boxing), was daunting to say the least. I’m a runner in the sense that I like to run, but I wouldn’t say my skills are anything special, and marathons definitely take something special to complete.

However, after much thought (and my general attitude of ‘say yes now, think more later’), I accepted the invitation to race. For the first time in my life, I was given coaching by someone who understood the purpose of the running for me: to enjoy the process and not hate running at the end. It’s a personal challenge for everyone, and for me the marathon was about getting over the fear of running on my injured knees. I think sometimes the fear of pushing yourself too far and failing can stop you doing things you desperately want to do, and I made a pact with myself last year to stop being afraid and just jump, so I did just that! My training plan was tailored to me, and it suited me perfectly – approx 3 runs a week with time to rest, do boxing, do resistance training and look after my knees. Within the first few weeks of training I got my 5k pb (21.20) and 10k pb (45 something) in training runs (before being told off for running too fast and that I would need to slow down if I was ever going to complete a marathon) XD

Training went well for the first few months, and I loved testing my body. I’m built for power and speed, so to be able to show myself that I could run further than I’d previously imagined my body could handle was amazing. However, around 3 weeks before the marathon my old injury flared up again. I knew it would at some point (I’ve never run consistently in the last 4y without it doing so, which is why I used to only run maximum 10k once per week, to keep it at bay), but I was hoping it’d either be early in my training (leaving plenty of time for rest and rehab) or on the marathon day itself. If you’ve ever suffered from IT band syndrome you’ll understand the pain. It starts with a dull ache on the side of your knee(s) before becoming a sharp pain and spreading up your IT band all the way to your hip. After a while the pain becomes unbearable, and at its worst requires crutches (as I did frequently when I was at uni because I kept running on it, as my coach told me it ‘wouldn’t cause lasting damage’). *Eye roll*. Anyway, it’s a literal pain and the only real short-term solution is rest. Unfortunately this cut out my biggest training week – my longest run of 17 miles and all the other runs that week. Even my 5 – 10km runs were causing minor pain, and I worried I might have to pull out of the marathon (either in advance or half way through). I recorded some of my thoughts pre-marathon here.

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After a week of tapering (including just a few slow, short-ish runs), we headed out to Tokyo for our second taper week, arriving 4 days before the marathon. One thing I hadn’t taken into account was the jet lag, until Chevy, our coach, reminded us that any race done on jet lag was an extra-special achievement. My main concern was running form – tiredness causes poor running form and poor running form causes injuries!

Regardless, it was incredible to be out in Tokyo for the 4 days before the marathon (which felt like about a month!). We walked around the city plenty, even fitting in a short 6km run around one of the parks. Every day was 20,000 steps or more, which potentially isn’t the best way to prepare for a marathon, but it was good to keep the body moving, especially after such a long journey from London (17h of sitting down door to door pretty much)! If anyone is thinking of doing a marathon with a big time zone difference, I would allow one day per hour of time difference (advice I got from someone else) – I think the jetlag was a minor issue but an issue nonetheless.

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Race day came (after an impressive amount of carb-loading on ramen and sushi) and we left the hotel at 7am for the 9am race. I have never seen so much chaos before a race – thousands and thousands of people unsure of where to go, running around in the pouring rain. Having never done a big race before it was pretty overwhelming (but also very exciting!). We were probably far too early to the race – we were dressed in our racing kit (a couple of layers) and standing in the rain for almost an hour after warming up, meaning that by the time we got started at about 9.20am, pretty much everyone was shaking from the cold! Piece of advice (which probably every marathoner knows) – if it’s a cold/wet race, bring a couple of extra layers to chuck in the charity bins as you set off – they collect everything and donate it to charity (from what I heard), which is preferable to everything being chucked on the side of the road mid-race. It ‘only’ took me about 45 minutes to warm up, but unfortunately my once freshly activated glutes were flabby and cold by the time we started, so my IT bands started hurting around 8-10km in (since ITBS is usually caused by having weak gluteal supporting muscles). Obviously not ideal, but not a disaster.

