Sunday, 20 September 2015

Ode to Britney

A wise woman (okay it was Britney Spears) once said, "I'm not a girl, not yet a woman" and that's exactly how I feel about my wardrobe right now. I look at some of my little skater dresses and tulle skirts and feel way too old for them, but then I look at my pencil skirts and heels and just don't quite feel there yet. I'm feeling a bit stuck to be honest. I look back to what I consider my "blogging heyday" of autumn 2011 and I try to get myself inspired by those old outfits when I used to try so hard, when I used to wear ridiculous heels to walk to uni and I don't feel like that is me either.
Yesterday we had a family meal. It wasn't a big fancy affair. Just a carvery meal with my extended family and a few drinks but I wanted to look nice. I ended up pulling about 20 items out of my wardrobe. Jones and Jones dresses that felt too short and too young for during the day, though I once wore them with converse in the summer without batting an eyelid. Fancy fitted dresses which felt more date night than afternoon roast. Pencil skirts and blazers that made me look like I was going to a job interview. My patterned trousers that I remembered I wore last time I saw my extended family.
Truth be told, I'm living in jeans and jumpers at the moment and rotating the same few dresses at the weekends and when I have evening plans. Living in an expensive flat in the centre of town means I don't have the money nor the inclination to spend all the money I used to on new clothes all the time. It feels like a waste when I know at 7.55am when I need to leave the house I won't be bothered to plan outfits like I used to. 
I've got a taste for "grown-up" shops like Oasis and Warehouse, but I don't yet have the "grown-up" salary I need to shop their often. 
And this isn't just about clothes. I feel like this in a lot of my life. On a good day I feel like living in our flat is just like playing house. On a bad day I just don't want to adult. At work I constantly feel I have no idea what I'm doing, but I'm only four weeks away from my boss going on maternity leave and being left to run the marketing team on my own. I see people my age on Facebook getting engaged, getting married and having kids and I think oh my god we are so not there yet. I'm just a kid.
I sometimes have to take a double take when I realise I'm 25. How on earth did this happen? How was my year abroad five years ago? My graduation 3 years ago? What have I done in that time?
Anyway. There is a point here, I promise. 
This dress is one of the things that's been a go-to throughout this period of transition. It's just about wearable for work (my office is very casual), I've worn it to drinks, I've worn it on a night out, I've worn it during the day.
If I'm honest, it was a little out of my comfort zone, but after I got some lovely comments on this post I decided I should embrace dresses that are a little more... form fitting. This one isn't quite as clinging as the one in my previous post (I'm still too scared to wear it out of the house!) but I feel like it's a good mix of young print and more grown-up style.
dress - c/o House of Fraser
necklace - River Island
shoes - ASOS
leather jacket - Boohoo
Another problem of this weird transition is shoes. I have short, stumpy legs that only heels can elongate but as I've gotten older I've started to really resent wearing heels. I'm impatient and hate impracticality so wearing heels just stresses me out. But when I want to wear things like pencil skirts and dresses like this I never feel comfortable in ballet flats. I bought these shoes a few weeks ago (and a near-identical nude pair) in the hope that they would be a kind of in-between shoe - flat for comfort but pointy to not make me look too stumpy. So far I think they've been a pretty good happy medium so far. Plus they were £12.
We're off to Spain on Thursday and it cannot come fast enough. I am so ready for a break. My parents' apartment seems to be the only place where I can truly relax because there's nowhere I need to go, nothing I need to see because I've been coming since I was 14. It's the only place where I can start to slowly tune down my "Charlotte-isms", but I'm sure it will still take me a few days to truly relax. Last year was one of the best holidays I can remember, so I'm looking forward to it so much. Plus with Phil having been before now my Mum, Dad and I won't be spending the whole time showing him around!
I hope you're having a lovely Sunday. I went out this morning for my last super-long run before the Great Birmingham Run in 4 weeks. With going on holiday for a week, and then going on a hen do for the weekend straight after, I'm going to be away for two Sundays, so I did my last 12 mile run today, with the plan to just do a few long-ish runs between now and the race. I'm actually really excited for the race and my run this morning felt really great (though I'm pretty sore now!) so I'm hoping losing 10 days of running won't be too much of a problem (I am taking my trainers to Spain but I think it will be too hot to run). I'm spending the rest of the day listening to the football, making a roast dinner and curling up with a film tonight.

