Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Lucky Number 13 (.1): Run Hackney Half Marathon done!

If you’re friends with me on Facebook or Instagram you may have noticed that over the last 8 weeks I’ve been in training for the Run Hackney half marathon. (Apologies to all my friends for the over-sharing of my sponsorship page, but it’s all for the kids so thank you for putting up with me!).  

Before I signed up to the half marathon I was a casual jogger – yes, I enjoyed jogging 3-5 miles at least 3 times a week and was pretty religious about it, but never did I have the urge to go any further. I’d hit 5 miles and that was more than enough for me! But on returning from India I was visiting my good friends in the Street Child United offices (that’s the NGO that I used to work for in my pre-yoga teacher life), and two of my former colleagues said they were running the Hackney half alongside some of their wonderful supporters and somehow they convinced me to sign up too (thanks guys!). I think it must’ve been down to a combination of being high-on-life and feeling invincible having only just returned from India, and also not being able to say “no” to anything related to raising funds and awareness for Street Child.  Either way, I’d signed up and there was no turning back! (Especially since my sister swiftly decided to sign up too, there was most definitely no backing out after that!).


Street Child United half marathon team

So my 8-week training plan began! I kept 2-3 shorter runs in my weekly routine, and as advised by many-a half marathon training plan, began to include one longer, slower run each week. The first time I went on my longer, slower run I estimated that I managed about 7 miles, but I'd totally guessed the distance and didn't really track the time so for the next one I decided that it was time to download the Nike+ App. 

Over the weeks I gradually added a mile or two to my longer run and surprised myself at my ability to keep going no matter how much pain I was in! It really is true that these types of events are mind over matter...aside from one week where I was aiming for 11 miles and ended up running 6 and walking 3 before giving up due to major dehydration (oops!). It was lunchtime on the hottest day of the year so far and I'd very cleverly not taken any water with me - big lesson learnt! Despite this minor setback in the penultimate week before the race I ran a steady 13.5 miles, so I felt confident that I could at least finish on the big day!

For 3 weeks before the race I'd been relatively careful with my diet (cutting down on carbs and upping my protein intake) and had pretty much given up alcohol (I had one small glass on wine and one prosecco during that time, so I don't think they really count, right?); so how did I prepare the night before the big race? With a massive calzone and two pints of Peroni of course! I'm not sure how wise this move was, but I was having dinner with some of my fellow half marathoners and we were having too much of a nice time not to. That being said, I didn't manage to get a wink of sleep that night and I'm still not sure if it was the nerves or the dough baby in my tummy!

Nevertheless on the morning of the race I was up and ready to go along with my sister and a fellow Street Child team member. The start and finish of the Hackney Half was the Hackney Marshes, which was a pretty perfect location as we got to run through part of the Olympic Village (no, it didn't make me feel like an athlete unfortunately as this was mile 11-12 and I was bloody knackered by then!), and it offered a nice grassy area to prepare for the race in. It was all very well organised and the atmosphere was great - my only criticism would be that massive queue for the loos from 45mins before the race; it meant that 3 of us from the team had to wee in the bushes (I'm so sorry Hackney, but needs must!). 

As we were fairly near the back of the race line up we didn't end up starting until 20mins after the official start time, but once we were off it was a great feeling! The first 3 miles we all stuck together and ran pretty quickly (we were averaging about 9mins per mile), but between 3-4 we spread out a bit and began to find our own paces, so before long I was going at it alone. This is where the wonderful people of Hackney come in - they were out in force on Sunday and were incredible sideline supporters; they offered water, jelly babies, oranges, high-fives and lots of cheering, and they really did help to keep us all going. Thank you to everyone who came to support us - we couldn't have done it without you!

The weather on Sunday was hotter and sunnier than I'd anticipated and so the regular water stops were very much appreciated. After mile 5 I decided that I wasn't going to just drink the water but I was going to tip it all over my head too! By this point I looked like a sweaty, wet, hot mess but I just had to keep reminding myself why I was doing it...it's all for the kids! 

I hit 'the wall' somewhere between 9 and 10, but by that point I felt like I was so close to the end and just couldn't stop running. So I powered through and things did get slightly easier as I passed mile 11 - I think it was the thought of the pub lunch we had planned that made me run that little bit faster. I saw a few friendly faces at mile 12 (thank you ladies!) and from then on I just kept pushing on, knowing that the finish line was very much within reach. Coming round the final corner I did my best attempt at a sprint (?!) finish and clocked the time on my Nike+ App as 2 hours 13 mins. 

My first thought was rather embarrassingly that I needed to find the loo asap (there's a bit of a theme going on here!), and I don't think it had really set in just yet that I'd actually finished. After the deed was done I went to find my fellow Street Child United runners and they'd all finished and had done an amazing job. My incredible sister got 2 hours 0 mins 47 seconds for her very first half marathon! What an absolute star! 
YAY! We've done it!