The atmosphere was incredible during the race. Japan is one of the friendliest countries I’ve ever been to, and every few meters there was another group of people offering fruits, sweets and nondescript homemade goodies. Every few kilometres there was also a water/sports drink station. I think I had water about 4 or 5 times during the race, which felt about right for me (but probably ask your own coach what they’d recommend for you). The first 21km sailed past – none of it was easy, per se, but I felt like I was gliding through at exactly the right pace without really having to try. Perhaps I should have just signed up for a half XD

Around 30km in, my non-injured (left) knee suddenly became incredibly painful, changing my pace from about 6 mins/km to around 6 mins 25/km, which is back to the pace I first ever ran a 5k at (albeit 30km into a race). I ended up running with pretty much totally straight legs for 10km until I hit 40km. I stopped for a drink and that was it for me – both knees buckled and I nearly fell to the floor. It was pretty depressing to think that I might have to pull out of a 42km race at 40km in.

Being crazy I decided that I would walk the last 2 kilometres, being overtaken by runners everywhere. Despite the fact that I overtook 870 runners during the course of the race overall, I will always struggle with the face that I lost 62 places in that last 2kms. It took me 18 minutes to complete the last 2k, but through gritted teeth I did complete it!

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I would usually never advocate running through extreme pain (or really pain of any sort) but you can’t really quit a marathon at 40km, which is why I kept going. Running through pain is what got me the recurring injury in the first place, so please, if you’re training and you feel pain don’t do as I did in the race – please rest up!

As mentioned multiple times on my Instagram, my main goals for the marathon were to complete it and to soak up the atmosphere. I completed both of those things with flying colours, and for that I am so proud. Competitive me will not stop beating myself up for not completing the marathon in my self-imposed unofficial time goal of 4h, but having said that, if I were to read someone else being disappointed in their time of 4h, for example, I would feel really crap about my time of 4.28.50, which is why I can’t exactly complain about such a time. Running a marathon is amazing regardless of the time you do it in, and we all have our strengths and weaknesses – you don’t have to be amazing at everything, even choosing to take part can be the most impressive bit sometimes!

TL;DR

Would I recommend running a marathon? Yes absolutely, if only to find out what you’re made of and show yourself that you can do things you never believed possible (42km is a bloody long way).

Am I happy with my time? Yes, in hindsight under the circumstances, I am absolutely bloody impressed that I finished the marathon, let alone in under 4h30. If you can do it faster than that, that’s great! If you are slower that’s also great! It’s pretty cool that we’re all running marathons, don’t you think?

Would I run another? Tough question. Logical me says no. I know my hips are misaligned and that I’m injury prone, so marathon training will never really benefit me as much as all the other training I do. However the me that likes crazy challenges may well say yes to another marathon or ultra marathon, especially if it’s in a cool place or for a good cause! Never say never 😛

Would I recommend Tokyo marathon specifically? Yes, especially if you’re looking for a personal best – it’s pretty much totally flat/even slightly downhill and has lots of long roads and few sharp corners. The atmosphere is amazing and don’t worry too much about the weather – apparently we got the only rain they’ve had on marathon day in over 20 years!

Advice for running a marathon?  I think more than anything, don’t over train. More is not necessarily better, and injuries are easier to prevent than they are to cure. Slow running is very valuable (a skill I’m still learning) and finding a few running buddies makes it far more bearable. I’ve got a general running tips vlog here (although I’m no expert, just sharing what I’ve learned).

What did I learn?

  • I am capable of far more than I thought (4 years ago running 2km was impossible due to injury, and 5 years ago my 5k pb was 32 minutes).
  • Slow running is as hard as fast running. Harder mentally.
  • Marathons are hard.
  • I’m really fit (I never ‘hit the wall’ during the marathon, probably because I was forced to run much slower than planned), but that could be better put to use over shorter distances and doing more races per year.
  • Running a marathon can be kinda boring at times, but also the biggest feeling of achievement ever.
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Just after I stopped crying

Check out my favourite running gear and supplements I took during training for the marathon.

6 runners you should follow

… On Instagram! (Please not in real life). I know that a lot of you are really enjoying my marathon training content, and with that in mind I thought I’d share with you some of the people who inspire me with my training. Give them all a follow – I promise you won’t regret it!

