Summer is my favourite time of year, period. However, summer is also my favourite time to workout. Unlike every other cold-city dweller, I don’t yearn for the reprieve of a cool day or an air-conditioned space while I train. The humid air, the beating sun, running past landscapes of exploding colours, using sun-kissed city streets as my gym, celebrating post-workout with ice lollies, cycling across town in sun-dresses and sports bras, turning brunch meet-ups with my girls into bRUNch sessions all create my summertime training bliss.
Of course, summer finishes as quickly as it starts, meaning I do anything I can to catch those moments. So when Nike challenged girls to Chase Summer with their friends I gathered my girls and got us out on the road.
As you may have seen, we’re quite an active bunch at Yin&Yang. For different reasons we all find it important to keep moving. For me, keeping fit isn’t about immediate goals or quick wins – it’s part of me maintaining health and happiness in a holistic sense.
Lets take it back a bit. Around four years ago I was in a little bit of a low place – I’d finished university, wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in life (I felt like I was no longer on the path I’d envisaged post-uni), my esteem was a little bruised and my health was a mess. Unwell, constantly tired, unfit, around 140lbs overweight and generally rough. I wanted to make a change, but a family bereavement jolted me into what direction that change would take, health-wise, anyway. I remember catching a marathon on the TV and telling my incredibly healthy big brother I’d love to run a race one day and raise money for the lung charity that helped our family member.
The first time I went out for a “run” (it was more of a snail-paced-jog-stumble-crawl-walk) around the block in battered old Nikes and massive tracksuit bottoms, it was hard, it burned, my lungs felt like they were exploding, I wanted to stop, I did stop…but I wanted to bottle the feeling it unlocked when I was finished. That day, I got home from my “run” to find I had a job interview – on paper, both aren’t interlinked, of course – but the feeling of equating success to training was implanted in my mind from then.
That kick-started a pretty transformative period for me. A year later I ran-walked my first half-marathon with Bangs as part of her Bangs On The Run crew.
Three years after that, things have changed significantly for me. Running was my gateway into a whole world of activity. From yoga to weights, cycling to rock-climbing – I move because I love it. I’m far from a pro at anything; if fitness was education I’d certainly not be top of the class but I realised quickly that I’m my only competition – my focus is on building a better me. Of course I have training goals; I need to so I keep focused, but wellness is at the top of my priorities. And when I saw how training made me feel, I made (and continue to make) changes to other areas in my health, from my diet to meditating. I guess people say I look quite different to how I did a few years ago, but the changes inside are a lot bigger.
The super-cool thing is in the short time since I’ve made movement a part of my lifestyle, there has been a shift in the way women view working out for themselves. Girls no longer treat working out like a bikini wax – a necessary ‘evil’ on the road to looking good. We train for much more than vanity. It makes us feel as good as we look.
Also, people generally seem more open-minded about their perception of what the image of an active woman is. Of course, some stereotypes still exists, but nobody gawks when they see a group of ethnic girls who aren’t professionals, and only arseholes make ridiculous or judgemental statements when they see overweight people working out.
But you can never see too much diversity, so allow me to introduce my girls, #CrewBrownSugar. Our playful name obviously nods to the fact I’ve pulled together a mixed group of brown-hued beauties for this Nike challenge. But aside from the obvious, we all look very different, we all have very different bodies and very different goals.
Stephanie is a trainee lawyer who has been moving for as long as she can remember. “I started dancing when I was 3 and played sport at school – doing athletics and rugby until I went to uni. I started going to the gym regularly at 17 to keep my fitness up and have continued ever since.”
Growing up in a household whether fitness was normal set the foundation for Steph’s relationship with working out, “my parents have always worked out and encouraged me to do the same. My dad is into bodybuilding and this has had a massive influence on the way I train. I love lifting, the heavier the better!”
Dinushi is my partner-in-crime and creativity. At 24 she’s the youngest Art Director at the digital agency we work for. She got into fitness around a year ago, when she had a holiday coming up and wanted to look and feel good for it. Working out is maintaining fitness more than attaining aesthetic for Dinushi. She scoffs at ridiculous opinions that she doesn’t ‘need’ to workout because she’s ‘already slim’.
“I wanted to reach some goals and stick to them. I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone, to see how much can I keep going or how much more can I push. Each time I went to the gym I wanted to do more and see how much I could push. After a while it just became fun to workout and I needed to do it.”
Creative entrepreneur Zaisha relates to this. “I think I started working out primarily because I knew I had fully taken advantage of being naturally slim, both in my diet and lack of exercise, and that my insides were not thanking me. That and the fact I’m a bit of a hippy and love outdoor activity so being outside, exercising and transporting myself from A to B seemed like a no brainer. The stress I used to feel after a long day at work made me pick up running and I guess the feeling I get after exhausting my body is what keeps me going, I always finish feeling better off.”
Her fitness journey kickstarted in 2012, “I used to go to the gym sporadically throughout my late teens but really got active when I tasked myself (as a Boris Bike cyclist) with cycling from London to Amsterdam in 2012. Although I vowed to never get on a bike again once I arrived, I quickly missed the feeling of being active and the satisfaction of burning off my days gluttonies, so I’ve been fairly active ever since.”
Candice is a new mother and entrepreneur who juggles a cake business (Cake by Candie) and family time like a pro. Seems to be wired to define her own greatness, especially if that means defying others perceptions of her while she does it.
“To be honest, I started running because a young person I worked with said ‘you can’t do it, you’re not built like a runner.’ 8 half, one full and one ultra marathon later, I guess she can kiss my kicks!”