We were all absolutely delighted that we'd finished (and that it was now time for a burger in the pub), but more importantly that together we'd raised over £6,000 for Street Child United. They work tirelessly to spread the message that each and every child deserves the right to dream and the opportunity to pursue their dreams. Street Child United provides a platform for street children to be heard and for their rights to be realised. We couldn't be more honoured to be raising money for such an incredible cause. 

It's been humbling to see so many amazingly generous people donate to our JustGiving page - someone very close to me made an incredible donation of £150, you know who are - thank you! And just the other day we had an anonymous donor give £500!!! I couldn't believe it and we have no idea who you are, but THANK YOU. So far we've raised just over £1,150! There are some wonderful people in this world and together we can help to ensure that no child should have to live on the streets. 

If you haven't yet and you'd still like to make a donation to our JustGiving page then we would be very grateful. 

On the back of our running vests were the words "I am Somebody". It's the message that the children, Street Child United, and their partner projects want the world to hear. One of my amazing fellow runners said "Yes, yes you are. You are Somebody" as they ran past me, and it really spurred me on. Hearing those words said to me made me feel as if I really was Somebody. And that's how each and every child on this planet should feel. Let's continue to ensure that the message spreads. They are Somebody. You are Somebody. I am Somebody. 

At the end of the day it really wasn't about the race, or times, or athletic ability - it was about coming together to support a cause that we all care deeply about, and about showing street children that there are people in the world who care about them. Please head to the Street Child United website if you'd like to find out more.

And the final question: would I do it again? On the day I said definitely not (on the way around the course I was cursing myself for even doing it once!), but finishing was a great feeling...and by Tuesday I'd already recovered enough to go for a run...

So don't forget: You are Somebody, and You can do Something. 

Namaste, 

Love Lucy x

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Connection has been lost. Please try again later.

Who am I? What am I doing? How did I get here? Where am I going?

Sound familiar? If you're like me in anyway, you'll ask these questions of yourself on a frighteningly regular basis. Of course, it is essential for us to ask these questions of ourselves from time-to-time; it keeps us from standing still, encourages us to keep moving forwards, and is a good way of checking in - but if you find that you're asking these questions a little too often then you may have lost connection with yourself.

Sounds silly, doesn't it? How can one lose connection with oneself? Surely we are automatically connected to ourselves? But in my experience that isn't so. Our relationship with ourselves requires as much (if not more) work than any other significant relationship in our lives. Sadly, losing connection with oneself is a common phenomenon - one which is only spreading as the demands of modern day life increase - and I can almost guarantee that you'll have fallen victim to it at some point in your life.


Have you ever been through a whole day and then when you hit the pillow wondered what you've actually done with your time? Have you ever gone to chat to your partner about your week and totally blanked when it came to remembering what you did just yesterday? Have you gone a whole week without exercising or taking time to yourself simply because other things have got in the way? (Beginning to see where I'm going with this?) Well, if the answer to any of these questions is "yes" then you will have experienced that disconnection that I'm trying to explain.

It's very easily done with the delights, stresses, and strains that come with life in the 21st century. There are so many different people, passions and options to distract, entertain and consume us. It's a wonder many of us even find the time to sleep each night (well, most of us don't even get enough of that). And actually it's incredibly easy to lose oneself amongst all the madness of modern day life. But from personal experience when I lose connection with myself and how I'm really doing under all the layers, that's when I begin to shake and to feel unsteady in myself and what I'm doing. Do you know that feeling?

If you do then please don't freak out - you are not lost forever, you simply need to take some time to spend time with yourself, to look after yourself, and to reconnect with your inner being. From experience here are a few tips to rediscovering that connection to yourself:

1. Accept where you are. You are where you are and you can't change it in this exact moment. What you can do is to accept it and to make a decision as to what you're going to do next.

2. Be kind to yourself. Don't be hard on yourself for where you are. You've obviously been busy, there's been a lot going on, and you just haven't made yourself a priority. See this as an admirable quality in yourself: it's good to be busy and to be concerned with others. But now it's time to tag-out for a bit and to give yourself some well-deserved love; so be kind, be gentle and be patient.

3. Schedule time to just "be you". Whether this is going for a walk, sitting quietly to meditate, listening to some calming music, doing some gentle exercise - just be sure to schedule in the time and to stick to it. You need this time to be quiet, to reflect on what's been going on, and to start reconnecting with yourself. For me, I find the most effective way of reconnecting with myself is getting on my mat and doing a really slow, gentle yoga practice, followed by some quiet meditation time. But that's how I do it, and you'll do it differently, and that's just fine - find out what works for you and go with it it.