 

Holly Rush (@rushbynature)

An advocate of trail running here – Holly is one badass woman. I first heard about her whilst watching Asics’ coast to coast Dubai – Oman video as she was one of the 5 Asics frontrunners taking part. Follow for long(ish) captions and thoughts on running and races. She also ran the Tokyo marathon last year so I’ve been pestering her for tips!

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Adrienne Herbert (@adrienne_LDN)

If you’re looking for motivation in all aspects of your life, look no further. The amazing Adrienne practically oozes motivation in every Instagram story. She is the co-founder of ‘Get To Know’ (a community of creative women), host of Power Hour podcast, with guests such as Fearne Cotton, AJ Odudu and Deliciously Ella and a mum! Somehow in between all the other things she does she has time to run, showing us that time doesn’t have to be a barrier to staying healthy.

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Tashi Skervin-Clarke (@tashi_skervinclarke)

I first met Tashi around 3y ago and have followed her running journey since. She is a personal trainer and running coach and writes amazing captions about running and the effect it can have on us. Follow for a balanced approach to running and strength training. Running faster is not just about running more!

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Latoya Shauntay Snell (@Iamlshauntay)

I think I can across Latoya on twitter after someone shared a blog post she wrote on fat shaming. Shauntay doesn’t look like what you’d probably think of when I say ‘badass marathoner’, but marathoner she is, and badass she definitelyis. Her highlight ‘Who’s Latoya’ explains her journey but in all honesty I’m just amazed at anyone who can run as many marathons as she does. An inspiration.

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Max Wilkocks (@maxwilko)

As the co-founder of the Track Life podcast, Max talks a lot about running. In fact there’s very little else he talks about or does. Summers and winters are spent racing around the track and on disgustingly long races (although he insists 10k is his favourite). Follow for beautiful pictures and the sort of complaining about running only a runner could do.

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Rory Southworth (@rorysouthworth)

If you’re more a fan of the mountains than road running, Rory is the man to follow. Epic pictures of scrambles up rocks combined with shoe reviews (he’s sponsored by Salomon) means this account never gets boring. This will make you want to get out of the city and to any one of the locations he travels to!

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Gstaad – active holidays

When I was invited to travel to Gstaad, Switzerland as part of a press trip, I was simultaneously excited and concerned – as someone who is around a month out from a marathon, every training session counts! But buoyed on by the knowledge that the trip would be an active one, I happily packed my bags for my first snow of the year. Please note – this trip was gifted by Gstaad tourism, but as always all views are my own.

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After an early start, we landed in Geneva airport, ready to take two trains to Geneva. After around 2.5h we arrived in our destination. Gstaad is not easy to get to, but the views en route are spectacular, and its exclusivity is what makes it such an enviable destination for tourists and locals alike. It was great to have a tour of the town when we arrived to get our bearings, although unfortunately we weren’t staying in the town itself initially, something I would change if I were to return, as it is stunning!

Our first morning was spent skiing in the most perfect skiing conditions I have ever experienced, with few people on the slopes and fresh snow the whole way down. Lunchtime arrived and we skied to an igloo hotel/restaurant (reminiscent of the ice hotel). Thankfully there were vegan options on the menu, which sadly is a rarity while skiing! The bulk of the group ate cheese fondue while I had mixed anti-pasti, soup and fresh bread, which were all delicious.

That afternoon we travelled to the Ermitage hotel, a beautiful hotel with an even nicer spa. Unfortunately due to the packed schedule (and very snowy conditions) I had been unable to do any running since arriving (although of course skiing is excellent exercise!) and instead of heading straight to the spa, I instead went to the gym to complete 3x 800m sprints as part of my marathon training. My thinking is that giving 80% in your training consistently is far better than giving 100% sporadically when you know you’re at your best (i.e. in London on a track). So I got the workout done and headed to dinner at the hotel after a short (and much needed!) dip in the pool. Dinner at The Ermitage was great and one of the few places that offered full vegan meals (as opposed to salad leaves and copious amounts of bread). Satisfied and full, I opted for an early night.

The next day was significantly snowier than our first day, which was no problem as we were heading out to do a childhood favourite of mind – tobogganing! After a delicious breakfast at Charly’s (one of the best traditional cafes in town), we headed up the new gondola lift to reach the toboggan run. Sledding down the run was a definite throwback to my childhood and we all had so much fun!

