18.10.17

The Business Of Fitness: Why The Brands That You Advocate Won’t Work With You


This was one of those posts that gets started then you’re not really sure where you’re going with it so it stays in your drafts folder for ages... months and months in this case. Then you come across other thoughts and realise that somehow they’re all interconnected and at the end of the day, this doesn’t need to be perfect, right?! It’s my blog.

I always had the (original) title which came about from my experiences as a blogger, working in retail (specifically in athleisure) and from a short stint in a Marketing role. It started from conversations where some people begin to worry its things like their age or demographic why a brand won’t work with them and to be honest, sometimes that probably is the case. But from a business point of view, these are my thoughts...

When Did Brand Monogamy Become A Thing?

Brand monogamy is a concept that has fascinated me for a while now. I haven’t looked it up to even find out if it’s an actual “thing” because I know from personal experience that it exists. I think the first time I came across it was when I worked as a Trainer for Nike and their Nike Training Club brand. Many of the girls that came along to the sessions were huge brand advocates... decked out head to toe in Nike without a second thought for another brand and regularly shopping in store before or after classes.

In recent years however, stores have popped up (like Active in Style or The Sports Edit) that curate the best of any number of brands for you to shop under one roof so to speak (some are online retailers only). I think this was the beginning of change when it came to brand monogamy as it meant there were people out there who were willing to shop around, mix & match and essentially change up the game. With the rise in popularity of “athleisure”, countless brands have launched into the arena and with them all competing for our attention it’s no surprise that we start to look around and challenge areas such as price, quality and ethics.

I’m curious to know what a brand does that makes us as customers feel such an affinity that we would use no other brand? Especially so when it comes to fitness and the likes of brands like Nike, Adidas, lululemon etc.


Brand Muses Are Old News

Having worked in retail and for a number of major sportswear brands, their marketing was always focused on their “muse”; a character or customer profile that they use to create everything (product and marketing wise). Sometimes these muses are simply aspirational so as “regular” human beings we would never 100% “fit” who the brand is actually selling to. But more recently, I’ve noticed that brands are focusing more heavily on characteristics rather than a “set in stone” muse. Take Adidas as an example who have targeted “creative” women with their “here to create” campaign and a campaign I recently spotted on YouTube called “Meet The Creators”. The women’s studio in Shoreditch delivers weekly creative sessions along with the regular sweat sessions which fit in with what’s going on at the time; I’ve done a collage workshop, a meditation workshop, a street art run... just to give a few examples.

I do however think that a muse must play a role in there somewhere; when you look at the influencers that some brands use, the lack of diversity is really striking. This is something I’ve talked about before and really not much has changed in those couple of years. It did come up in a conversation once that maybe this was due to the lack of diversity in PR in general. So when PR professionals are looking for influencers to work with, it’s maybe more likely that they (unintentionally?) gravitate towards influencers that “look like them”? I dunno. I’m just putting that out there as food for thought. One thing I know though is that the little power I personally have is first and foremost in how I spend my money and I’m making a conscious choice not to spend my money on brands who do not represent / reflect me and the BAME population as a whole. I guess the only other power that I have is through this blog and I’ve said it before, about silent agreements. When we see something happening and we just sit back and say nothing, it basically equates to agreement so if I ever have thoughts to share I will openly do so (...I guess this means that all the people who didn’t vote essentially voted for BREXIT by not utilising their vote?).


Customer vs Client Vs Advocate

If you’re not monogamous to a brand, then what are you?! Let me give you some examples; I just bought a textbook for my masters. I went on google, did a search, checked out the price comparison and then purchased from the cheapest retailer. I’ve never shopped with them before and in all likelihood I might never purchase from them again. I’m just a customer. When it comes to food shopping, there are a few select places that I will go to. For my home delivery it’s only ever Ocado or Tesco. If I’m picking up bits between my weekly shops I’m a fan of Marks & Spencer or Sainsbury’s (but that’s actually mostly down to the convenience of a store being located on my walk from the tube station to my front door). So I’m a client of Tesco and Ocado; I’m highly likely to make repeat purchases and in their eyes, this is a relationship to be valued.

