The Path to Pole

I know this is a running blog and all, but it occurred to me that I mention very little about my other favourite fitness: the dance of the pole. Or pole dancing as most normal people call it. So as well as running, over the next few weeks I’ll do some posts on pole to shed some light on this sport.

 

My love affair with pole dancing began in March 2007 when I was a fresh-faced young professional finally earning my own money. I had been a student for what felt like forever, and now with (a little) money to burn I was loving being able to spend it on what I wanted.

 

One of the girls in my office decided that we should all do an 8-week beginner pole course – what better thing to spend my new money on than a frivolous new activity? So we all trooped to the studio filled with anticipation, excitement and a little fear. ‘You know you’re probably going to meet some strippers’ one friend said to me – which wiped the smile off my face. To be honest I wasn’t too sure how I felt about that. At 24, I was very naive and over the next few years the whole world would open up before me.

 

However, I reckon my initial attitude is what a  lot of people feel towards the pole trend: curiosity, mixed with apprehension about entering the dark side. In 2007 it was just getting popular in Sydney, and it wasn’t yet the main-stream activity it is now.

 

In our very first class we learned two moves: the Kate Moss and the Vanessa spin, and by the end of the class I knew I was in love. The swing around the pole, the way you needed strength and grace (I’d work on the latter over the next few years), and the feeling that it was still a bit of a sub-culture made it all the more fun. However, I tended to keep this new love affair secret from most people because I was worried about their reaction.

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As the weeks turned into month I started ticking landmarks off. I remember the first time I went upside down, the first time I went upside down whilst spinning, and the first time I did a headroll without whipping my eye with my hair (although it was a while before I was able to make the headroll look any good).

 

The school I went to in Sydney has a structure of 8 week terms, during which you learn a routine to be performed on the eighth week to any friends and family you wanted to invite. It was a very safe crowd, and the atmosphere was definitely more towards supporting family in a local theatre production than… whatever you might think it would be like.

 

Somewhere in between doing my first spin and probably my third week 8 performance, I realized that my hobby shouldn’t be kept hidden like an unwelcome lover. I had found a particular form of exercise that helped me view my body in a completely different way. Yeah, I know, I always talk ‘My Body’ as if it’s some kind of magical vessel that no one else has. But I don’t think I really appreciated what it could actually do until I started pole. I saw how it worked with me and not against, I learned how to trust my strength and my instincts, and I started to hold my head up higher when I walked because I owned it.

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With all this new-found confidence, I became more open about pole. It was funny how people reacted. My Dad was supportive in an I understand-I-think-but-please-god-let’s-not-talk-about-it-too-much kind of way (thanks Dad – it was the right kind of support from a Dad!). I got the impression that my wider family also preferred not to talk about it, which is fine. It’s not for everyone. And I kind of hope that my grandmother doesn’t know. Some people are immediately dismissive or critical without even knowing anything about it, and some people go and sign up for a class now they know someone who does it.

 

Most people are impressed, and really interested. Funnily enough, there’s a definite ‘type’ who went to the classes at Sydney: professional women, or quieter women, who enjoyed the idea that they had a darker side to them, that they were expressing themselves in ways that would shock the people they knew. I think that I fell into this category back in 2007, I enjoyed the feeling that people felt they had underestimated me.

 

And now, what category am I in? I’m in the old folks category: I know how hard I’ll have to work to learn the moves I want to do, and with everything else going on, I’m kind of choosing to chill out a bit. Which is kind of a bummer, but I still have my wish list….

Felix

 

So that’s the first pole post! Hope you enjoyed it. :)

 

Ellie B

 

 

Reality Check: I’m Ready for my Close Up

This week’s theme is reality.