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Following tobogganing we moved hotel for the final night, heading to The Park in the town of Gstaad (previously we had been a short drive from the town). I was immediately blown over by the hotel with its mix of décor, from parts that were redone around 2010 (but that have a timeless chic feel), to the central hotel lift, which is from when the building was originally built.  The Park has 84 rooms and 10 suites, as well as 3 restaurants (a local cuisine, sustainable restaurant, an Argentinian restaurant and an Al Fresco pool-side dining area). The three pillars of the hotel are: sustainability, fitness and health, so you can imagine I was very excited to be spending an evening here. Needless to say, the gym was very pleasant, with plenty of equipment and a large studio, where classes take place. The hotel is open 6 months of the year – 3 within ski season, and 3 in the summer, when the hotel attracts half its clientele, and with good reason. The number of activities available to guests in the summer is astounding, and with the hotel being situated in the mountains, it’s the perfect place to set off for whatever adventure you’re looking for. I’m excited to head back in the summer to see more of what’s on offer, from mountain biking to golf club to trail running.

On our final we were set to take part in a glacier walk, on organised tour of the local glacier (which unfortunately is fast retreating). However, due to high winds and unpredictable weather, we were unable to go. Not all as lost though, as it means that I was able to head back up the mountain, skis in hand (and then on feet) for a final morning of skiing! Deterred by the weather warnings, the mountains were almost devoid of people, so it was incredible to ski on the fresh snow and freshly piste-bashed pistes. I have never encountered skiing conditions like those at Gstaad and despite the cost of getting there, would head back in a heartbeat to experience them again. After around 40 minutes of skiing in the snow and wind, the skies cleared to reveal a beautiful sunny day, fresh snow and not a soul on the mountains, which was a spectacular way to remember Gstaad.

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TL;DR

  • Would I recommend going to Gstaad? Yes, absolutely. Summer or winter, you’ll love it.
  • Cons? It’s expensive and, unless you have a helicopter, a little time consuming to get to.
  • Best parts? The skiing and tobogganing! Although I would also happily stay in a suite at The Park hotel for the entire time too.
  • Worst parts? The lack of vegan/healthy food out, although this is to be expected anywhere you go skiing.

Read more about Gstaad

For the love of veganism…

Please can we stop getting at people for doing the right thing in the wrong way? I’ve been seeing reports on social media of people getting told that they’re not doing veganism right, not doing sustainability right, not being the right kind of feminist. Quite frankly, it makes me want to hide the fact that I’m plant based, hide that I love trying to be more sustainable and stop talking about feminist issues, and obviously that’s not the way it should be.

Don’t get me wrong, where is a time and place for calling people out on hypocrisy and certainly times when virtue signalling and moral licencing can get irritating. We could all almost certainly do a lot more to be better people, and it’s always good to question our own actions. However, I would argue that over social media is not the right place to do it for a number of reasons:

  • Meaning gets lost over text, and even well intentioned constructive criticism can end up sounding bitchy or self-congratulatory.
  • Social media is so often a one-way conversation, not allowing for nuance and discussion. Since the purpose of calling out someone’s actions is hopefully to discuss with them the best way to rectify the situation or simply have them better understand your point of view, social media really isn’t the best place for this.
  • You (probably) don’t know the person you’re questioning, however much you think you might, and they almost certainly won’t know you. Similar to point number one, that probably means that any good intentions will be lost. Influencers receive hundreds (if not thousands) of comments, remarks and questions each week, and unfortunately it is easy to miss good intentions when being called out every single day for a different assumed wrongdoing. In addition, because you don’t know them personally you don’t know their full story. Often they will be doing much more than they show on their page, and you just have to assume they have a reason for doing what they are doing.
  • Even if they see your comment and understand it, it’s hard to trust people over the internet. ‘Advice’ over the internet is rarely well received, and the way it comes across is ‘you’re not enough, you should be doing more, and I’m going to tell you how you can be perfect just like me’. Almost no matter how it’s phrased, that’s how it’ll read at a glance. Since telling someone they are wrong is almost the worst way of changing someone’s mind, it’s a bit of a token gesture trying to change the way someone lives their life over the internet. Why should they listen to you? Frustrating though that can be, there are plenty of better ways to make the world a better place, and it might be worth spending efforts in those areas instead.