4. Assess how you lost connection with yourself. By assessing how you lost connection with yourself you can make sure that if it begins to happen again you'll be able to spot the red flags, take some time out, and prevent losing that connection again. 

5. Make small adjustments to your routine. So your reasons for losing connection probably involve being too busy, taking on too much, and not taking time for yourself. Take a step back and re-prioritise what is important in your life and what you can cut down. It's very likely there'll be small changes you can make that will allow you to prioritise "You" again. Be sure to make some time for yourself at least every few days (ideally you'll find at least 10 minutes in each day where you can just be with yourself, but this won't always be possible). Sit quietly with a cup of tea, do some gentle stretching, practice some mindfulness. Just do something that allows you to zone out of the world around you and to point your gaze inwards. 

So if you identified with those questions at the beginning then I hope you can find some time to follow these basic steps, to reconnect with yourself, and to show yourself some love. 

Last Saturday I based my yoga class around connecting with the self and encouraged my students to focus on small things: the pace and depth of their breath, scanning their bodies for any tension, and connecting their thumbs with their sternum to feel the connection to their hearts. These are all really simple physical things that you can do to help connect mind, body and breath. If you want to find out more about how yoga can help you to be connected to yourself then either send me a message, or, if you live near Ascot (Berkshire, UK), then please do come along to my classes on Saturday mornings, 10-11am, in Cheapside Village Hall, £8 per person. This week the class will be based on accepting where you are so that you can build up from there. 

So my message for today is be connected to you. You are important. Know yourself, spend time with yourself, love yourself. If you lose that connection then don't panic, take a breath and take some time. You're in there and you're not going anywhere, just invest in yourself and you'll be calm and confident in who you are and where you are.

Namaste y'all!

Love Lucy x

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Strawberry, Cashew & Coconut Bliss Balls

To me being Beautifully Healthy most definitely involves treating yourself from time-to-time. And it’s even better when those treats are homemade and (dare-I-say-it) good for you… These little Strawberry, Cashew & Coconut babies are the perfect treat for weekends, with a cup of green tea, post-work out, or for no reason at all other than they taste insanely good. Seriously, they are delicious (my boyfriend will confirm that if anyone has any doubts!), and they’re also full of energy, super quick to make, no-bake, and only require 6 ingredients! So whatcha waiting for? Grab the ingredients and get whizzing!



Ingredients:

1 cup of cashew nuts
½ cup of dried strawberries
6-8 sticky dates (preferably medjool as they’re super sticky!)
Vanilla extract
Sea salt
Desiccated coconut

Method:

1. Use a blender to grind up the cashew nuts so that they’re almost like a powder…
2. Add the dates to the cashews and blend some more…
3. Add the vanilla extract, sea salt and dried strawberries and blend again!
4. Once all of the ingredients are properly mixed together roll them into a ball size of your choice and roll in desiccated coconut
5. Pop them in the fridge to harden slightly (or straight into your mouth!)
6. Enjoy the nutty, strawberry, coconut goodness feeling guilt-free and utterly content! 

I found this amazing little recipe on Pinterest via the betterwithcake.com blog, and the original recipe uses freeze dried strawberries instead of normal dried strawberries. I’m sure her way is better, however I’ve not yet been able to find freeze dried strawbs in any supermarkets or health stores near me so went ahead and used the normal ones. As far as I’m concerned the recipe still works with the normal dried ones, although I think they’re a little stickier than they would be with freeze dried ones, hence I decided to roll mine in desiccated coconut to reduce the stickiness and also because I freakin’ love coconut with almost anything!

So this weekend if there’s one treat you whip up in the kitchen why not try these little balls of bliss? I can guarantee that you won’t be disappointed!

Namaste y’all!

Love Lucy x

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Namaste y'ALL: Yoga is for EVERYONE :)


So you may have noticed that I quite like yoga. I teach yoga, I write about yoga, I practice yoga (almost) daily, yoga-related pictures can easily be found on my Instagram feed, and I follow more yoga pages on Facebook than I can even begin to count! 

Yoga is seriously awesome and there are many reasons why I love it so much. But I am conscious of the fact that on paper I'm a pretty stereotypical yogini: 20-something, western, middle-class, and female. So who am I to start preaching about yoga being for everyone? Well it's a good question, but I don't much care for it.  I strongly believe in yoga being for everyone, and just because I fit into the yoga "stereotype" doesn't mean that that's how I want it to stay. In my world there would be no yoga stereotype as everyone would feel able to practice if they wanted to, and I'm going to try to dispel a few myths and to articulate why it is for everyone in this little post and why we should all give it a go. No excuses accepted!


