A Flaky Confession

flaky

My psoriasis first flared up when I was 17. I was just about to take my AS levels when big, red, scaly patches appeared on my body, but the worst area by far was my scalp. The stress of my exams meant I even started picking and pulling at it, and along with skin I’d pull hair out, too.

It took me a while to go to the doctors but it was quickly diagnosed as psoriasis, and I was given steroidal creams to help with the scaling of my skin. Since then my skin has never been that bad – sure, I’ve had smaller flare-ups, but nothing like I was when I was 17 – but my scalp has always been an issue. The worst part? Over ten years later, I still pick it.

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LIFE: Be:Fit London 2015

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Be:Fit London is a yearly fitness festival which is focused on giving women everything they need for a healthy and happy lifestyle, be it workouts, food, or supplements. I missed out on a trip to Be:Fit last year due to work commitments so I was sure to book the day off this time, and I was so glad I did; early Saturday morning I made my way to London, worried that the train I’d booked home was quite late, but I arrived just after it opened at 10am and left as it was closing! There was certainly no need to worry about being stuck for things to do. I met so many awesome people, including blog friends Cantara from Gymbags & Gladrags and Natalie Johanna – plus found some new blogs to follow – and I got to try out too many different foods, workouts, and fitness gadgets than I could possibly write about, or even remember.

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LIFE: Get SMART About Goals

Setting tough but achievable goals is really important to me: it keeps me motivated to move forward and gives me a massive sense of achievement when they’re completed. However, after a goal has been hit – especially a big one, say, a marathon! – it can send you into a slump because you don’t know what to do next. Sometimes when sportspeople win the competition they’ve always dreamed of winning it can dishearten and confuse them, as when they’ve hit their greatest goal, what is there to accomplish then?

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LIFE: Rise & Rave

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Depending on which sources you pay attention to, either this Monday just gone or the one before it was Blue Monday, ie the gloomiest day of the year. Basically it’s the last Monday before January payday (it’s been six weeks since my last payday with Christmas in between, eek!) with the realisation that the cold, dark days aren’t going away any time soon.

Everyone feels low once in a while, and the lower you get, the more difficult it can be to get out of (Sidenote: if you feel numb, isolated, having difficulty eating or sleeping, losing concentration, and it’s more than a passing low mood, take a look at the Mind website and reach out to them for support). I had a touch of the post-Christmas blues and started to feel like everything I had to look forward to was really far away – like, will I ever not be a student?! – but as soon as the Reon Rise & Rave* was in my diary I was pumped for it. The thought of trying out something completely new and arriving at a rave at 6:30am excited and scared me in equal parts, but the promise of sunrise yoga, high-energy dancing and a nutritious breakfast sold the whole sober rave concept to me.

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Admittedly, without the complete dark of a club and the confidence-boosting alcohol that comes with it, it was difficult to get up onto the dancefloor. Clubbercise was absolutely rocking it though and it looked too fun not to join in, so Emma, Lizzy and I were among the first to get our groove on with our glowsticks. I’ve never done Clubbercise before and the class was great fun – it did strike me that I’m a pretty terrible dancer though, something I’d never realised before, potentially because you’re a lot less self-conscious when you’ve had a shandy or two. Being mindful of what I was doing made me enjoy it more though and aware of what I need to work on (um, other than ALL of my dance moves) so I’d love to go to Clubbercise again.

Just as we were grabbing our coats to head off to work the dancefloor was filling up with Clubbercisers, who had potentially taken advantage of the Reon caffeine strips that were being passed around. I’ll be giving mine to some of the guys at university who seem to take pleasure in staying up working the whole night before an essay is due in, so hopefully it will give them the energy to excel in their Masters!

It was a strange feeling, going into a tent in the dark then emerging, blinking into the light – that used to be every Saturday morning for me, though this time I was just high on Soulmatefood green juice and chia seed pudding. There was no hangover and I was able to go about my day with a spring in my step, smug in the knowledge that I’d had my fix of dance-related endorphins before most had even had their breakfast.

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LIFE: Fit in NYC

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For almost a year I managed to keep a secret from my boyfriend. Like, a huge secret. December 30th was his 30th birthday, and (I don’t mean to gush but) seeing as he has been so supportive of me over the past couple of years it was only fitting we did something very, very special. Though he knew we were going away it wasn’t until we reached the airport and had checked in he found out where he was going..

Morning of the 30th we flew to New York City. It was the first time either us had been and whilst at first I was overwhelmed by the hugeness of it all, I absolutely adored it; so much so I can easily see myself living there for a few years. Chris wanted to do some tourist things, so we did go up the Empire State, to the 9/11 memorial, and to various galleries and museums, but for me it was all about getting to know the local area and taking in the culture. We stayed on the lower West side, and I loved all the restaurants, coffee shops and stores that all had a health-focus. Food is always freshly-made with high-quality ingredients, with hot drinks crafted like they’re a work of art. We marveled at the deliciousness of all the food, then realised that when you’re competing with huge chains in somewhere as saturated as New York, you really do have to take your game to the highest level.

In fact, everything in the city that was tailored to locals was healthy. I was surprised to see so many Equinox gyms, as I thought it was a boutique, one-of-a-kind place, but it just goes to show just how big fitness is over there that it’s a huge chain in the city. Locals are clad mainly in Lycra and Asics, Brooks and Saucony running shoes, even in casual dress. I had to seek out juice bars, though when I found them they were always super busy, with people grabbing a post-workout juice and running off to work.

See why I want to live there so much?! Honestly, the bustle of the tourist areas was too much, but the individual villages within the city had a real sense of community and felt like home to me. I even made friends on our short trip, the best way I know how – running – which I’ll post about, and I also visited Strala Yoga, a studio I’d been excited about going to ever since the trip was booked.