When it comes to laptops, I own a MacBook Air (by Apple) and I’d pretty much say I’m an advocate (as much as I’d hate to admit it). Buying a Mac was one of the best decisions (and investments) I’ve made due to the functionality and quality. If anyone were to ask for recommendations on laptops that’s the one I would give them. When (god forbid) I need a new laptop, I’m pretty sure I will replace it with another Mac. I’m an advocate.


Bloggers Make The Best Customers

At the end of the day, every companies ultimate goal is to make a profit. So essentially they’re wanting more customers while working on retaining the customers that they already have by managing relationships (...yeah you know, like all the chit chat on Twitter, replying to Facebook comments etc). So when it comes to working with bloggers and influencers, nothing has changed.

Every now and again, a conversation thread crops up in a group about a particular brand. It usually goes along the lines of “who’s going to this event” or “who’s working with xyz on this campaign”. There are usually a group of people (us) who are advocates for the brand and haven’t been invited and it’s only natural you’d feel a little undervalued or unnoticed, right?! In one such thread, I made the point that sometimes a brand may just want to engage with someone who is a prospect for them as a means of turning them into a customer, client or advocate because at the end of the day, us bloggers do really make the best customers! We’re happy to spend money (even though the rest of the world thinks we get everything for free) and then we’re equally happy to share our opinion about these products for the world to see! This is just modern age “word of mouth” and is one of the most trusted sources of information as people are becoming less and less trusting of messages directly from brands themselves. And there was one person who was extremely annoyed that they “weren’t on the radar” of a brand that they openly advocated. Personally, my business mind says that yes, such people are valuable to a brand however when it comes to being an influencer it would make more sense to seed new product to those who needed to be tipped over the edge into becoming a customer. Surely there are brands who have a strategy to seed product to an influencer for just long enough to get them hooked? ...I mean, I’m pretty sure that brands have done that with me in the past.

Anyway, to summarise, it’s obvious that a brand can’t work with EVERY influencer out there as to be frank, everyone seems to be a blogger or influencer these days. I read an article recently that said younger generations are now more inclined to purchase from brands who’s vision they align with so it makes sense that if a brand has a vision they’re gonna (or should) look to work with influencers who also share that same vision (i.e. Adidas and creativity). So just because a brand doesn’t work with you doesn’t mean that they haven’t noticed you or that they don’t appreciate your custom and your efforts in advocating their brand. I recently got quoted in an article in Balance magazine (which you can also find online here) about how to become a blogger where I shared my tip about going out and creating your own adventures rather than waiting for brands to reach out to you with ideas and collaborations. Plan your adventures and if you feel inspired to reach out to a brand, do that. Or share your journeys and adventures as you would anyway and if a brand connects with you through that then it’s just a bonus. I’m all for going out there and creating what I want.

What are your thoughts on this?!


Elle :) 

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16.10.17

How New Cyclists Can Avoid Joint Discomfort


Cycling is often seen as a low intensity form of exercise, ideal for people of all skill levels. Whilst there is some truth to this, you might be surprised by how common cycling-related injuries really are. For one thing, cyclists can of course come into close regular contact with other road users, but almost as common are joint-related injuries.

A number of studies in recent years have focused on regular cyclists, asking them about the incidence of joint injuries. The results are quite surprising, and suggest that up to 85% of cyclists experience some joint pain at one time or another in their cycling careers. Of these, an astonishing 36% required some form of medical treatment to relieve discomfort.

In another survey cyclists were asked specifically about any back pain they experienced as a result of cycling, and found that almost half of respondents suffered such discomfort on a weekly basis.

The exact joints that can suffer vary from one cyclist to another, as they are affected by a range of factors from experience level to cycling form. The most common source of joint-related injuries are in the neck, knees, hands and the lower back. Interestingly, female cyclists were found to be twice as likely to develop shoulder and neck injuries than male cyclists.

So what can new cyclists do to minimise their chances of joint discomfort when cycling?

Pace Yourself

Experts have found that there is a direct correlation between the distance cycled on a monthly basis and the odds of joint discomfort. What is more, there is clear evidence that over time the body starts to become attuned to cycling. Muscles and ligaments strengthen, making injuries rather less likely.

