New Lockdown Beauty Habits


 
It is a guilt-free time for our skin to enjoy weeks (even months?) of breathing free from layers of make-up and escaping the pollution and congestion that comes with commuting into cities and on public transport. In the early days of lockdown, I was meticulously trying to keep to my normal routine and continued whacking on make-up every day. It definitely had an effect of making me feel good and every now and then I venture to slap on a bit of blusher and lippy before a daily walk for the same boost. But gone are the heavy foundations and with it my video camera firming stays ‘off’ during work Zoom calls. Now I can sit in my pyjamas and a face mask until midday and no one even knows! Here are my new beauty habits I’ve adopted during lockdown…

Time for a Detox
I’ve had a jar of Elemis’ Cellular Recovery Skin Bliss Capsules in my cupboard for (possibly several) years. It is an amazing detoxing duo serum system; a Rose oil for the morning application and a Lavender oil capsule for evening application. Just to note, these are to be applied to the face… not ingested! As the name suggests, these oils have a deep-cleaning action on your skin, are incredibly restorative, but have a habit of causing breakouts. Breakouts are, by the way, a totally normal occurrence whilst doing a detox - think of it as evidence that your pores are being deep-cleaned and chucking out all the dirt and grime that’s been residing there - it’s a case of short-term pain for longer-term gain. What better time to tolerate a few pimples than in lockdown?! Also it's a great time to bare that beautiful face, give it a break from slapping on layers of make-up. The jar I have is a 30 day programme with 60 capsules in total. 

Roll with it.
I’ve had this Herbivore Jade Facial Roller for several months now. After obsessing over getting hold of one (they were sold out of every Space NK I tried!), it has somewhat collected dust over recent months. However, I’ve unleashed it from its velvet pouch and given it a spin - or, more accurately, a roll all over my face! I watched a couple of YouTube tutorials to get the best tips for how to adapt the massage to different parts of my face for the best de-puffing and drainage. If I’m honest, I can’t really tell if it’s making much of a noteworthy difference to my face per se, but rolling the cool jade over my face of a morning, especially on these warmer days, is especially refreshing and calming. Given I’m not getting up at the crack of dawn and rushing out the door with a half a shoe on these days, it’s the perfect indulgence to add into my morning routine during lockdown when I have the extra minutes to spare.

Damn, that tan.
Pale skin has been the bane of my life for as long as I can remember. Teachers used to look at me worryingly and ask ‘Are you ill?' or 'Bit under the weather today, Rose?' to my make-up free, adolescent porcelain face. Perhaps it was the dark bags under my eyes which have always resembled an 80s shade of lilac eyeshadow, but I’ve always blamed my pale skin for these suggestions I look ill when bare-faced. I’m not a sun worshipper at all but I do envy anyone who can be out in the sun for more than ten minute and not get burnt! I’m either deathly pale or lobster sunburned - the state of being 'tanned' and dare I write, a bronze goddess, forever evades me. These days, I prefer to opt for the fake stuff. I have bottles and bottles in my bathroom but am pretty lazy about actually applying it and my lack of practice shows when I do. I am always guilty of that hard line between the neck and face, you know the one. But then I discovered Tan Luxe Illuminating Self-Tan Drops which you add to your moisturiser (day or night) to give you a subtle glow. They are a REVELATION! If you are fair skinned like me, add just one or two drops every couple of days. If you want to dial it up to more Mediterranean vibes, go for 3 or 4. I tried this when I was on holiday last summer and for once, my face matched my body. I now add it into my weekly skincare routine to give myself a dose of healthy colour to my chops.

Healthy hit.
If you aren't getting the freshness of fruits and veg to your lockdown diet, don't fear, you can turn to the Elemis Superfood range to pack the vitamin punch your skin needs to look and feel its healthiest! Given I used to work for the brand, Elemis is a staple in my bathroom vanity but it was a new experience for me hearing about a product that had launched and having played no part in its arrival (spoiler: I was green with envy!) So, I managed to get my hands on this Elemis Superfood Cica Calm Hydration Juice and it is the perfect addition to my Spring/Summer skincare routine. 'Hydration Juice' is spot on in terms of how your skin feels during and after application - there's a plush, cushiony feel to the texture which reminds me of freshly-squeezed aloe juice from a plant that is super cooling on the skin. I was so keen to try this on my hormonal skin I've been experiencing in my pregnancy and, whilst there's no claims relating to spots, applying this is ever so soothing to my tender jawline. Whilst I may be missing my Pret Green Juice of a morning, at least my skin is getting its green smoothie to start the day right.