MYTH 1: Yoga is for girls

Figures show that nowadays yoga is more widely practiced by women than it is by men. However traditionally in India it was a male-only practice; females weren't allowed anywhere near it. So it could be argued that it's a practice which is actually more suited to the male form. 

Yoga (particularly styles such as Ashtanga, rocket, and Vinyasa) is a practice that requires strength, focus, and commitment; each of these requirements is totally genderless, and we could all do with more of them on and off the mat. Furthermore yoga is scientifically proven to have all sorts of health benefits such as reduced stress levels, improved cognitive function, helping to maintain a healthy weight, lower blood pressure, and increased sexual function. So gents, if you're looking for an activity that boosts brain power and has all sorts of physical benefits then join those ladies in the yoga studio! And if you need any further persuasion, I can promise with my hand-on-heart that a regular yoga practice will boost your athletic performance in any other sport you practice: Shaquille O'Neal, LeBron James, the New Zealand national Rugby team, Tom Brady and Ryan Giggs all practice yoga to support their games - need I say more?

MYTH 2: I'm too young / old for yoga

See above for the mental and physical benefits of yoga. No matter what our age it's never too early or too late to begin to take care of ourselves that little bit more and to invest some self-love into our routines. 

Nowadays many schools are actually incorporating yoga classes into their extra curricular activities, and yoga for children is a sector that's growing rapidly. My four-year old cousin practices alongside my Aunty to their yoga DVD and he can already perform a better tree pose than I can! He genuinely enjoys it and you can tell that it's something which captures his concentration - no mean feat when you're a toddler! 

Equally, at the other end of the spectrum, if you can still breathe then it's never too late to take up yoga. Of course as we reach the latter years of our lives our bodies won't quite be able to do what they could when we were young, however yoga is an eight-limbed practice: the physical practice is only one of these limbs. Look for a yoga class that is designed for the older generation and one where the teacher is accommodating for any modifications that might be required. These practices will tend to focus more on the breathing and meditation side of yoga, two very important aspects for any yoga practitioner at any age. 

MYTH 3: Yoga is too expensive

It's true that many yoga classes are now at least £10+ for just one session, and many of us can't afford this pricey sum each week. But just because cash is tight doesn't mean that you can't practice yoga. You don't even need to invest in a mat if you don't want to (although if you're in the UK they can be found for a fiver at Sports Direct ;)). 

For the first six months of my yoga love affair I didn't spend a single penny on practice, and yet I was practicing 3 times a week. And how did I do that I hear you say? Good old YouTube videos and free apps is the answer to that question! Do be careful when finding online tutorials; as a beginner you'll be unlikely to know what is safe practice. But I can highly recommend the YouTube videos of Esther Ekhart as she is clear, concise, and concerned with correct alignment. When learning I also used a free app called "Simply Yoga FREE" which gives you 6 different yoga practices, over 20 mins, 40 mins and 60 mins. If you are doing the majority of your practice at home I would suggest trying to go to one class every month, just to check in with a teacher to ensure that you are practicing safely, and also to connect with other yogis who may want to come and join you in your living room or in the park to shake up your yoga practice and to keep it fresh. 

My other tip would be to shop around for deals on sites such as Wowcher, as studios will often offer introductory offers that are affordable. 

MYTH 4: Yoga is for fully able-bodied practitioners

One of the reasons I love yoga so much is that you can adapt your practice completely to your ability, your strength, your feelings. This is the same for EVERYONE - able bodied and disabled practitioners alike. Don't let your disability hold you back as there are always modifications and different styles of yoga that you can try. 

It might be the case that you want to specifically find a yoga class that is designed to accommodate for disabilities, in which case they are out there so all you've got to do is a quick Google session to find the ones near you. Or it may even be worth investing in a few sessions with a private teacher who will be able to work with you one-on-one and guide you to find a practice which suits you most. 

MYTH 5: You've got to be flexible to do yoga

You wouldn't believe how many times I've heard the phrase: "Oh but I'm not flexible enough to do yoga". Come on guys. Really? A) Yoga isn't just about flexibility (the only thing that you're required to have is a flexible mind), and B) It's very unusual to be naturally gifted at something straight away without any practice whatsoever. 

How many times did you have to practice reading before you could complete a whole book? How many times did it take you to perfect your cupcake baking skills? How many times did you fall off your bike when you were learning to ride it? You get my gist. Now get on the mat and stop being so silly. 


So hopefully I've demystified some of the myths around yoga and you'll feel more encouraged to get on the mat and give it a go. Ultimately yoga is about connecting with yourself and loving yourself, and in turn you'll connect more meaningfully with others and with the world around you. If you ask yourself honestly, who doesn't want that? So go on, give it a go, you might just change your life ;)

Namaste y'all! <3

Love Lucy x