Perhaps I’m being naïve and viewing people as better than they are. Perhaps the majority of people who talk about issues such as veganism, sustainability and feminism are virtue signalling. However it’s in my nature to give people the benefit of the doubt, and from reading a number of articles on the psychology of getting people to change their minds (from politics to veganism), I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter how honest your intentions are, telling someone that they should be doing better over the internet is unlikely to get them to be a better person.

So what can we do? There are a number of ways you can spread the message you want to spread without a) insulting anyone and b) your message being badly received and experiencing the backfire effect (i.e. someone doubling down on their beliefs after someone else tries to change them).

  • In my experience, conclusions are best arrived at through a person’s own thought process (e.g. telling them to have a different opinion is not going to get them to change their opinion). Raising important questions with allows them to think through the topic at hand an come to their own conclusions. Whether those conclusions are the same as yours or not, it’s better than being uninformed. E.g the reason I started to eat a vegan diet was because I studied environmental biology at university and was given a bunch of facts (in a non-partisan way) to do with what I liked. I started to eat vegan because of those facts, whereas others didn’t, and that’s OK.
  • Since advice is better received from people we know, instead of advising people over the internet to be better, why not try starting a discussion with your friends about these topics? Even if you disagree, it’s interesting to hear others’ opinions on the subject matter, as well as sharing your own. Even without openly discussing certain topics, simply living your life by certain values can have a positive impact on those around you.
  • Use your own page to spread the message you want. Sure, targeting individuals might have a more forceful effect, but for all the reasons above, it’s probably not the best way to change people’s minds. Instead, educate through your own platform. That way, people can come to their own conclusions from the information you give them, and by actively choosing to read your page the advice you give is not unsolicited.
  • Focus on your own self-improvement. I think sometimes we can spend so long pointing out others’ inadequacies that we forget to look within at the places we could improve. If your desire really is to make the world a better place, this is a good place to start.

It’s frustrating when you truly believe that your way of doing things is the best way to not have everyone immediately see that you are right. It’s annoying because you think that if only everyone lived the way you think they should, the world would be a better place. I get that, and I often think the same (if ONLY everyone in the world stopped eating meat). However, if the goal is make real change (as opposed to just wanting to show everyone that you’re right), then I think we could all do better than to tell people over social media that they’re not good enough. After all, we could probably allbe doing more.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this piece, and if you’d like to read more in a more digestible format, head to my highlights and watch the ‘vegan debate’ and ‘unsolicited advice’ ones. Many thoughts in there (both my own and my followers’). Tell me what you think!

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Being busy – #goals or self sabotage?

NOTHING….is becoming rare and precious. Everything is hype, noise, desire, desperation, speed and greed. We in the modern world are good at ‘doing,’ but anemic at ‘being.’ Entertainment, busy-ness, texting while walking or even driving…’Efficiency’ is an addictive myth based on our fidgety fear of opening up. We can not ‘do’ properly until we can, first, ‘be’ fully. Practice doing nothing – then – we can accomplish…ANYTHING. — Project Happiness

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I have a habit of being deeply aware of my feelings and questioning why I feel a particular way in any given moment. I think it’s a way of processing emotions constructively, although it also inevitably leads to overthinking from time to time, but that’s another blog post. It occurred to me whilst walking down the road the other day that I was feeling guilty for not working. Despite starting work at 6:30am (as I often do), after finishing at 3pm I immediately felt lazy for not going back to work. The problem has always been present – during holiday at school and university, in my gap year, straight after I finished university – I have always felt the need to be busy. And if not actually busy, to the average onlooker I need to appear busy, because I equate busyness (and often stress) with success. And I’m not alone.

“We think that the shift from leisure-as-status to busyness-as-status may be linked to the development of knowledge-intensive economies. In such economies, individuals who possess the human capital characteristics that employers or clients value (e.g., competence and ambition) are expected to be in high demand and short supply on the job market. Thus, by telling others that we are busy and working all the time, we are implicitly suggesting that we are sought after, which enhances our perceived status.” – Harvard Business Review.

As a society we believe that people who are the most busy are also the most important – it’s so ingrained into our psyche that it’s almost inevitable that when you ask a work colleague how they are, the response might be ‘busy, but good’. The ‘busy’ response is a signal – I’m being successful and getting things done. But does busyness equate to success? The research suggests not.

