The Butterfly Effect

We’ll get onto the title of this post a little later. Let’s first focus on comparison. ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’. It’s true. I’m sure it’s a saying you’re all familiar with, I always believed it BUT when you combat it and actually stop comparing yourself to others, you do realise how much joy it was taking…

I recently spoke in a YouTube video about how I’m on the other side of a journey out of comparing my running to others’. When I was starting back out running, I’d forever be comparing my post-run Strava posts and performance to everything that I saw on there. I also approached my training in a way that would make my post run posts allow me to be perceived a certain way. When I write it out now it seems so silly BUT it is SO easy to do especially when you’re starting out. When all you see is Instagram pumping out posts saying ‘x’ pace is a good ‘easy’ pace and you’re not even close. When ‘x’ time is great for just throwing in a 5km into your week and again, you’re not close even on a good day…

It’s a weird thing to admit. That you perhaps wouldn’t take your easy runs as easy as you should have done in fear of what that made you look like on Strava; or that you’re saying your run was an easy run when it was more tempo effort. It happens more than you know.

Looking back, it really does disappoint me. Not in a way that I’m disappointed in myself, but in way where so much energy was expended worrying about these things when in reality, no one cares. It makes no difference to anyone else, the pace you’re running your easy run at. Those easy runs are your bread and butter. They’re your endurance builders. They’re there to help you recover from hard sessions and help your body run more efficiently. So…. why push too hard in those sessions and jeopardise all of the benefits they’re meant to bring? I’m telling you now, it’s not worth it. Run those easy runs, easy!

You will have your chance to perform and prove yourself. Whether it be in races, events, time trials- whatever that looks like for you, that time will come. When that time comes, you’ll be thankful that you didn’t throw your easy runs.

So that’s pacing… what about distance you should be running? There seems to be this weird unwritten rule on social media where a run only counts if it’s 5km or longer. Let’s just throw that in the bin right away. Any distance is a good distance. If you’ve only got 15 minutes to head out, clear your head and get some fresh air then turn that thinking around… instead of limited thinking of- ‘I’ve only got 15 minutes’, tell yourself- ‘I’ve got a whole 15 minutes’ to get out and run.

Remember, everyone runs for their own reasons, each run might have it’s own reason too. For example, I may be training for a huge ultra but that doesn’t mean that I can’t just head out for 20 minutes easy to clear my head and connect with my dog. You may be training for an ultra where speed training over a short distance isn’t a focus… and comparing your 5km efforts to someone whose goal is to run a 5km PB. They simply aren’t comparable. When we’re looking at Strava, or Instagram captions, they’re isolated instances, appreciate that person’s efforts but don’t let them diminish your own.

So now I’ve turned this around for running, it could really be applied to all aspects of life. Comparing your career to someone else’s? Comparing your family unit to someone else’s? Comparing your perception of success with someone else’s life? Tell me truthfully, does doing that make you happy? I’m going to hazard a guess at the answer to that being no… This is also a work in progress for me. I’ve just turned 31 and it would be easy to compare where I am and what I have achieved with others BUT it’s the butterfly effect isn’t it…. if you changed even the smallest detail along the way, your life could take SUCH a difference course. So if you were to then ask me if I’d change a single thing, my answer would always be no. If my life had have been different in even the smallest of ways, I wouldn’t have Bonnie or Mark, I wouldn’t have just graced the cover of Women’s Running Magazine and have some of the amazing opportunities I have now. It’s amazing to think, some of our best days are yet to happen.

My advice- stop focusing on the things that could have happened differently, or how successful someone ‘seems’ in comparison to you, or battling with your own perception of the timeline you should be following. Focus instead on the amazing things you have, the people around you and the things you can do, if change is what you want. Then, go out and do something about it instead of just stewing on it.

It’s time I also took my own advice instead of living a very ‘do as I say, not as I do‘ life…

Char x

Tales from the Waterfall Country

In my return to blogging I’m super excited to share with you mine and Bonnie’s latest trip to the Waterfall Country, Wales.

I love writing and after a break I am back. Since starting to spend more time outside, I often find it hard to shorten everything I want to say, into an Instagram caption…so here we are. You’re lucky over here to get my full ramblings!