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Maternity Clothes Shopping & Wardrobe Favourites

I’ll be honest with you; I found maternity clothes shopping absolutely soul-destroying. Not, as you might suspect, due to some sense of panic about my changing body shape (I was actually quite happy to see my tummy expand and not have to worry about holding it in!!) - but because between sizing and style, I found nothing that felt like me! Order after online order, still I had nothing that fit. Many online stores advise you to order in your pre-pregnancy size but that varies hugely from store to store and, unlike my favourite go-to brands, I had no idea if they came up large or small. Given most maternity collections are online only, you’re forced into the Post Office returns cycle as there aren’t the stores to visit and try on!

It’s infuriating and those hormones on top don’t help. My husband found me in tears one weekend with half a leg in a pair of my old jeans and decided to take action. He took me to the only shop in our home town - Jojo Maman Bebe - and picked out clothes for me to try on. I left with a pair of black over-the-bump jeans and a dungaree dress. The jeans ended up being returned but it gave me the confidence to throw some money at some more online orders and get my maternity wardrobe fixed. Here are the best picks from my capsule maternity wardrobe that have helped boost my confidence and my go-to brands I’ll be recommending to friends.

My Go To Shops

My favourite for Demin... H&M
They have a great selection of maternity wear including jeans, dresses and gym-wear and all reasonably priced. The pieces feel relevant with today’s fashion and not stuck in some timewarp. Plus, as fast fashion goes, there are lots of styles to pick from. This is my no.1 brand for maternity denim and I have 3 or 4 pairs of jeans hanging in my wardrobe and worn on rotation!

My favourite for Jumpers...Seraphine
Probably a brand you won’t have heard of pre-pregnancy, they occupy a more premium-end of the high street. A few of my first purchases came from here and were jumpers (like this one) that helped disguise the Month 3 and Month 4 bloat whilst my pregnancy was still under wraps. It also seems they’re quite a favourite with celeb mums-to-be if you're fussed by that sort of thing. Worth checking out their skin-to-skin tops whilst you’re there...

My favourite for sleep bras...M&S
That early pregnancy boob burn is incredibly painful and so I very quickly had to order something to help keep the ladies contained. A short term fix were low-impact sports bras I already owned but as soon as these arrived, I was rotating these day and night. Super comfortable, stretchy and soft material - they're an absolute pregnancy staple for me. 

My favourite for sexy bras...Figleaves
A general theme to all this maternity shopping is that the feel-good factor is squashed below the practicality factor. But there will come a time you’re fed up of wearing bras that look like something either a 12 year old or 70 year old would wear. Enter lace. Enter Figleaves.

My favourite for dresses...Next
I had a massive haul of maternity dresses arrive that catered for work days, weekends and holidays (back when there was a prospect of a baby-moon!) I loved Next’s lifestyle model shoots which showed many of the dresses paired with Converse and a leather or denim jacket - that’s a look I could get onboard with! I kept 3 of their dresses and have been rotating them on our sunny Spring days during lockdown. (Though the one in these pictures is actually an H&M dress - whoops! Similar linked here

My Favourite Pieces

H&M Exercise Leggings
I flipping love athleisure clothing and wish I could find a job where it’s acceptable to wear that to the office. I know it’s easy to be spendy on brands such as Sweaty Betty and Lulu Lemon and yes, every influencer I see in an outfit I love is usually from one of those two brands. However, I have, thus far, refused to spend £75 on a pair of leggings when I can get some great waist-cinching, butt-shaping pairs from H&M for twenty quid! I probably have about five pairs of gym leggings that I love but from about Week 14 I really felt I was outgrowing them and the comfort level around the tummy was reaching 'discomfort'. I made a panic order of two plain black maternity gym leggings from H&M and kept the best ones. I’m even considering ordering a second pair as I’ve stepped up my exercise routine since lockdown.