The key message here is that it makes sense to ease into cycling gently, giving your body a chance to recover between sessions. People who start off their New Year’s Resolutions with the aim of cycling every day, for example, could be significantly increasing their odds of injury. Instead, aim to slowly increase the number of cycling sessions, the distance travelled and the intensity of exercise over an extended period of time. As an example, a sudden increase in hill cycling, which puts additional pressure on the knees, has been linked to increased joint pain.

Anyone planning a long cycle ride, such as a competition, a sponsored bike ride or a cycling holiday would therefore be advised to slowly build up their cycling over a number of weeks before the “big day”.

Warm Up Properly

One interesting study asked several hundred cyclists to record all manner of elements about their cycling regime. What the scientists found was that the volume of stretching and warming up is directly linked to the chances of joint injury. The better prepared your body is for exercise, the better able it is to cope with the stresses it is put under.

What is more, whilst cycling primarily relies on the legs, a huge range of other joints may also be involved; including the neck, back, shoulders and wrists. A comprehensive stretching program before cycling can therefore go a long way to preventing joint pain afterward.


Cycling Position

Your bike itself can have a huge impact on your joints. A low saddle position, for example, has been linked to increased force on the knee joint.

On the other hand, many more competitive cyclists like to set their saddle very high and their handlebars low, in order to achieve a horizontal back position. This does of course have the benefit of lowering drag, making cycling potentially easier, but it can also have unintended health consequences. This horizontal back positioning has been linked to neck pain, which is believed to stem from muscle fatigue caused by holding up your head for extended periods of time.

Even how you hold your handlebars can impact joints. The use of drop handlebars, for example, have been linked to lower back pain. So too has cycling along with your fingers resting on your brake levers.

The evidence therefore suggests that there are two more great ways to avoid joint pain. Firstly, consult an expert to ensure that your bike is of a suitable size for your frame. Ensuring the pedal-to-saddle distance is correct can also help to reduce joint stress.

Secondly, unless you are a competitive cyclist, a more upright position can be far gentler on the joints. Rather than sitting with your back horizontal, instead try to sit up straighter whenever possible. Mountain bikes or tourers, with their more upright position, may therefore be better than racing bikes for beginners.

Increase Thigh Muscle Strength

Studies by sports scientists have found that increased muscle strength in the legs can reduce pressure on knee joints. Serious cyclists may therefore benefit from some resistance training and a protein-rich diet to help increase muscle size and strength.


Don’t Overdo It

Injuries can be a major source of problems for professional athletes. It therefore shouldn’t be a surprise that a large amount of time has been invested into how cyclists may minimize the negative effects of their exercise.

One study monitored not just injury rates in cyclists, but also recorded detailed information on everything from how far the cyclists travelled each week and even the types of surfaces on which they exercised. From here, the scientists were able to extrapolate out the results, looking at those aspects that seemed most clearly correlated with the risk of injury.

The experts found that the distance cycled is directly proportional to the odds of suffering from joint pain. For example, cyclists who exceed 160km a week were found on average to be 3.6 times more likely to experience back pain that those cycling under this distance.

Whilst cycling can be addictive, the evidence therefore suggests that cyclists would do well not to overdo the distances travelled, especially in the early days.

Supplementation

Lastly, some supplements are believed to have a positive impact on the joints. Glucosamine and chondroitin are two popular examples, which can often be bought together in one handy supplement. It is believed that glucosamine can help to reduce joint inflammation, and may also be an effective natural painkiller. There is evidence that chondroitin may have a role in helping joints to repair after damage has occurred. Together, such supplements can help to support healthy joints, especially among those of us carrying out regular intensive exercise like cycling.

Thanks to Richard at Simply Supplements for this article.

13.10.17

Adidas City Runs: Shoreditch 10km 8.10.17


If you’d asked me a year ago what I’d be up to on this date I probably would’ve said I’d like to run the Royal Parks Half Marathon. Then if you’d asked me six months ago I probably would’ve said I wanted to volunteer / work at Royal Parks Half Marathon. Then along came Shoreditch 10km.