Being busy often instead equates to being stressed, anxious, sleep deprived and less productive, meaning that if that’s your permanent state, you’re unlikely to be as healthy as you could be. The reduction in productivity is because of multiple factors. Being busy often means multitasking, and according to research there is no such thing as a good multitasker.

Since it takes the human brain around 25 minutes to focus on a task at hand, choosing to flit between multiple tasks can mean that we never actually focus properly on anything with a work day or even week. These distractions can come in all sorts of forms, but emails and phones are especially bad, as they disrupt work flow and take up important mental bandwidth. Switching from one task to the next means it takes us around 25% longer to do things i.e. you are not being more productive!

Attempting to pack full your schedule – which, let’s be honest, with work, meetings, work events, social events, workouts and fitting in family time, is not hard – means you are unlikely to be working as efficiently as possible. Back in 1930, the average working week was around 50h, and it was expected that by now, due to technological advances, this would have reduced to around 15h. However, in the UK we work on average around 42.8h per week, which is longer that the averages around Europe, despite the UK being significantly less productive than comparative countries. Is this lack of productivity despite our long hours, or is it because of them?

The issue starts from the top – there is no real limit on the amount of work you are expected to do, and it’s easy to feel like putting in extra hours (and being seen to be doing it) could push you ahead. Since the 2008 financial crisis, UK employees are working longer hours for lower pay, because job security is low and competition is high. Bosses would rather see tired employees sit at their desks and be unproductive than go home, recharge mentally and physically and work harder tomorrow. In the UK (as well as many other countries) there’s no mechanism by which employers start to measure productivity rather than hours, and therein lies the problem. You sit at your desk longer, or rush around looking busy and productive and you’re seen as more important and a better employee, over the person who sticks to their hours and gets more done.

As someone at the beginning of her career, I am concerned by these statistics. I know how to be productive, and the vast majority of the time it doesn’t involve working long hours or sitting at my desk for long periods of time. Being freelance you might think the issue is better and in theory, I do have more freedom to change my hours. However, in the gig economy today, it’s pretty much impossible to stop without feeling like someone else could be taking such needed work that could be yours.

Just remember this: talking about all the things you’re going to do actually makes you less likely to do them. The chat makes you feel good enough about yourself that you actually become less motivated to do what needs to be done. Since so much of being busy is talking about how busy we are, a good step to being productive and taking more time off is to do your work with your head down and stop when you’re done. And stop telling everyone how busy you are, it’s making the problem worse.

When you stop trying to be ‘busy’ all the time, you free up space to become something better than busy. You become more effective, happier, more relaxed and, probably, the envy of all those ‘busy’ people.

Images by Caylee Hankins.

My running story

I first decided that I wanted to be good at running when I was about 10, a few years after I first stepped foot on a track. School sports day was never something people trained for, and I resigned myself to only being good at 100m and long jump, because anything over 200m left me legless and feeling like I was about to die. The first time I consciously attempted longer-distance running training was years later in secondary school. I was about 16 and training for the national schools squash championships, and was convinced that training more was always better. I made it a couple of kilometres through sheer force of will, despite every step feeling like my legs were made of lead. I think it’s a common feeling for first-time runners, especially those who attempt to run their first 5km at 200m pace, as I always did – a problem I didn’t resolve until many years later!

Unsurprisingly my first instinct was that I would never be a long distance runner (my body is definitely built for speed and power, not endurance), but persevered, if as much for weight loss benefits as anything else!

When I joined university I immediately joined the athletics club – since running is cheap and simple it seemed like the easiest option in terms of clubs, and it gave me the opportunity to try lots of events without any real aim but also without a huge cost. I did cross-country (badly) every winter and track every summer, usually running around 400m and being drafted in last minute for various other events to make up teams. I was never particularly good, but the social aspect of the club kept me coming back, and it felt good to be part of a team, especially during cross country in the winter!

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University cross country – more a social event than anything!