H&M Black frayed jeans
Black jeans and a blazer has been my signature workwear uniform for some years so finding my well-worn pair starting to cut in at the waist became quickly in need of replacing. Around Week 10 I made my first purchase with a pair of under-the-bump Topshop jeans from the Oxford Street Maternity entrance on Regent St. That felt like a pregnancy bucket list moment in itself after years of walking past that window display. Only the Topshop pair refused to stay up and I soon became tired of the hike every four minutes to keep them from escaping down to my ankles. Trying to find a new staple black pair of jeans was like searching for a toilet roll at the start of lockdown. However, when I finally opened this pair up from an epic order of approximately ten pairs of jeans, I had my ah-haa moment and made these my new besties. 

Another Good Hack

Charity Shops
Before lockdown, I spent a Saturday afternoon with my mother trawling the nearby village's umpteen charity shops. It's a past-time I actually enjoy, more so for books than anything else. In fact, I generally ignore the clothing racks. However, with my maternity hat on, it's amazing what you can find and for a fraction of any online prices. I spent about £30 and managed to find some incredible buys, including a jumper, a couple of cardigans, a blazer, a shirt for work and a lightweight jacket. I was buzzing - not to mention the ability to try things on! (Obviously this was pre-lockdown... but just think of how much charity shops will be inundated with donations from everyone's lockdown clear-outs!) 

A Final Word

I am so happy with the pieces I invested in from maternity & nursing brands, high street mother-to-be collections and charity shops. I think the moral of the story is you'll need to do a bit of legwork in terms of research to find the brands that reflect your style and prepare for the back and forth to the Post Office with returns. I have to credit my wonderful friend, Emily, for giving me her brand recommendations from her pregnancy which led me straight to H&M's denim section amongst other things. Make sure you speak to your fellow expectant mothers or new mums for their recommendations. Whilst I know spending money on a maternity wardrobe can seem a little frivolous given the relative short time you'll be dressing bump, I don't think you can put a price on feeling confident in your appearance when pregnant. Plus, if you're planning any subsequent pregnancies, you'll have great foundations to re-open this capsule wardrobe second/third/fourth time around!

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The Best Aluminium-Free Deodorant

There were two things my mother asked of me when I moved back from New York:

1. Buy organic meat.
2. Use an aluminium-free deodorant.

After all, those two things alone would have cost the earth whilst we lived in NYC. I had *actual* daydreams on the regular of trolley dashing Boots or Superdrug. And don’t get me started on how excited I was to go to a British supermarket. The Yanks just do food *so* differently!! Of course, access to supermarkets and shops is back on my daydream circuit as lockdown has changed normal life.
My reluctance to embrace aluminium-free deodorants was simple. None of them effing worked. The one thing I need from deodorant is stop B.O. I don’t know what it is about aluminium that makes that do the job but it does, at least that's what my trial and error was telling me. Of course, it’s not ideal to slather chemicals into your very active underarm pores every day! Tester after tester my mum passed onto me from all different brands BUT zero-aluminium meant zero-results. 

The one brand I had actually come to trust to keep me dry and smelling beaut was Mitchum. However, I had some concerns about how potent their formulations were as, at times, I found the skin under my arms going red after application. When I heard about Mitchum’s new zero aluminium deodorant, I hoped this would be the saviour! SPOILER ALERT: It was.

What’s it like?

It’s a cream stick made from 96% natural ingredients. It rolls on better to warm skin so I've found it best applied fresh from the shower, as when my body temperature is on the cooler side it can drag a little across the skin. It has a mild but pleasant fragrance. There are two to chose from: Eucalyptus and Coconut. I’ve only managed to get my hands on the Eucalyptus one and I bloomin' love the smell of it. I’d love to try the coconut one too as it's one of my favourite scents.

Why does the brand say?

Mitchum claims it has 24 hour natural wetness protection, WITHOUT ALUMINIUM, providing 24 hour odour protection. What I say to that is, it works. With competitor products I had found I either developed sweat patches or started to whiff - neither of which are acceptable in my opinion! This gives me all the maximum strength protection I had come to trust from Mitchum deodorants but in a more natural, kinder-to-skin formula. I am a convert!