Hope your weekend is going well!

Charlotte x

Monday, 14 September 2015

Reasons to be down vs. reasons to be cheerful.

My friend Riven sent me this today when I was feeling down and it was perfect and exactly what I needed to hear

I've been struck with the ol' comparing-myself-to-other-people curse today.
And I was going to write one of my old mopey posts that I've written over and over again about comparing myself to other people and wanting to do everything and being too hard on myself.
And then I thought no. I've had my time today to wallow in self-pity and now I'm going to pull myself out and celebrate the little joys and victories. I'm going to turn all those reasons for being down into reasons to not be down.
(Is this even more self-absorbed? I couldn't work it out).

So the first, and often, reason why I'm down...

1. I want to do everything... and I can!
This weekend is a perfect example. It was my friend Becca's birthday on Saturday and she'd planned a meet-up and a night out in Birmingham. Annoyingly, it also fell on the same day as our friend Rosie's leaving do. 
I spent a lot of time feeling down and getting frustrated about this. I wanted to do everything, as I always do. But I also want to fit my Sunday long run in. And I also wanted to do my usual Sunday life admin (food shopping, washing, food prep etc.)
But I compromised. And it was great.
I went down to Birmingham, had lunch with the girls and then headed back to Manchester where I went out for a few drinks for Rosie's and was in bed by 12.30am. I got to catch up with my friends and still go to Rosie's, and I got an early enough night that I could do everything I wanted to do on Sunday.
I hate the fact that I usually have to compromise but I'm starting to realise that the reason I end up compromising is because I've chosen to do all of these things. Of course I'm going to miss the odd night out with marathon training, but that's because I want to do a marathon. If I want to have good, healthy dinners for the week I need to get the food shopping and the food prep done. Sometimes it's just a case of prioritising. But that's another issue entirely.
Plus this is a really stupid reason to be down! I was down because I had lots of people who wanted to see me - that's awesome! I really shouldn't be down about having too many awesome friends.

2. I get envious when people are better at running than me... but look how far I've come!
Two years ago this week I ran my first-ever 10K. My time was 1 hour 10 (which remained my best 10K time for over a year!). Two months ago I ran a 10K in 58:08. 
Before Christmas my 5K PB was 32:12. Now it's 27:47.
I just found an Instagram of my first mile under 10 minutes, which was on Boxing Day last year. 
On Saturday I ran 5 mile training run at a pace of 9:44/mile.
I ran my first half marathon last year in 3 hours. My goal time for my next race is 2:20 - and it's looking pretty certain I'm going to finish much quicker than that.
I forget these things. I forget how hard I've trained and how far I've come. I always say one of the things I love about running is that I'm only ever competing with myself, but it would be a lie if I said I never compare myself to other people. 
Sometimes I have to shut everyone else out and remember how far I've come.

3. Other people are better at running/blogging/cooking/their jobs etc. than me... but I do a lot of things!
I have an endless list of things that other people are better than me at. But I came to realise that this is because I do a lot of things! I work full time, I'm training for a marathon, I run this blog, I'm in a charity choir, I cook dinner every single night, I run a household.
I think when I look at other people I only look at one or two of their strengths, and it's not fair to compare when I split my time between so many things.
I remember this standing out particularly when Katie wrote this lovely piece on her favourite bloggers and she highlighted that I was the only one on her list who worked full time. Now there's nothing wrong with blogging full time, but how can I compare my blog with someone who has 8 hour days to work on theirs? And at the same time how can I compare my career with someone who isn't training for a marathon, or in a choir, or running a blog?

