Sunday, 13 May 2018

Why I've never wanted to be a full-time blogger/Instagrammer.

One thing I think is expected of bloggers these days is that they get gifted loads of cool products, get to go to amazing events, grace the covers of magazines and TV adverts, all while jetting off around the globe on all of these incredible holidays. You're expected to reach these heights, and there's an assumption that we blog because this is what we want. The reality for most of us? A corner of the web that can be only be described as a labour of love, and the reason we keep on blogging is simply because we enjoy it, despite the fact that the blogging community is dwindling.
I've now been blogging for over five years, and in that time I could probably count on one hand the amount of times I've actually worked on paid collaborations. I've been seriously lucky to have collaborated with a fantastic array of brands, and have been gifted lots of lovely products in the process. I've also been able to go to amazing events and was even interviewed for a BBC television programme, but for the most part I've written about my life, the things I enjoy and have used my blog as a form of online diary to look back on as years go by. I've never seen it as a money-making machine, and I don't think I'd ever want it to be.

I was asked when I started my first paid media job whether I wanted to blog full-time, and when I replied no the instant reaction was "what, why?!" The truth, blogging has always been a hobby for me, and I don't think I'd ever want it to become a job where I have to blog. I want to be able to write a rambling, crazy post like this one whenever I fancy. I want to blog about what I want to blog about, not about what I'm paid to write about. The thought of going out for a nice day with family, or going away on holiday, and having to constantly create content and see everything through a lens just isn't for me. The pressure that comes with it, the competition, the criticism. No, no and no. I even like that I can go a few weeks without posting anything when life gets in the way or when my creativity juices have all dried up. Then, when I'm feeling ready to write again, I can hop back into it and act as if I never went anywhere.

In those five years I've seen fellow bloggers who started the same time as me skyrocket through the blogosphere into mainstream media and beyond, and had I put more time and effort into reaching out to brands and creating more content I feel I may have been able to grow this space a little more too. Definitely not to that level, but when my blog was growing in the beginning I was approached a lot more than I am now. However, life gets in the way. I had university degrees to contend with, then came internships and the job hunt, and then I started a job that had me travelling all over the country. And my blog sat on the wayside for a while, always a constant thing in life, but not quite as high on my priority list. I loved blogging, but I never wanted to make it a thing that I had to do. 

Honestly, I'm in awe of what many of my fellow bloggers have achieved, and I love it when I see bloggers in magazines or on the TV and I proudly tell my friends, "that's so and so, she's got a blog, we follow each other..." But it's just something that never really appealed to me. And now, five years on, I've seen how much the blogosphere has changed. It's not just about writing and taking pretty pictures anymore, it's about completely branding yourself and your life. It's moved away from writing online and now has moved into the realms of Instagram and YouTube, which I feel can be a pretty scary place at times, and I'm pretty glad it's not something I had aspired to. I find it difficult to switch off from my job, and am always thinking about work and getting excited about what's coming up, so I can't imagine how difficult it must be to escape from the blogosphere when it's pretty much your life. And that's just not for me.

Have you ever wanted to be a full-time blogger?
Lots of love. xoxo

Sunday, 29 April 2018

STRESS AWARENESS MONTH | Six simple ways to destress after a hectic day.

Today, in honour of April being Stress Awareness Month, I wanted to write about the tiny pleasures we get from the everyday and how important it is to focus on them when life gets a bit crazy. I'm the first person to admit that I am a major stress head and worrier. Despite being told by friends and colleagues that I seem to handle things really well, and the fact that I apparently always look as cool as a cucumber (I mean, I am pretty cool but I say it's all thanks to my resting bitch face), inside I often find myself worrying about the tiniest of details and often I let my stress pile up, leaving me in a heap of exhaustion at the end of it all.
My mum is always telling me to relax and unwind more, and I do wish I didn't get so stressed out about things, but over the years I feel I've learned to cope with that side of my personality, and here are six ways I do just that.

1. Listing things that have made you happy that day

One thing that always helps me to feel better when I'm a little stressed is to focus on the good in every day. I find that a lot of the time you can get bogged down by the stresses of everyday life, whether it's work, relationships, daily chores or social media, and it's good to take a break and think of all the positive things that are going on, rather than the negative. The weeks in early April when the trees start to blossom and the parks are pink and pretty. The smell of my flat after I've hung my clean washing out to dry, and the feel of fresh bedding when you first snuggle under the duvet. Those belly laughs that make you ache for days afterwards and the first taste of chocolate when you've not had any for days. These are the little things in life that fill me with happiness, as simple as they are.