Now let’s be honest; whether we signed up or not, we all had reservations about how this event was gonna go down. First of all it was the same date as what felt like every other autumn race. And then many were hesitant to part with £40+ for a 10km. But somehow I think everyone may be feeling a little different after the event and that FOMO (fear of missing out) may be kicking in. And to save me regaling every minute detail of the event I’m just gonna give it to ya straight (in the way I used to); the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good
Well, my start wave was 915am so when I arrived at the race village at 845am and the toilet queues were ridiculously long I went and had a neck / shoulder massage from Elite Evolution. Of course I did. So once I finished that and got dressed again (it’s now 907am), there were no queues for bag drop and I ran straight into the portaloo before running to the start line and catching the end of my wave as they got ready to start. Phew. There were also plenty of portaloos on the course; I saw a set at least every km or so for the first three km. Then the first water station at 4km. Perfect.

Having not run 10km since The British 10km in July I really wasn’t sure how I would fare for this event. I started off running with friends Sharon and Ogechi and made it my goal to stick with Ogechi as she was running a pretty steady pace. Well, my Suunto Spartan was telling me I was running under 6 minutes per km which I found hard to believe but y’know, I just kept going. And going. And going. I only stopped to walk at the 7km mark (at the water station) for about 30 seconds.



And I’m just gonna jump straight to the epic medal and race village here. There were plenty of photo opportunity spots but you know how the British like to queue so one would be empty while people queued half hour for another. There was plenty going on too; competitions to win trainers, food stalls, a DJ ...enough to warrant you hanging around as long as your stomach would allow before you needed a proper meal! We decided to refuel at Pizza East as they were offering a 25% discount for runners that day; we ended up having a coffee across the road in Pret while we waited (around 25 minutes) and it was well worth it to not have to worry about heading home and cooking that afternoon.

The Bad
The sun came out as I crossed the finish line and silly me wore a long sleeved top underneath my race tshirt. It was about the same time that I realised I’d left my timing chip in my bag. Epic fail. This is THE FIRST TIME in my racing history that I have ever done that but tbf it is 2017 and not many races use chips tied to your shoes. I’m used to them being in your bib which you kinda have to have on to be able to start the event. So I don’t have an official time; I mean, it’s questionable whether I was there or not right?! But I know that Strava knows the truth.



Talking of proving I was at the event. The course photographers seemed to be condensed in the first km where it was so crowded I really don’t think they got decent pictures of many people, most definitely not of me. Then I saw maybe two more photographers on the course and as the crowds didn’t really ease until about 8km I still don’t think they would’ve gotten a decent picture of me which is a shame as the race photos come as part of your entry fee (even if they are defaced with advertising when you download) so you kinda wanna make it worthwhile in that sense. I did however make sure to pose for the photographer just before the finish line!


The course was a pretty windy route; although I know a ton of people ran PB’s I also know that they prob have a little more in there for when they don’t have to play dodgems with other runners and take so many corners. I’m not a big fan of running on cobbles either so the section in the last 2km like that ended up with me running on the pavement to try and avoid injury.

The Ugly
The course was situated on the back roads of Shoreditch so this meant that many of them had speed bumps in place. With plenty of cars still parked on the course and lots of runners there was little or no option but to run over the speed bumps and this is where it got a little ugly. One guy tripped and fell right next to me; I helped him up and he seemed alright, even carrying on running (we were only at the 4km mark). I then saw someone in the race village after the run who showed me the result of her own fall in what sounded like the very same place... scratched knees, bruised hands and torn tights being the result.

We finished the race and ended up in the busiest / most crowded finishers funnel ever. I think it was a combination of coming in at the same time as many other runners and the funnel being just a little too narrow. We spent a good few minutes huddling through to grab a medal, some fancy water, regular water, cliff bar, jelly babies... yup, quite a handful. Would probably have been a good idea to pop it all in a goody bag and give it to people in one go.

All in all though, I had a great morning at the event. For the first ever Adidas City Run they did a pretty decent job.

Did you run?! What did you think of the event?! 


Elle :) 


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11.10.17

Behind The Screen: The Emotional Labour of Blogging

Photo Credit: Serena Reidy

If you’ve ever met me in real life, I hope that you’ve seen the version of me that’s always laughing. Apparently that me, is the one everyone loves to see in photographs (yah, I’m looking at you adidas runners lol). But if you really know me, or at least have met me on a number of occasions, chances are that there will be a time where I’m not my usual laughing self. I remember back in my office job, my manager told me that being “emotional” was something that was frowned upon in management. But as far as I was concerned, I was just being authentic. I literally cannot hide how I’m feeling; it’ll always be written all over my face and quite frankly I refuse to have to pretend to be any other way than how I’m really feeling.