What does it cost?

Around £4.50. Think of it like buying organic meat - you get what you pay for in terms of quality.

Where can you buy it?

I’ve only managed to find it in my local Boots store which is quite a large one. It’s been out of stock on the Boots website for quite a few weeks but is also officially stocked at Superdrug, Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrison’s and Wilko.

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Like I say, I'm a convert. I feel so much happier knowing the formulation I use everyday is more natural and gentle on my skin. I know a roll-on stick isn't for everyone but I'll take it whilst I'm sure they're developing aluminium-free sprays and liquid roll-ons. For now, I've stocked up on my supplies and repaid the favour to my mother too.


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Pregnancy Tips: Surviving the Second Trimester

The second trimester is often referred to as the “honeymoon period” of the pregnancy. I was fooled into thinking the moment I turned 12 weeks I'd wake up feeling like a new woman. For me, it was more like Week 15 or 16 and that ‘new woman’ feeling isn’t quite at the level of You-post-two week-beach-holiday. I think my expectations were a little out of whack with reality... It was more a case of realising I wasn't fighting tiredness at 8pm and that underlying feeling of nausea had disappeared. Hallelujah! 

The other wonderful aspect of the second trimester is that the big news is ‘out there’ or perhaps more widely known now. We waited until we had had our 12 week scan before telling our family which happily coincided with Christmas Day and a fun use of make-your-own Christmas crackers! Telling people is honestly so lovely so make sure you keep a note in your pregnancy journal of who you told and how they reacted. Which leads me to my first tip...

Treat yourself to a pregnancy journal
I had already done a little research in this department for friends and I ordered this one. It combines some useful week-by-week tips as well as prompts for pictures and poses questions which you might not think to reflect upon so it is good in that respect. I did, however, find I had more things I wanted to write and it wasn't the most flexible template. I started to keep notes on my phone so I could document how I was feeling each week and any significant milestones or memorable developments. Similarly, Ryan and I also started taking photographs of my growing bump so we would be able to see the transformation over time. I'd love to say we were as creative as Tom and Giovanna Fletcher but, frankly, the closest we got was standing in the same place most weeks some time after 10.30pm when we were both shattered. But I'll be grateful we have those to look back on!

Wear some (invisible) noice-cancelling headphones
Once everyone in our immediate circle knew, it suddenly felt more real. There can be a certain amount of overwhelm, fear and invasion of personal space that comes with the territory. Why is it people just love to touch your belly (which in my case was more fat than baby around Week 12 so just felt plain awkward)?! Plus, around this time, people will love to tell you how painful labour will be, not to mention sharing their own/a friend's/their cat's labour story no matter how traumatic, and warn you to get your sleep in now because that’s the last of it etc. I would recommend building a barrier to this kind of negative dialogue where possible; nod, smile along, think about what's in your Netflix to-watch list and try to forget anything that crept through the defence. If you, like me, decide to go down a hypnobirthing route, there really is no value in that kind of talk. We have enough drilled into us from TV that we need to re-programme, knowing your neighbour's 52 hour labour story really isn’t going to help.

Telling your employee
Hopefully you won't have any reason to be nervous about telling your employee your exciting news, though I found I had a lot of anticipation and adrenaline when it actually came to it. I had waited until I was nearer 16 weeks to ensure I had smoothly sailed into my second trimester and I was over the worse of the early stage symptoms. I think many women may worry that their employer might think their productivity will go down as a result of being pregnant and I was, perhaps unnecessarily, worried about that. I admit I was lucky that I wasn't terribly sick - I know that won't be the case for everyone and sometimes sharing the news earlier can be a relief so that you can get the support you need, e.g. working from home or shifting your hours if that helps work around morning sickness, or simply offloading the pressure of it being a secret. At this meeting you are not required to give any specific information regarding your maternity leave or plans, it's just so they know you are expecting and roughly when! After your 20 week scan your Midwife will be able to issue you a Mat B1 form which confirms your estimated due date (EDD) - you may need to chase her for this! You will need to scan and send this to your Employer before Week 24 so make sure that's on your to-do list. Your HR dept. or Manager should inform you of anything you need to do to ensure you are eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay. There's lots more technical information about this on the gov.uk website.
Relish those extra evening hours
As a seasoned night owl, I was back to relishing my late night hours! For me, that meant I got back into watching boxsets with the husband, actually cooking our Hello Fresh meals and enjoying eating them(!) and I got back to writing (my favourite late night activity). What will you do with that extra dose of energy? 