 

Last week, I was all a-glow in the light of Norway (seriously – it’s never dark there. Or maybe for a couple of hours between 1-3am), drinking Coke Zero whilst looking over the harbour. Whilst there, to my delight, I did a run which was much faster than my usual speed: according to Strava, I ran 8.3km in 37:27 minutes. And then:

 

Reality

 

This week, I am back home, and what was supposed to be a weekend of amazing weather was…. not. AND I checked my Strava after the amazing Oslo run and saw this:

 

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Now, I know the run was fast, but a kilometre in 2:25? Svetlana Masterkova currently holds the world record for the fastest female mile at 4:12.56, and if my maths is correct (which it may well not be), I am actually faster than her. Which means only one thing. I’m ready for the international stage, y’all. I’m ready for my close up, to see my name in lights and to wear my country’s flag. This blogger be going places.

 

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Or maybe it could be that Strava messed up my time, and I was actually slower than I thought :(

 

Yesterday I went for a 9.5k run around Durham, and my speed was much more in line with my usual pace (5min kilometres rather than 4:30). And I found it tough! Marathon training meant that every run had a goal, whether it’s a particular time or activity, that I’ve forgotten what it’s like to go and run some junk miles for the sake of it. When there’s nothing to focus on but the scenery, the breeze ….. and the stitch that’s building in your side.

 

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It just feels weird NOT to take a river pic now.

 

When I compare how Oslo’s run felt to yesterday’s run, Oslo’s was more fun, and more inspiring. Every time I looked at my phone and saw the distance I’d covered in the ‘time’, I found I had the energy to keep my pace up. Even if my first kilometre was screwed up, the rest of the run actually was faster than my usual pace. Unless Strava also messed up my other kilometres too.

 

This shows to me what a powerful tool your mind is: yesterday I’d look at the time – and see my usual pace – and chill out a bit. Last week, I’d look at the time, dig my fingers into my stitch and keep going. Usually I don’t run faster in new places as I don’t know the route I’m on, but last week I felt like I was flying.

 

I’m going to remember this when I’m out later on this week. Your body can usually handle more, but the mind urges you to remedy the discomfort you’re feeling by slowing down. During the marathon I chanted ‘main-tain, main-tain’ when the going got tough. Perhaps now I’ll chant ‘build-up, build-up’ to use my Jedi mind tricks to beat the pace.

 

I’ll keep you updated. In the meantime, please don’t call Jerry Maguire or any other sports agents just yet: I feel there might be a little more work needed before I make my international debut. Thanks.

 

Ellie B

 

By the way – if anyone wants to expand their running blog repertoire, you should definitely check out Loving on the Run by Sara in Virginia, US. She regularly features different bloggers, showcasing all the different styles and talent that’s out there, and she also has an amazing knowledge of and interest in running. Check out the profile she did of Gilly and I!! :)

 

 

 

Friday Favourites – Totes Emosh

 

This week I’ve had a sensory overload, and I’m 1000% sure that I’m not being over-dramatic. All of a sudden, everything that I see/read/listen to is amazing. ‘Totes amaze’ if you’re below 27. Or wishing you were below 27. I must admit there’s nothing to do with running on this list, but I really want to share what I’m loving this week. And what good is a blog if you can’t push your own thoughts and ideas forward? 😉

 

So, without further ado:

 

  • Coldplay Ghost Stories. Apart from having the prettiest album cover ever, this is very different to their other albums. Although there are only 9 tracks, each one has such lovely lyrics that I’m grateful there’s no ‘filler’. It’s kind of Coldplay-meets-Cafe del Mar if you can imagine. My personal favourites are tracks 5 and 7.

Ghost Stories

  • Empire Falls. It took me a little while to get into this book, but I cannot put it down now. Set in a former industrial town, it’s all about fate and choices. I want to give so many of the characters a big hug. Don’t be put off by my sentimentality – it’s not chick lit, and is definitely worth a read.