However, it was during this time that I first started suffering from IT band syndrome, the second most common runner’s injury (after runner’s knee). Runs longer than 3km would make it flare up, and it crippled me to the point of not being able to manage stairs without a crutch. Every time I would have a flare up it would put me out for 6 weeks, where I was unable to run (but thankfully still able to gym). After 6 weeks I would go back to running, feeling fine but having done nothing to solve the root of my knee problems. Needless to say, my three years at university were plagued with injury. Occasionally I would be able to manage a 6km run, but running when I was tired, stiff or simply running on the wrong day would mean I would injure myself and be out for another month or two. It was irritating to say the least, and I resigned myself to being able to run only 2km – 3km at a time (albeit faster and faster).

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My 5k pb in university second year – 23.01 (almost 2 mins slower than now)

After university I discovered boxing, which gave me far more of a kick than running ever did, and for a while I was satisfied simply gymming and boxing to keep fit. However, being able to run is pretty integral to my DNA, and running had allowed me to get outside and explore places better than anything else, so I was adamant that I would strengthen my weak supporting muscles in my hips and glutes (the cause of my ITBS) and work on my striding (heel striking puts a lot of pressure on the knees and can exacerbate injuries), whilst simultaneously continuing other sports so as to avoid over-training in one area as I did at university.

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Boxing training made me fitter than ever and allowed me to start running again

After years and years of trial and error, better shoes, rehab and rest, I am finally getting to the point at which I can trust my body to run further than 5km without giving up. For years I’ve turned down opportunities to race in some amazing places for fear of putting myself out of action for months, and finally I think it’s coming to an end! I don’t want to jinx it but now I’m working with a coach (who is very aware of my history of injuries) and taking adequate time to activate muscles before each run (and rest properly afterwards), I’m feeling really positive about my journey ahead – it’s only just beginning!

My goals this year:

  • Finish Tokyo marathon with no injuries.
  • Complete a fell race
  • Bring my 5km personal best below 21 minutes
  • Bring my 10km personal best below 44:30 minutes
  • Run a half-marathon
  • Enjoy the journey!
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23km in the bag and no pain – a highlight of 2018

Social Media Consultancy

In this day and age it’s hard to get by as a new business without social media. Starting a new account or growing your current one can be a minefield, and without expert help you may not see the returns you expected from starting an account. My job is to help you navigate the various social media channels to feel confident running them and achieve greater brand awareness.

I started my own social media channels seven years ago, and have an in depth understanding of algorithms and brand awareness growth, especially on Instagram and Facebook. For 14 months I worked for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in their press office, running the social media accounts with over 20k twitter followers, and setting up the Instagram account to reach new audiences. I became project leader and social media consultant in the setup of Falcon, a centralised platform for all College social media accounts.  Now, working for myself, I am able to help more businesses improve their social media strategy for greater ROI.

Brands

I consult new and developing businesses on their social media accounts, from building an Instagram presence to driving traffic and sales via a website. Each channel has its own benefits, and I’m here to explain what these are and how to utilise each in the best possible way for your individual goals.

How it works

My consultancy is 100% personalised and takes place over 6 weeks, allowing you plenty of time to implement my advice and continue asking questions. To begin, we discuss your personal goals for your channels and why, before I complete an audit of each channel and its strengths and weaknesses. After this I send over a document with specific advice on how to get the most from each channel, and what works and what doesn’t work on your current accounts. We then meet/have a consultancy call to discuss any areas you might be struggling with and what is and is not feasible for you. At the end of the 6 weeks, I carry out a second audit of your channels to show where growth has occurred and where more growth is possible. At the end of a consultancy period, you have a personalised document detailing how best to grow your brand in exactly the ways you would like as well as in depth knowledge of how to run the accounts and grow them long into the future.

Bloggers

In addition to providing brands with social media help, I also assist bloggers/Instagrammers/YouTubers to grow their social media accounts. Whether the goal is to eventually set up a business, go full time or simply grow accounts at a faster rate, I provide expert advice on the best ways to do these things. Since there seems to be little transparent advice out there on how best to approach brands and monetise a blog, I am here to answer questions specific to your pages. I also provide media kits, which are an essential part of any blogger’s kit, providing brands with analytics and other channel information to show why you are the best person to work with on a particular campaign or gifting basis.