Do all the socialising
After months of avoiding nights out which would either expose my lack of drinking or be physically impossible due to exhaustion, I so enjoyed getting back to socialising. Get those dinner dates in the diary and girly get-togethers. Visit exhibitions or book trips to the theatre (I can highly recommend Waitress for a great show!)
Get your exercise in and up
You may have taken your foot off the gas altogether due to morning sickness and/or fatigue but now is the time to get your body moving. I had gone from exercising most weeks pre-pregnancy (though I’m definitely no fitness junkie) to literally being sedentary for the entire first trimester. The only movement I was getting was walking and even then I barely scrapped 5,000 steps a day. By Week 14, and assuming you are low-risk, is a good time to find a local pre-natal pregnancy yoga class. It’s a great way to meet other expectant mothers in your community and follow an instructor who knows what movements are safe to do during pregnancy. Lockdown curtailed this activity for me but I found some great resources online:

Busy Lizzy - They offer 4 mums-to-be yoga classes each week for £20 a month membership via their private Facebook Group. They also offer Mother & Baby classes (including Baby Yoga and Baby Sign) for after your little one arrives. Find them here. 

PilatesPT - Just as lockdown struck, Hollie Grant of PilatesPT launched her Bump Plan; a series of tailored trimester workouts for safe cardio and strengthening exercises to support your body throughout pregnancy and prepare it for birth. For £10 a session, you join via Zoom and there’s the option of Bump Plan: 1st & 2nd Trimester, Bump Plan: 3rd Trimester and Pre-Natal Pilates. Follow Hollie on Instagram.

Psycle - One form of exercise I have missed since living in New York is Barre. I was super excited to discover that Psycle are offering a series of free Live and IGTV workouts during lockdown. Barre 45 is safe for mommas-to-be but check out the 10 minute video about adapting certain moves for pregnancy before you do one! I love feeling that burn!! Tune into their Instagram Live classes.

Peloton - Yes, they are outrageously expensive but, boy, is it amazing to have a plethora of classes at your fingertips. You can sign up to a Peloton membership for £39 a month (it does require the bike). My favourite thing to do is the 10 minute arm exercise with weights. I’m not an avid spinner (though the husband is) but I didn't want to be stressing my body out with a new form of exercise right now when it already has so much going on. Though I am enjoying some gentle scenic cycling and other prenatal yoga classes they have to offer.

Baby's first kicks 
And, of course, the biggest highlight which I haven't mentioned yet is the first kicks!! As a first time mum, it was something I was SO excited to experience. Those early day movements felt like bubbles, wriggles and little belly flips - that's how they are often described wherever you read about what to expect. My experience was they felt more like wind moving along my digestive tract... I guess, to date, that's what I associated with movement in that part of my body! I had suspected a few light flutterings when lying very still one night with my hands on my lower abdomen, just above my pubic bone. The next day I had my 16 week midwife appointment where they assessed baby's position and listened for the heartbeat. As a result of this, I knew exactly where baby was lying so when I went home that evening, Ryan and I lay quietly with our hands poised and felt the first kicks. It was super delicate to the touch but felt more significant to me. Of course, the kicks, wriggles and turns get more profound as the weeks fly by and you'll soon forget what life was like before a constant wriggler has bedded in your tummy. It really is magical.

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I think that's all for my second trimester tips - it really is the 'easiest' of the three in my opinion so 'enjoy' it if you can! Of course, you are physically and mentally still going through huge changes so it's not unusual to have down days and panicky thoughts. Make sure you have someone you can talk to and be sure to be an open book with your midwife so they can offer you the right support.