9.10.17

Long Ride Sunday | Wrapping Up My Summer Cycling With L’Etape London 24.9.17

It’s funny how fast time flies; after taking part in L’Etape London in 2016 I knew I wanted to take part again for 2017. When the time came to sign up though, I decided to stick with the same distance (the short route, 49 miles) as I knew it’d be the end of my summer cycling “season”. With our epic ride to Paris in July, the reality was that I would want a break so cycling 49 miles was “doable” on whatever training I would or wouldn’t manage to do over the rest of the summer.

And it’s a good job too because I accidentally signed up for Tough Mudder on the day before L’Etape (my diary runs from Sunday to Saturday so it looked like two different weekends when I agreed to one on the Saturday and one of the sunday!) And after the 6 miles of Tough Mudder I woke up on the Sunday feeling a little sore to say the least...


I planned to ride the event with Sophie (my Paris buddy) and Andrea (our Dirty Wknd buddy) so we all signed up for the Cycletta - women’s only wave - which also happened to be the very last wave of the morning at 9.15am. I’m not really sure what happened but the combination of not that many women signing up to the wave and the start marshals not even knowing the wave existed meant we started late... all 6/7 of us (pictured above).

I didn’t have a plan in my head for these 49 miles; I just planned on catching up with Sophie and chatting our way round. We knew what to expect in terms of the route and how to fuel so it kinda was like any other long ride Sunday but with a medal at the end. One thing you have to take into consideration with this event is that the roads are open and within the first few minutes Sophie and I were separated from Andrea (and in a good way, we never saw her again till the finish cos she absolutely smashed her ride!). We were also treated to a pretty warm day for late September which has its perks...

I was feeling pretty exhausted on the morning due to Tough Mudder, having returned from my vacation just 5 days before and from what I now realise is anemia. But all in all, I didn’t feel too bad. When we got out of “the city” and hit Essex I knew this was where the hills were gonna be and I was ready... actually I was more ready than I realised. We rode Toot Hill and honestly, I’m still not sure we really did as it didn’t feel anywhere as bad as it has done previously so I guess that’s testament to the hours I’ve put in on the saddle in the past year, or past six months especially.


It was nice to be riding at a pace where I could take in the views, recognise some of my solo routes on weekend rides and enjoy Sophie’s company. A quick stop at the feed station just past the half way mark for some roasted new potatoes, jelly babies, pain au chocolait (I ate some of everything!), to top up our water bottles and a bathroom visit then we were off again for the final 20 something miles.


It was after this that we hit Epping High Road and the combination of leaving the Olympic Park so late along with everyone (drivers especially) being in a bad mood meant that we hit traffic and some very unfriendly (and vocal) drivers along the way. Playing dodgems with cars is not exactly what you wanna experience in the middle of a sportive... so by this point my main goal was just to get back to the finish line in a safe manner as quickly as possible. The route back to Stratford from there was a familiar one as our Paris crew has done quite a few rides out East starting from the very same Velodrome. It was flat and would be fast, had there been less traffic. Just as we got to Whipps Cross Hospital, I lost Sophie at some traffic lights and decided to just put my head down and get to the finish line. I’m not sure how far away it was at this point... maybe 3 miles, maybe 5 but it felt like forever! Finally, I made it back to the road track for the final km sprint finish. It was great to see that the finish line had been moved so spectators could see it and it meant that once I got my medal I was right there along with Andrea to cheer Sophie across the finish line too!



One medal, one pint of Erdinger (alcohol free beer) and one podium picture later and all the fun was over, it was time to head home...

Just like last year, I had a great time but I’m left wondering so many things... like why is female participation in cycling so low? Why do drivers dislike cyclists so much? What can I personally do to help encourage women into cycling? And what can I personally do to bridge the gap between drivers and cyclists?!

Elle :)

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Huge thanks to Human Race for inviting me back to take part in this event again and to SportCam for providing us with a few of our race pictures to share in the post.
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