Going through the images and writing about the city gave me some heartache as even after spending five days there I really miss it! Coming from someone who never wanted to move out of the North West, let alone England, that’s kind of a big deal. It gives me more motivation to keep working towards that opportunity that will see me living in a cute flat in Greenwich Village.

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LIFE: Fight a Cold.. Naturally!

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Getting a cold is utterly inconvenient. Smack bang in the middle of the season where we’re burning the candle at ALL of its ends (modern life’s candle obviously has at least four ends: work, training, friends, family.. I could go on) you’re struck down with a fuzzy head, snuffly nose and generally feeling like you’ve been hit by a bus. You soldier on and you’re physically present, but you feel and look so crappy you’re neither use nor ornament.

While there’s no fail-safe way of preventing a cold, there’s some measures you can take to reduce the spread of germs and ensure your immune system is firing on all cylinders. The easiest one is to simply wash your hands regularly; you unwittingly touch so many surfaces that others have touched, sneezed or coughed upon, then you go eat and touch your face. It’s not always possible to wash hands as often as we should, which is why I carry a mini antibacterial hand rub for after I’ve been on the tram or been shopping.

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I take zinc all year round to balance hormones, aid with muscle repair and for its antioxidants, but it’s especially important in winter as it helps elevate the immune system when attacked by viruses. I make sure I take echinacea through the winter months too; although there are few studies to prove its efficacy (however this one says you’re 65% less likely to catch a cold if you take it) it’s been used for hundreds of years to prevent colds, and I’ve not had a full-blown cold whilst using it – so that’s good enough for me! I’ve been taking Scitec’s Winter-X* supplement as it contains both zinc and echinacea, along with vitamin C. I’ve been taking one a day which is a nice change as echinacea I’ve taken previously needed numerous tablets a day to make up the dosage.

The World Ginger Association should probably employ me (is there a World Ginger Association? And if not, why not?!) for the amount I wax lyrical about ginger. I’ve spoken before about its benefits and also its amazing taste! I love drinking Pukka’s lemon, ginger and manuka honey tea for its soothing taste but it’s also adding to my immune system strengthening. Manuka honey is pretty excellent on its own too due to its antibacterial properties – I can’t afford the real thing at the moment but I feel a little bit is better than nothing! Use a tiny amount in smoothies, with muesli, in tea, or anywhere you’d normally use sugar. Garlic is another immune powerhouse that’s been shown to specifically prevent the common cold – I use it in every single meal. Just chuck two chopped cloves in the pan before everything else.

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I first picked the Pine & Honey Balsalm up from Holland & Barrett about a year ago and it has been repurchased quite a few times! I originally bought it when I was absolutely rotten with a cold, and after a few doses and a good kip I was feeling right as rain. Whenever I get those tell-tale warning signs of a cold I take a couple of spoonfuls, and as I said earlier I haven’t had a proper cold in ages. It’s likely to be a mixture of all the above elements so to me it’s worthwhile keeping them all up.

And if all this fails? Remember you are not a superhuman and take some time out! Most of us go to work through a cold so make sure you keep a couple of evenings free to do nothing and go to bed early. If I feel run down I have some very early nights to sleep – dosing up with Ibuprofen if necessary – to allow my body to repair itself. Take time off when you need to and ultimately you will bounce back faster and stronger!

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LIFE: Follow Your Passion

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I discussed how important it is to practise patience and trusting the process in my blog post, Practise Off The Mat. I wrote that on the seat of my pants, not really sure if I believed what I was typing, hoping that maybe it would manifest itself more once I hit “publish”. Better things are a-coming, I said.

What I was really thinking was a little more dark. I was rejected (ahem, was “second place”) from a job which I thought was my dream, working in the head office of a very large sportswear company. I put a lot into that interview and really thought it was my path, but turned out not to be – they wanted someone more focused on the fashion market than the sports market. After thinking that response through carefully, I realised that if that were the case, it wasn’t my dream job after all.

I began working in a sports store which is well-known for piling high, selling cheap, and having unpleasant staff, just for the money. I was miserable. Utterly, utterly miserable. The customers were surprisingly nice but I didn’t fit in with my colleagues, plus I was made to stand in one place for five hours at a time, either putting things through a till or stood at the front door making sure nobody nicked stuff. I am somebody who enjoys working but honestly, I went through some dark times working there, from whether I should just walk out mid-shift (I have never even entertained that thought in ten years in the workforce) to whether I should just stay working there for the rest of my life because I wasn’t good enough for anything else.

Thankfully, though it felt like years, I only worked there for three weeks. In that time I had the most amazing opportunity presented to me: a sports store in town was in the process of transitioning from a men’s-only football store to a women’s-led running and training store. I squealed with excitement when I was phoned for an interview. At the same time, I finally finished my Bachelor’s degree with a First and was accepted into a Sports Marketing and Business Management Masters degree at UCLan.

I got the job and it is by far the best job I have ever had. I love talking to women like me who love to run and train like I do, and sharing anecdotes and tips.. I love talking to women not like me even more, learning another point of view and what drives them to workout. I also started my Masters degree last week, and whilst my brain was frazzled from information overload, I’m really excited about the prospect of learning to such a high level and proving my abilities.

So. Everything I said about trusting the process, which I might-have-maybe-perhaps not entirely believed when I wrote it – I do believe now. All the good that has come to me has come from my hard work and my passion. A further bit of wisdom I’d like to add something else after floundering around after my degree, not entirely sure what I should be doing or even what I wanted to do: if you don’t know your calling, go after your passion. Trust me. I’m proof that it works – and if it doesn’t? Well, you’ve spent your time doing something you love anyway.

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