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  • Romantic Works by Keaton Henson. Keaton Henson is not a happy artist! But this album is an instrumental delight. So…. if you’re feeling pensive, contemplative, and in need of some cello/piano love then go nuts. I’ve had him on repeat since Tuesday. If you’re not in that place, then I highly recommend Katy Perry, who is always a contender for my list, but this week she doesn’t match my mood. 😉

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  • Katy Perry. Because she is awesome, and I feel bad for recommending her as a second best. When she performed at Radio 1’s One Big Weekend, she just replaced Kylie as the Pop-Star-I-Wanna-Be: that treasured title that I’m sure all female pop-stars want to hold. But where does that leave Beyonce?? 
I tell ya. It's me with dark hair.

I tell ya. It’s me with dark hair.

 

  • Henrik Ibsen. Oh yes, people, I went there. There’s a Nineteenth Century playwright on my list. Blame Oslo. I read ‘A Doll’s House’ for school when I was 17, and out of everything I’ve read, I don’t think there’s not been a character I think of more frequently than poor old Nora. I have a friend who may read this and smirk – I did not feel so sympathetic at 17. But now that I’m older and wiser, I can a) appreciate how revolutionary the play was, and b) sympathise with the choice that she made. And being in Oslo, where Ibsen lived, I couldn’t help but mark the occasion.
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Selfies with Katy and Henrik

So there you have it. Slightly different to other weeks – I’ve been a bit emosh recently, and these things have helped me process. Deal. Whatever pop-psychology has been necessary. And an honorary mention for the list is the beautiful city of Oslo, where I’ve been for work all week. I can’t get over how gorgeous it is. It’s not the most vibrant or happening of places, but there’s definitely something about it … maybe it’s their penchant for putting statues of random people everywhere. So here are some more pics:

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Have a wonderful weekend everyone. And if you in the mood to have a Very Serious Conversation about literature, the arts and the meaning of life, give me a call. It seems that’s where I’m at this Friday. 30 Rock jokes one day, culture the next. And somewhere in between…. maybe some running?!?!?!

 

Ellie B

 

 

Keeping it real: fitness for free

On Monday I was running with my beginner’s running group, and one of the girls told me how much she loves running since she joined our little club, and how proud she is of her speed and distance. And, dear reader*, I’m not afraid to say that my heart melted just a little bit.

 

Because, I love running. I think I might love it too much. I love it so much that I want to take it behind the middle school and get it pregnant (Hahaha! I also love 30 Rock. Tina Fey, you comic genius). For me, running is evidence of the power of my body: there’s nothing more satisfying than running faster for longer than you have before and, rather than dying, actually feeling ok!

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This girl told me how when she had a gym membership, she never used to go. She was doing her philanthropic duty by donating to the gym for the benefit of other members 😉 I personally find just getting there a big deal: you have to have your kit  bag, your towel, your change of clothes, you have to get there somehow, and back, and if you want to do a class you have to book in advance. And that’s all before you’ve walked through the door.

 

Legal & General did a survey and found that 83% of families think gym memberships are the easiest luxury to forgo if necessary. But, keen to promote fitness still, they have created a competition for bloggers to describe how they keep fit for free. And I’m not ashamed to admit that I want to enter. Plus, the topic is cool. So read on for my tips and secrets on how I stay fit for free – this stuff actually does help me, and will hopefully help you too.

 

Wayyyy Back in the day, I started running because I was 19 and couldn’t afford a gym membership. Remember the days when you had £5 to live on til the end of the week? Thats when I found running because I couldn’t afford to do anything else. And once I started, I quickly saw the benefits:

  • You don’t have to do a lot of running to see a difference
  • You can build up your speed and distance relatively quickly if you stay regular about it
  • You don’t need all the fancy equipment to do it (though now I’m not living on £5 per week I can attest that all the ‘stuff’ is nice)

 

Running helps you keep fit when you work odd hours, or when you travel. Another member of my running group texted me today to say that she’d just been for a run on her holiday. She was able to work on her fitness and her tan at the same time! Heck, check out these photos from my own run in Oslo today:

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There’s no way I’d have seen 8k of Oslo without my free run.