4. I always want to do more and better... because I'm a very driven person
I get annoyed with myself for always putting pressure on myself to do more, do better, get faster, learn more, use my time better. And I drive myself crazy and exhaust myself and make myself feel terrible. But it's this drive, this passion, this ambition that gets me up at 5am to go for a run. It's this drive that gets me to sign up for races. And it's this drive that people tell me they admire me for. And that's awesome.

5. People don't always put the truth on social media... but I do!
I have this complete inability to not be myself. I'm stressy and anxious and loud and talkative and emotional and I don't hide my feelings well and I don't know how to not share that. On my Instagram you'll see times when I was too tired to run, times when the oven broken in the middle of making a roast dinner, times when I had to go buy an emergency chocolate bar amongst pictures of kale salads. I'm human and I share that. But I know not everyone does and I forget that sometimes. I forget that a lot of people are just sharing the nice pretty things in their life. And that's okay! But sometimes I compare my life in pictures to theirs and it's not a fair comparison.

6. I'm always comparing myself to other people... but so is everyone else
Knowing I'm not the only one who does this makes me feel way better. Hell, I'm sure there are people who read my social updates and look on my Instagram and compare themselves to me! (Although I really hate the idea of making other people feel inadequate, so if that happens, go read this post and all my other whiny ones where I post about comparing myself to other people). The reason there are so many quotes about how terrible comparison is is because we all do it. But all we can do is wallow in self pity for a while, then pick ourselves back up and count our blessings.

I know this was a bit self-obsessed but I hope it helped even a little bit for anyone else who is feeling like they are always spending their life comparing themselves to other people. Writing this felt way better than wallowing in self-pity and then writing a whiny blog post!

How can you turn your negative comparisons into positive ones?

Charlotte x

Monday, 7 September 2015

#StayFitDontQuit

Last week, I went to my first-ever fitness class.
I don't know if this is a bit surprising - fitness is a huge part of my life - but I'm very much a solo-exerciser and even though I've always loved the idea of fitness classes, I've mentioned before that I've never really had a proper gym membership so I've always stuck to running and a spectrum of workout DVDs.

I am truly terrible at cross-training though. I'm a bit all-or-nothing when it comes to fitness. I'm either ALL THE WORKOUT DVDS or ALL THE RUNNING and even though Wednesday morning is my official cross-training day, I quite often skip it (I KNOW I KNOW) in favour of sleeping or running. (But usually sleeping...)

But a few weeks ago Get the Label got in touch about their #StayFitDontQuit campaign, which is all about maintaining motivation for fitness and health after the summer. I really love the idea of this campaign because I hate the concept of a "bikini body" and "getting fit for summer". Bleurgh. To me, fitness a year-long, life-long process. I don't run to look a certain way, I run to push myself, to challenge myself and to get faster and stronger. I don't just run for the sake of running - I run because I'm always training, always working towards my next goal. I think fitness is about fun but also about balance. I think fitness should be about finding something you truly enjoy and making that a part of your every day life, not forcing yourself to slog away at the gym when you hate it. So this campaign is perfect for me because it's not about just being motivated to exercise because you're going on a beach holiday and want to look good on the photos for Facebook, even if you've hated every minute of the time in the gym you felt you needed to look a certain way, but about staying fit and happy long term. I also interpret the "don't quit" as meaning, hey, don't be too hard on yourself - there is no giving up, it's all about long-term gains. Enjoy that meal out with your friends or that takeaway pizza or that scoop of delicious ice cream. You can't quit because there's nothing "to" quit.

Anyway, I digress. 

Get the Label signed me up for a month of Bikram Yoga classes at Bikram Yoga Manchester and got me all kitted out:
leggings - c/o Get the Label
trainers - c/o Get the Label

And sent me off of my merry way.
Now, real talk. I had never been to a proper yoga class before, yet alone a Bikram yoga class. Okay I went to yoga a few times back in about 2003 in a church hall but all I remember was constantly falling asleep at the end when they told you to relax. I swear I read the page "your first class" on the Bikram Manchester page at least 15 times before the class, but I was nervous and excited and all kinds of scared.
Because Bikram Yoga is 90 minutes long, I had to go after work, which is a bit weird for me because I normally exercise in the morning. Their only morning class was 6.45am but I start work at 8am, so I went to the 5.30pm class. The website said to arrive 20-30 minutes before your first class, so I started work early so I could finish early and get there in plenty of time.