2. Getting outside into nature

I'm definitely a country girl at heart, despite absolutely loving city life, and whenever I can I get out and head to the park or the bay to escape the hustle and bustle of the Welsh capital for a little while. It's really weird how taking just half an hour to yourself to go for a walk and to connect with the outside world helps so much. My dream is to one day live in a beautiful house on a cliff top overlooking the sea. I find it so calming.

3. Smashing some exercise

This is my absolute favourite way to unwind, even though sometimes it leaves me feeling even more exhausted. I just love how exercise gets the blood pumping and as soon as the endorphins kick in I feel calmer and more focused than before. Exercise has been my escape for a few years now and I can't imagine my life without it.

4. Friendship dates

"A problem shared is a problem halved." I definitely believe in this, and I'm so grateful to have so many lovely friends and family members to speak to and meet up with when times get a little overwhelming. Talking through the stresses definitely help me, and the advice I receive from said friends and family even more so. Of course, I always try to help those where they need it too, and while I may not be heading up an advice column in a women's mag any time soon, I hope people know that I'm always there if they need me.

5. Prioritising and making lists

Yes, I am one of those gals who has two diaries and writes a daily to-do list to keep my life in check, but I have to say that it really does help to stop me stressing out and it's a reminder that when there is shit to do, I should just do it. Prioritising is absolutely essential in my job, and I find it helps in everything else too, especially as I try to blog as often as I can outside of it, and I also train most days and try to squeeze a social life in there too.

6. A hot bath, an early night and a good book

When all else fails, admitting defeat and just simply chilling the eff out is my answer. There's nothing better than a head to toe pamper session, followed by snuggling into bed at a ridiculously early hour with a good book or box set for company. I particularly love doing this on a Friday night after a busy week and waking up on a Saturday morning feeling well rested and flicking through everyone's drunken Insta stories always leaves me feeling pretty smug!

What are your favourite ways to unwind?
Lots of love. xoxo

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Why it's okay to put yourself first.

Lately life can only be described as a roller coaster of emotions. Isn't it funny that whenever parts of our lives are on the up, other aspects of life start to test you and you find you're dealing with a balancing act trying to keep everything in order? It's safe to say I've felt like that a lot lately, and while I've got some seriously amazing, fantastic, totally exciting news to share over the next few weeks, I'm being challenged in a way that I haven't before. 
These past few weeks life has hit me hard, and while there have been some incredible things happening, there have also been some very down moments. I'm a girl who loves familiarity and when things change I don't deal with it too well. I won't go into it because this blog has always been a place of positivity and I intend to keep it that way, but I think the main thing I've realised over the past few weeks is that sometimes you have no other choice but to put yourself first

It's hard. It's so difficult to think of yourself sometimes, especially when you're so accustomed to doing things to please others. I mean, in a whole other blog post I wrote about the power of saying no and I really have been practising it, in a bid to look after myself a little better. But I think you do come to a point where you have to accept that changes need to be made in order to become the best version of yourself, and I've come to accept that it's okay to make these changes

I'm going to keep this post short and sweet. When I started writing it I'll admit I was feeling very low, but I've finally accepted that making these changes are important for me at this time in my life, and I can honestly say I am feeling positive and that the next few weeks are going to be seriously exciting! I'm looking forward to focusing on my next venture, and this beautiful sunshine means my summer plans are underway with festivals, events and hopefully some travels too.

Let me finish by saying that sometimes difficult decisions have to be made in order to improve your mental and physical health, and it's completely fine to think of yourself in these circumstances. It's taken me a long time to realise it, but now I'm looking ahead to the next few weeks... 

Lots of love. xoxo

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Fitness | How I got 10k race ready in 8 weeks.

One of 2018's New Year's Resolutions was to run 10k without stopping. I'd started to challenge myself on the treadmill last year, aiming to do one 5k run a week and gradually I went from having to stop for a quick water break and some air every other kilometre, to being able to run it confidently and pacing myself against time. I really wanted to get back into running this year, as I was so into it about two/three years ago and I got fitter and felt far more body confident in the process. So, in a bid to get (read: force) myself back into it, I signed up for the Cardiff Half Marathon and training was underway. 
As my 5k runs started getting quicker and, honestly I'm shocked myself saying this, easier, I decided it was time for my first challenge and at the end of January I signed up to run the Cardiff Bay 10k. It would be the first ever running race I'd properly done, apart from the local fun run every kid in the school participated in when I was younger, and it's safe to say I was pretty terrified. I'd given myself 8 weeks to get ready, and the goal was to get around the course without stopping or walking. 