 

And with the advent of YouTube, it’s possible to work out every single part of the body without leaving your living room. You do have to be smart about which video you choose, but there’s lots of good stuff there. Thanks to this blog, I found the wonder that is 8 minute abs (the fastest way to kill your abs and appreciate 90s fitness fashion). And my sister-in-law and I have been known to do the Victoria’s Secret Angel Butt workout once or twice. I mean, you cannot argue with Victoria’s Secret. They know what they’re doing.

 

Obviously not everything I do is free: races cost money, and so does pole dancing. But for pole, before I was strong enough for the classic push up, I did reps of tinned-tomato lifts to get my arms in shape. I sit my ankles on piles books when stretching my splits because they are cheaper than buying fitness blocks, in that I already own them. You can use anything for resistance – the walls, coffee table, door frame, stairs – depending on what you want to stretch. And then there’s the trusty foam roller for when you can’t afford a sport’s massage. Although you initially buy the roller, it’s around £30 cheaper than a sports massage in my experience.

 

So they’re my top tips: go running (and hopefully fall in love), find out what’s YouTube (but be smart), and think of your house as your very own gym. And you can spend the money you’ll save on gym membership on other things. Because, sometimes it’s nice to enjoy your free run in not-free-but-very-pretty-running shorts.

 

And breaking news for tonight —– Australia are out of the World Cup :(

 

I did my usual trick of watching the second half of the game and getting way too invested for someone who doesn’t usually care. But even I could see that the Socceroos played their hearts out, and didn’t go down without a fight. And because the boys were so happy to have my support for the final 49 minutes of their 2014 World Cup experience, they sent me this:

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Happy Wednesday everyone!!

 

Ellie B

 

*I have always wanted to write ‘dear Reader’. Dickens and me, spreading the literary love.

What do you do after a marathon? See EVERYONE

After a mad rush at work, a Friday evening flight, and hours of public transport in between, what’s the best way to calm yourself?

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That’ll do it.

 

Since finishing the marathon, I’ve had loads of time on my hands and can actually catch up with people without worrying about trying to fit a 12 mile run in as well! It feels like I’m on holiday.

 

Last weekend I went to the South Coast to visit some pals who I have known for TWENTY YEARS. The days were filled with beaches, babies and BBQs.  And then the weekend ended with a crisp white wine with another friend – not too shabby at all!

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I also met up with my 21 year old cousin from Adelaide who was in London for a few days. Shout out to the bouncer who let us jump right to the front of the queue to the bar  – my cousin now thinks I’m the Sarah Jessica Parker of London! 😉

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Good view for out of towners, don’t you think?

 

The next run on my agenda is a 5.6k dash around Battersea Park as part of the global JP Morgan challenge. Last year my time was 26:30 (I think) and I’m desperate to beat it. Yesterday I did 5.5k in 26:10, so the next few weeks will be full of fast sprint work I think…..

 

However. Yesterday morning I woke up with the worst cramp in my left calf muscle – SB woke up to me screaming like a baby. Since then it’s been really tight, so perhaps a 5.5k run wasn’t the best idea?! I was in London for work for three days this week, and I think my left calf is protesting at all that time in high heels. Sure, I can knock 26.2 miles over without any issues, but give me three days in high heels and I’m a broken lady.

 

Finally – my feet are healing!! Hurrah! Soon I will no longer scare my poor pole dancing students, I will be able to wear pretty sandals again, and I’ll be able to run without pain! It has come to my attention that writing about my blisters sounds like I’m the biggest wuss. So I’m sorry to have to do this, but I have put a picture of my feet so you can see what I’m dealing with. I’ve not had normal, pink skin on my feet for two months now!

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Sorry (not sorry)!

And with that gorgeous view burned into your brain, I’ll leave you to enjoy your Friday! 😉

 

Ellie B