When I got there, I met Aliza, who was actually teaching my class, and we spoke for about 15 minutes while I filled out my forms. She explained how the class was going to work, what to expect and she loaned me a towel. She was absolutely lovely and I instantly felt at-ease. Once I'd taken off my shoes and gotten changed I decided to go into the studio to get myself used to the heat a bit.

WHOOSH the heat hits you like getting off an aeroplane in Spain. In the first five minutes I wasn't sure if I was going to make it through the class. Aliza had explained that it doesn't matter if you want to take lots of breaks so long as you stay in the room.

Lots of people were lying on the floor on their mats so I decided to do that for a bit. And then I felt a bit weird and uncomfortable so I sat up.

When Aliza came in she was wearing a microphone and explained that she wouldn't actually be doing the poses, but simply talking us through them. She also introduced myself and another newbie to the rest of the class before we got started.

I have to admit, during the warm up I thought, this isn't for me. I was struggling to get used to breathing only through my nose (breathing through your mouth can make you feel strange in the heat) and Aliza had to remind me once or twice to close my mouth. I've always found yoga dull and boring and throughout the warm up I just thought "nah, I'll do this once and that will be it."

But once the class got started I was honestly surprised.

I am incredibly inflexible, but I found I was able to do all of the poses, and Aliza explained some progressions for the novice members, but encouraged beginners to stick to the first pose. While I was tired a few times throughout the poses, I didn't need to lie down and have a break once! Even in a class of 30+ Aliza was very encouraging to myself and the other newbie and came over a few times to tell me I was doing okay!

By the last 10-15 minutes I was feeling pretty worn out, so I was relieved when the 90 minute class was over.

Oh and I was disgusting.

TMI, but I don't really sweat lots when I exercise, but I was absolutely gross. Which I found more funny than anything else.

I know it's a bit of a cliche, but I really did feel great afterwards!

The next day I was sore - too sore to run - but it was I've-had-a-great-workout sore, not oh-my-god-I-can't-move sore.

Would I do it again? I definitely want to go again during these 30 days, but while I enjoyed Bikram, it doesn't really fit in with my running plan - it's too expensive to only go to a class once a week or so, and I was too sore the next day to run which was a bit counter-productive (but I'm sure if you go often that goes away!). Plus I think personally, I would get bored after a few classes as they follow the same structure each time, and I like a bit more variety. However, I would definitely recommend trying it for 30 days - they encourage you to go every day for 30 days but with a race only 5 weeks away that wasn't realistic for me! 

It was really great to try something new when it comes to fitness, and I would definitely do it again in the future. Thanks, Get the Label!

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Another trip to Whitby


When you tell people you're going on holiday with your boyfriend, his parents, his little sister, oh and your parents too, there are two reactions. One is, oh my god, are you crazy? The other is wow, you are so lucky.
And we really are. While we didn't get a photo of all seven of us together on the trip, we all had the best best time. We did things together, we did things apart. Dinner at the Magpie with Phil, Suzie and my Mum and Dad. A boat trip the five of us. Catching up, all seven of us, over coffee and cake. A bus tour with my Mum and Dad while Phil and his family went to watch Whitby Town FC. Dracula walk with Phil and my parents. Arcades with Phil and Suzie while my parents went for a walk. All of us eating dinner and watching a terrible play. It was perfect.
And we are so, so lucky. Not just that my parents like Phil, but that they adore him. Not just that I get on with Phil's family, but consider them my family. We are both real family people so it means the world to us that our families have grown. When I speak to people who say they've only met their partner's family a few times, I realise how lucky we both our to have the kind of relationship where we can go on holiday with both sets of parents.
Whitby was beautiful, as always. Fish and chips were as delicious as last year. Most of the sights and smells and fun was the same, but this time we were reminiscing about last year and bringing my parents along too.
Here's to next year's trip to Whitby!