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Weekend Reading Vol. 7

It's been a while since I've compiled a Weekend Reading List... I think my lack of a routine and commute means that I'm possibly reading less articles. Like many people, I've been burying my head in the sand a little too, and avoiding the news for its anxiety-inducing effect. I read a daily bulletin from The Daily News In Brief and The Spoon on the weekdays courtesy of my work inbox. However, these articles below brought me nothing but joy and insight which is why I'm passing them on. I hope you have been able to enjoy this special VE-annivesary 3-day weekend and maybe your Saturday can be spent either in bed or in the fresh air enjoying these...



Ever wondered what an author thinks of reading and her most defining books? Hear from one of my favourite authors, Marian Keyes, for The Guardian

I recently signed up to the Goop newsletter after binging the Goop Lab Series on Netflix. Sometimes, I admit, I'm just not in the mood for their sometimes damn outrageous content but this post I think is incredibly relevant for so many of us right now.

A Complete Guide to Organising Your Bathroom & Beauty Cabinet
This ticks so many of my boxes (though my husband might disagree) but I love to organise. The early weeks of lockdown were definitely filled with clearing out cupboards, drawers and re-organising. I still want to Marie Kwando my underwear drawer but this article is for all your beauty hoarders, including all the best storage containers to buy!

The 11 Best Foods to Eat When You're in a Bad Mood
This was written around November last year but I've just re-discovered it - and I think many of us can resonate with feeling in a bad mood most weeks! And, don't worry, it's not a weird or wacky list either - in fact, the banana I had this morning may be to thank for my good mood this morning!

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How to Celebrate a Birthday in Lockdown

Birthdays: some love them, some hate them, some try to bypass them altogether. Whichever camp you fall into, I’m sure a birthday in lockdown will be one you won’t forget. For most, you might associate birthdays with parties, get-togethers, blowing out candles whilst your work colleagues awkwardly warble their way through Happy Birthday To You. But for Spring babies, celebrations have been muted and moved online. The postman is likely holding a few birthday cards hostage and you’ll feel the need to disinfect them and your hands after any land on your mat, eyeing them like unexploded grenades. Yes, it’s an odd time to have a birthday. HOWEVER, having just celebrated my father’s, my husband’s and my birthday all in lockdown, I’ve figured out some ways to make it special for a loved one or yourself.

Birthday Cake
We know the world is going bonkers right now for banana bread and if that floats your boat, then get baking for that birthday slice (or three). A chocolate cake was on my to-bake list and had been my intention for my birthday before my husband came home from a weekly M&S food shop bearing a Colin the Caterpillar – the staple office cake that is actually bloody delicious. With only two of us to fight over the feet, it was gone in a matter of days. For my husband, a March baby, I baked up a Lemon Drizzle with more sugar in the icing than in the cake itself – it was a hit. I kept the sugar fest flowing with some blueberry pancakes to kick off the day. Let’s be honest, food is the source of happiness right now. The sweeter the better.

Birthday Decorations
Digging through my present’s drawer, I uncovered some bunting that had never seen the light of day. It was a perfect way to spruce up the mantel piece. Whether you have a few rogue balloons you can blow up, can make your own bunting or simply make sure any cards get pride of place, make a little splash somewhere in your home for the occasion.

Treat Yo’Self
Whilst you might have to hold off the big party or celebratory plans, this is no time to be demure about treating yourself. And this doesn’t have to mean expensive online orders… It can be as simple as a guilt-free lie-in, a request for breakfast in bed, a luxurious soak in the bath or an I.O.U for a massage once lockdown is lifted. My present to myself was 1 kilo of pick’n’mix. Yes, you read that right, ONE WHOLE KILO OF SWEETS from Pick Yo Mix! Best £15 I’ve ever spent and happy that my greed supported a small business. 

Take Your Time
One thing I have always loved to do on my birthday is really take my time and enjoy getting ready. That means that no step is missed in a very indulgent morning beauty routine. From a face mask and hair mask before a steaming hot shower to exfoliating head to toe, a spot of body brushing and applying body lotion to my parched skin. Provide entertainment whilst you apply your make-up with a favourite podcast, audiobook or phone call to a friend. Making myself feel pampered and dressed up is a massive mental gamechanger in lockdown life so I say embrace the abandoned make-up bag and try to remember how you styled your hair before the messy bun moved in.