Background

This weekend Bonnie [my dog] and I headed to Ystradfellte in the Brecon Beacons for a hike. We were supposed to be running a trail half marathon along the Jurassic Coast but due to injury we made a switch. My injury has kept adventures on hold for a few weeks and I was just itching to get out. The Waterfall country did not disappoint so grab a cuppa and read all about it below.

I found the route we planned to walk on Komoot. The beauty of Komoot is that other people submit photos of key points along the route so you can get a preview of the highlights you’re going to see. It also has the feature where you can select a highlight like ‘Sgwd Yr Eira Waterfall’ and you can see all of the routes in the app that have that waterfall on the route and choose your distance to suit. We chose the Full Waterfall walk which is around 17.5km. You can save the route to your Komoot profile and follow it as you go. Since I hike alone [until Mark is back from deployment] I download the gpx file and upload it to my watch [Garmin Fenix 6 pro] and use that to guide me to save my phone battery.

Onto the Adventure

03.59 I woke, one minute before my alarm… I’m always conflicted when this happens…. was I anxious that I would miss my alarm or was I just ready to get up? At that time of the morning I’d probably say it was the former.

First things first. Coffee! Bonnie was still in bed and stayed there until it was time to leave- she’s not so enthusiastic about 4am alarms. I went downstairs, made myself a coffee- conscious to be quiet so I didn’t wake anyone else. Heading back upstairs, happy with my coffee in hand, it was time to get ready for our adventure.

The forecast was set to pour with rain so I’d set out layers, waterproofs and spare kit to travel home in. The aim was to stay as dry as possible- knowing that completely dry was not an option. I’d been fortunate to receive a PR package from Sweaty Betty the day before with their new Thermodynamic thermal running leggings and quarter zip top. The timing couldn’t have been more impeccable, they were perfect.

Car packed up, hot chocolate in my flask and Bonnie finally up and ready to go, we set off on our adventure in the pitch black while the world was still sleeping. It was just over a two hour drive for us from Warwickshire to the Gwaun Hepste car park. As we were nearing the carpark, there were waterfalls to the sides of the road and I found myself getting emotional. HOW could it be this beautiful?! We were the first car there, perfect! For anyone planning to go, if you get there before 8am parking is £4 for the day, after 8am £5. They have two ticket machines and accept cash and card, so you shouldn’t be caught short and unable to get a ticket. I had no signal in and around the carpark, so I’d definitely recommend making sure you had your route planned ahead of arrival.

I loaded up our route on my watch and off we went. A real talent [read shortcoming] of mine is to head off on a looped route and actually be walking it in reverse…. yeah, that happened. Generally speaking it’s not a huge problem if it does happen because I’m still just following a dot on a map… just backwards and ignoring all instructions to try and get us back on the actual route. At the start, given how early we were beginning our hike, it was a real blessing because it meant we had this waterfall all to ourselves to get such an amazing snap and feel like we could take it all in- rather than feeling rushed to move on because everyone else is waiting- that happened later at the others.

Sgwd Clun-gwyn Waterfall

To be there by ourselves was such a luxury and quite overwhelming to take it all in. The waterfall itself felt so powerful, mighty and unapologetically fierce. Like, imagine if that was how someone described you, how epic would that be. Stood there in that moment, just me, Bonnie and potentially the most powerful moment I’ve ever felt in nature, it all made sense why I do what I do. It’s in those moments that you realise how much you are missing when you don’t go and explore all that the great outdoors has to offer. You learn a lot about yourself when you go out on adventures like this alone. You aren’t chatting the whole way…. [well, to be honest, I do actually talk to Bonnie a lot along the way…but there’s no two way conversation]. I don’t listen to anything, I don’t want to miss anything along the way so when you aren’t in awe of the expanse in front of you, you’re often lost in your own thoughts.

Back to the hike… we left this waterfall and continued along our route through the wooded trails, starting to come across others starting out their walks. We were SO spoilt with the weather. I’d come out in a long sleeve, thermal layer over the top, a gilet and a waterproof coat…. I was so hot after expecting it to be cold and wet all day!

About a fifth of the way into the route we found ourselves out of the trails and walking along a roadside… This was NOT what I came here for– was all I could think the whole way along this road. The road led into a village and in total made up about 2/5 of the entire route. If I was to go again [which I undoubtedly will when Mark is back], I’d plot my own route to try and keep to trails because this was the least enjoyable section and made up a lot of the total route.