To enquire about consultancy, email florabeverley@gmail.com

Gingernut biscuits

I made falafels that ended up looking like ginger nut biscuits and then I wanted ginger nut biscuits so I had to make these. After looking at a few complicated recipes online, I decided just to make my own super easy recipe so here goes! These are the perfect mix of crunchy and chewy – enjoy!

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Ingredients

  • 50g vegan margarine
  • 150g muscovado (or dark Demerara) sugar
  • 25g vegetable oil
  • 100g wholemeal flour
  • 150g all purpose flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 3tsp ground ginger
  • 1tsp all spice
  • Dash almond/soya milk (around 1 – 2 tbsp)
  • White sugar, for rolling

Method

  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius and line a tray with baking parchment
  • Put all the dry ingredients (save for the white sugar) in a bowl and mix
  • Mix together the margarine, oil and muscovado sugar
  • With your fingers, mix the margarine/sugar mixture into the flour to form crumbs
  • Add a dash of milk (not too much!) until the mixture starts to stick together. It shouldn’t take more than 2tbsp milk to bind
  • Make walnut sized balls of mixture and roll in the white sugar. Place on the baking tray and press down with a fork.
  • Make sure the biscuits are placed evenly apart (they spread during cooking) and place in the oven. Cook for around 12 minutes (a little more if you like them very crunchy)
  • Once cooked, remove and leave to cool before eating. Enjoy!

 

Running essentials – supplements

Supplements are a bit of a contested issue, thanks to the flogging of many, many supplements that have no evidence of improving anything. Because supplements aren’t registered as drugs, they are often allowed to be sold even when they do not have any strong evidence of their effects, and are only removed if deemed unsafe. However, there are a few supplements (especially if you include sports supplements) that have some proven benefits, and others that are strongly recommended for certain groups of people. I try to stick with supplements that have proven benefits, although with sports supplements the evidence is usually a bit mixed, if if you’re looking to take something new make sure you’ve done your research!

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Some supplements are necessary if you live a certain lifestyle. Pic by Caylee Hankins.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is produced in our bodies when our skin is exposed to sunlight, but sometimes in northern latitudes (hello UK) the amount we can get during the day is not sufficient to keep reserves topped up. It is recommended that everyone in the UK (or further north) takes vitamin D to contribute to bone and muscle health. The darker your skin and the less sunlight your country gets, the more likely you are to be deficient in vitamin D. Supplements are not strictly necessary if you have a varied diet, but for me I find vitamin D supplement helpful, especially in winter! I also have a sun lamp that I use to work under in the morning. Don’t fancy supplements? Beanies have produced a coffee with vitamin D in it! Liquid sunshine 🙂

Iron 

Iron supplements have been recommended for people who choose a vegetarian or vegan diet, especially women. It is possible to get all the iron you need from these diets, but a supplement can help, especially if you are prone to anaemia. Foods such as pulses, nuts, left green vegetables, wholegrains and fortified cereals are high in iron. Even though I have a varied diet I find it helpful to take iron supplements to support my very active lifestyle.

B12

Vitamin B12 is a little contentious in the vegan community with some saying it can be found in adequate amounts in foods such as seaweed, and others saying vegans should definitely supplement their diets. Even according to the Vegan Society, “The only reliable vegan sources of B12 are foods fortified with B12 (including some plant milks, some soy products and some breakfast cereals) and B12 supplements”. Since the effects of chronic B12 deficiency are so severe (e.g. irreparable nervous system damage), I find it helpful to supplement with B12. Some plant based milks and cereals are fortified, but I’d rather be safe than sorry!

Beta-alanine

Not a vitamin supplement but a sport performance booster. Purported benefits include improving exercise capacity, building lean muscle mass and improving physical functions in the elderly. I swear by beta alanine in my shorter distance races and strength-based exercises, but only take it very infrequently. Read my post on sports supplements and the evidence behind them if you’re looking to try any!

Sleep supplement

After a busy day and late events, I often (always) find it very difficult to switch off and go to sleep. Even knowing I have to get up early doesn’t always deter me from staying up late. I started taking Motion Nutrition’s ‘Unplug’ supplement a couple of months ago and found a marked difference when taking it around 30 – 45 minutes before I wanted to sleep. I go into the ingredients and how they could be helpful in this post if you want to read up on the science behind it.

 

Knowledge is power.