Birthday Food
We’ve touched on it already but meal-time really is the highlight of every single day for me. On my birthday, it’s even more a source of joy. Plan that weekly shop in advance and make sure you have every urge covered. I ensured I had my favourite coffee in the cupboard, fresh bread for a bacon butty in the morning, cake for lunch and steak for dinner. 

Zoom to the Party
Whatever app you choose (House Party, Zoom, WhatsApp), get your family and friends on multiple calls throughout the day to ring in those birthday wishes and renditions of happy birthday your ears could do without! Pop a bottle of bubbly with friends, make a Quiz Night of it or go all-out with a murder mystery evening if you’re into that sort of thing. I found myself on a long call with my immediate family being asked to open my presents ‘virtually’ – which meant picking a present off my parent’s coffee table by pointing at the screen and watching my mother unwrap it for me (having just wrapped it up herself before the call). She even went to the lengths of explaining how it felt before opening so I could hazard a guess at what laid beneath the wrapping paper. What dedication!

Alcohol
It’s a lockdown essential but on your birthday, even more so. There’s no waiting for 5o’clock somewhere. Get that Bucks Fizz on the breakfast tray or whatever tickles your fancy. Even I broke my abstinence with a mini bottle of Prosecco.

Document It.
A birthday in lockdown may not feel like something to celebrate given its anti-social implications, but it is a birthday to always remember. Capture it with photographs of the day – even if it’s you unwashed in your PJs for the 50th day running. Do it for posterity’s sake (and to show your grandkids).

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How Does It Feel To Run The London Marathon

Last weekend marked what would have been the London Marathon, I remembered asking my sister a few questions not long after she had passed the finish line in 2018. I know how much time and energy goes into preparing your mind and body for a race like that (not personally, I might add) and I cannot fathom how all those who were training towards this year's marathon have been feeling these past few weeks. We have noticed on our daily walks how many more people there seem to be out for a run and I can imagine that the roads may be getting even busier as people blow off some steam. 
In some respects, as sisters, we are alike. When it comes to running... we are not. My sister, Grace, very much takes after my father who also completed the London Marathon in 2009 and like father & daughter, they both find solace in tying up their trainers and pounding the streets for a run. Like mother & daughter, when we all lived under one roof, we preferred the slower paced yoga and pilates classes and despite being a gym member, I was more keen to make going to the gym about what I needed to do to enjoy lunch in the restaurant after with friends!

Side note: Both my mother and I have discovered there is some joy in running since then. A lot in fact. In 2019, we both discovered the 'Couch to 5k' app and managed to actually stick to the three runs a week (give or take the odd week). After years of both of us saying "We can't run" it felt good to prove to ourselves we absolutely could. I managed to train up to a 10k which I completed in late September last year - the second ever longest run of my life and a PB of 1h 10m. For someone who couldn't run straight for 10 minutes straight not many months before, this is an achievement of which I am super proud. Now that Spring has arrived, my mother is back repeating the Couch to 5k (there is also a Couch to 10k extended podcast you can train to) and I'm seriously missing it! As soon as I am fit to run post-birth, I hope I get back on it. I've even noted in my Goals list for 2021 I'd like to do my 3rd 10k.

Back to the long-distance runner and the marathon! If you've ever wondered what it feels like to run a marathon, read on. If you've ever wondered whether running for 26.2 miles around London can actually be enjoyable, read on. My only single comparison is perhaps sky-diving when I jumped out of a plane in New Zealand and whilst I'm incredibly glad I have done it and have the video footage to prove it, I would never do it again - so how does that compare to considering a second London Marathon?

WHAT WAS YOUR MOTIVATION FOR RUNNING THE LONDON MARATHON?
Grace: It's a challenge I've always wanted to take on, ever since I started running. Seeing my friend Lale run and experiencing the atmosphere of London as a spectator in 2017 made me realise I had to make it happen for 2018.

HOW WAS YOUR TRAINING FOR THE BIG RUN?
Training was fairly straightforward and for the most-part the reward of successfully upping the mileage week on week outweighed the hardship / sacrifice. Naturally, there were some exceptions. Such as when I lost 3 weeks training to a tight IT band which left me hobbling about - all because I’d yet to learn about foam rolling! Or once I’d reached peak pre race mileage (20 miles) but still had long runs left to do, often in terrible weather conditions. That’s when the mental endurance battle started kicking in.