And I did it! I'm pleased to say I completed the 10k rather comfortably, and even ended up crossing the finish line in 58 minutes, even though I anticipated I'd be well over an hour. I ran around, even speeding up in the second half in order to try and beat the hour mark, and overall I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I ran with some of my favourite people, the atmosphere was electric, and everyone was there to have a good time. People were shouting and cheering you on as you ran past, giving you high fives and encouraging you to keep going. If anything it's made me ever so slightly less scared for the Half Marathon, and I'm even excited at the thought of doing it!
So how did I do it? I think it's safe to say I am in no way an expert, but I am a beginner and I enjoyed reading about other people's experiences in the lead up to my race. So here are my tips and tricks for getting ready to smash your first 10km.

1. Start running

Sounds completely obvious, but you have to start somewhere! I'll be honest, I used to loathe running. Just the thought of my feet thudding against the treadmill would have me running to the weights section of the gym, but now I've found that I actually crave a little run now and again, and the feeling on completing a run is amazing. It doesn't matter how far you can run to begin with. Start small, with water breaks and walks in between, and build up your distance gradually over time.

2. Get comfortable with 5k

This was the bit that I was most worried about. I guess I can run pretty fast if I want to. Hey, if it's last orders at the bar I'm there quicker than you can say Usain Bolt, but when it comes to stamina and distance I definitely struggle. The biggest bit of advice I read was to get comfortable with a 5k distance. Make sure you can complete it comfortably without stopping and from there you should be good to go. Every week leading up to the 10k race I made sure to run 5k on the treadmill. I basically scheduled it in that every Thursday evening after work, I would run a 5k and aimed to beat my PB each time. Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn't, but it was all aiding in helping me to get further faster.

3. Get some outdoor, long distance runs in

The weather in the lead up to the 10k was abysmal. Snow, rain, more snow, more rain, freezing temperatures, hailstone, even more snow. We had it all, and I actually only managed to get two longer distance outdoor runs into my training regime, which worried me a little. I ran with my mum who is an absolute trooper when it comes to outdoor running (would definitely get a running partner too, btw!) and I actually surprised myself as I ran around 8km both times, at a decent pace and without stopping. The longer runs were more difficult, but I felt really proud of myself knowing that I could do it if I put my mind to it. It also definitely showed the bonus of getting outdoors and running on different terrains and up hills etc. I'm looking forward to doing more running when the sun finally makes an appearance in preparation for the half marathon.

4. Mind over matter

As I said, stamina is not my strong point, and there would be times when running that I actually felt like just packing it in altogether. It's true what they say, there definitely is a "wall" that you have to get through, and for me it always comes up in the second third of a run, if that makes sense. At first, I'm doing pretty well, then I hit this wall where my body is almost screaming at me, questioning what on earth I am doing. Shortly after, you break through, your body gets comfortable and you feel as though you can keep going for far longer. As well as training your body, you have to train your mind and get into that mindset that you can do this, and that you will. That was probably one of the most difficult aspects of training for me, but on race day there are so many people around you, cheering you on and encouraging you to keep going. If only there was a little group of people cheering me on during my training runs...

5. Mix it up with different work outs

As well as working on my running training I enjoyed taking part in different classes at my gym to improve my overall fitness. I found spin classes really helpful as it loosened my legs up a little the day before my scheduled runs, and I also took part in weight training to help tone my legs and gain a little muscle strength. It also meant I was never bored at the gym and I learned to love my body again, something I've wanted to do for quite some time.

6. Look after your body

It's true when they say that training for any sort of race almost becomes a lifestyle, and I also ensured I was eating well, getting plenty of sleep and making sure not to burn the candles at both ends too. It really is amazing what a little self-care can do, and I loved that feeling of waking up on a Sunday morning ready to skip to the gym, rather than sprint to the toilet bowl. I've completely overhauled my life, and I feel so much better for it. Of course, I've enjoyed parties and nights out here and there. I've eaten plenty of pizza and have had a glass of prosecco or two, but my training regime reminded me that this was something I only wanted to enjoy now and again. I had more important things to focus on.

Now, my next focus is the Half Marathon in October, and I know that I really need to up my distance and get outside more in order to complete it comfortably. I plan to join a social running club, which would really push me outside of my comfort zone, and I also want to try and enjoy running by myself more. I do find it difficult to run long distance when I'm on my own, but it's something I really need to get into.

Do you enjoy running?
Lots of love. xoxo