HOW DID YOU FEEL THE NIGHT BEFORE?
Mostly calm with a distinct tinge of excitement. And rather full from all the pasta! 

HOW DID YOU FEEL AT THE START LINE?
Excited. Fairly focused. Ready. Not a total adrenaline frenzy (just as well, needed to conserve energy!)

"I was living the experience I’d been waiting for."

WHAT WAS THE ATMOSPHERE LIKE?
At the start line, it was lovely! Everyone was really friendly, positive and pumped. A mild sense of apprehension around the heat (had been confirmed it was set to be the hottest ever marathon).
HOW DID YOU FIND THE RUN?
In some ways as tough at Mile 7 as it was at Mile 25. It felt harder than I thought it would at Mile 7 and better than I thought it would come Mile 25.

High points: 
  • Fire brigade getting their hose out (around mile 7-9 I think) to cool us all down properly 
  • Seeing my family near Bermondsey
  • Running over Tower Bridge looking up at the view with bright blue sky back drop 
  • People shouting ‘amazing Grace’ ‘you’ve got this’ ‘looking strong Grace’ 
  • A couple cheering for me and making rhymes from my name ‘Go Grace, you’re looking ace, keep up the pace’ 
  • Seeing Rose and Lizzie on the final straight towards Buckingham Palace
  • Accelerating and overtaking people on the home straight 
  • Smiling most of the way around  
  • The cheer from friends and family on arrival at the picnic 
  • Mum & Dad saying they were proud
  • All the kind message of support from friends, family and people I barely know or hadn’t seen in ages - pre and post the race. 
Low points:
  • Running belt bouncing all over the shop during the fast & hilly bits early on. The thought of dealing with it jigging around for the next 4 hours was not ideal...
  • Seeing two women and a picnic table quaffing Prosecco one mile and two men sucking on ice lollies the next... torture in 24C! 
  • Running alongside Miss Whippy Guinness World Record attempt which meant a mile of people yelling ‘ice cream’ ... I would’ve bloody loved an ice cream!! 
  • Seeing people collapsed / injured en route being looked after by paramedics 

DID YOU LISTEN TO ANYTHING ON THE RUN?
My Marathon Mix whilst waiting on the start line and then up to around Mile 10/11. Nothing but the crowds after that. Marathon mix tunes were all about positivity, accomplishment or had distinct positive associations for me personally. 

WHAT WAS THE CROWD SUPPORT LIKE? 
Absolutely incredible. The crowd really made the whole experience. Any future marathons have a lot to live up to in that front. 

DID YOU HIT "THE WALL" AT ANY POINT? 
Nope. Pleased to report I did not. Sounds awful. 

HOW DID YOU KEEP YOURSELF GOING? 
Between the crowds, sunshine, regular water, showers and liquid sugar on hand, what’s not to like? Reminding myself that I knew I could do it all the way up to 21 miles and that I would do it from there on because there was no other reality in my mind. 

"Knowing how much I had wanted to be exactly where I was, doing what I was doing for so long and now I was getting to do it and it was just as - if not more - fabulous than I’d hoped!"

WHAT WAS IT LIKE CROSSING THE FINISH LINE? 
Great, surreal. Almost anticlimactic. It wasn’t, just calmer for me personally than I’d thought. 

WHAT TIPS WOULD YOU GIVE TO NEXT YEAR'S MARATHON RUNNERS? 
Follow a training plan, they work! But use it as a guide, listen to your body, when it needs sleep don’t do the early run. When it needs 2 or 3 consecutive rest days, take them. Invite and lap up the support of friends and family, it’s invaluable and really the best bit.

WHAT'S THE ESSENTIAL MARATHON TOOLKIT?
  • A good pair of trainers and Hilly marathon socks. I came away with no blisters and all my toenails intact! 
  • Comfortable storage for phone/gels/keys, this was my biggest bugbear, still yet to crack it. 
  • Pedicure the week before (toenail reinforcement)
  • Sturdy sports bra 
  • Breathable clothing
  • Suncream & cap if it’s sunny

WOULD YOU EVER RUN ANOTHER MARATHON?
Yes yes yes. Again, again! 


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