The start of the long road that was never ending

Back to the trails. It was around the Dinas carpark we managed to jump back onto the trails and we were back chasing waterfalls [hurrah]. We picked the pace back up and marched past this lovely group of people who let us past…. little did we know we’d see them twice more as we kept diverting from the route. On we went to another waterfall, just a small detour from the route but lovely. It was a slippery steep climb down but it was worth it. This was was of those moments where you feel rushed to quickly snap and move on because there were people above that didn’t want to climb down, trying to take photos.

Sychryd Waterfall

We climbed back up to the top and jumped back onto our actual route again… back behind the group we’d previously passed. We caught up with them and on our second pass- they asked if we were on round two already- haha no… just took a detour for a waterfall. On we went. We were still yet to come across the waterfall I’d read about that you could pass behind…

I was so happy to be back on the trails, a small light shower of rain came and went but we weren’t phased since we’d set out expecting a full day of pouring rain. There it was! The waterfall I’d be waiting and hoping for. It was HUGE! So loud, so powerful and actually, the closer you got… the scarier it seemed. If you remember, at the beginning, I said we’d actually set out on the reverse of the route… that was about to be a problem…

We were making our way down the rocky descent to the base of the waterfall… until we see a sign that says ‘Turn around point’… uh oh. Maybe you can’t walk behind it after all. I could see a huge group of people in the other side walking toward the waterfall but I was yet to see anyone pass through from one side to the other. I figured that sign was there for a reason on this side so I did turn around and we started making our way back up to the top of the trails. I didn’t have any signal, but I could access the route on Komoot so I started looking for an alternative to passing through the waterfall. We HAD to find a way over the water since we were parked on that side somewhere… I walked back and forth on this one section unable to find an alternative [without adding sooooooo many more kms onto our alreadt fairly long walk] and getting frustrated. Sod it. Surely, if you can pass from the other side to this side, then you should be able to pass from this side to the other side. I decided we had no choice but to do it.

We start the descent again to the base of the waterfall. Guess who is in front of us again…. The same group we’d passed twice before.

Them: “are we missing lots or something?”
Me: “no…. I’ve been down here once already and it seems if I want to get back to my car… I have to go through!”
Them: “through?!!
Me: “yep. Time to put the jacket back on!”

Luckily on the final steps down, there were two people coming towards us SOAKING they’d walked through. If they could, we could. The closer we got, the more powerful it got. I was scared, so was Bonnie but I knew it was possible. In order to keep Bonnie safe passing behind it, I HAD to be confident. The sheer power of the wind generated from the falling water and the spray, made it quite difficult. The path between the sheet of plummeting water and the wall behind it was narrow. One foot in front of the other, staying close to the wall, it was loud, SO loud. Bonnie didn’t like it, it must’ve felt so much more for her. I picked her up. Moments later we emerged from behind this waterfall. WE WERE DRENCHED. It was all very dramatic, me emerging cradling Bonnie in my arms and then it hit me. The adrenaline. The buzz. THAT WAS FANTASTIC! What a thrill! We hadn’t gone in reckless with wild a abandon of self preservation, I knew that we had to be as sensible and safe about it. IF it’d have gone wrong, it’d have gone very wrong. BUT it went SO right that it was absolutely exhilarating. I just couldn’t believe we’d just walked behind such a strong and almighty waterfall. It was strong, powerful and beautiful. We HAVE to come back with Mark, he’d LOVE this- I thought. Top tip- it’s obviously very wet, but also rocky and slippery- good hiking boots are a must.

Emerging after passing through Sgwd Yr Eira Waterfall

We continued on the final stretch of our walk. The trails were busy now, I was so glad we’d set off when we had. There’s just something about being in these wonderful places alone.

Around 13:20, 17.55km later, we were back at our car tucking into the hot chocolate I’d prepared at 4am, feeling content.

If I didn’t have a dog, would I be going on these adventures completely alone? I don’t know the answer to that, she’s wonderful company and loves the adventure as much as me, so I guess we’ll also not have to find out the answer.

If you wanted to go and see the waterfalls, you absolutely don’t have to walk 17.55km. Head to Komoot, search the waterfall you really want to visit and then see what routes are on there and pick your distance, or create your own. Here’s an example of route that include Sgwd Yr Eira Waterfall.

Image capture from Komoot

Driving home, all I could think was- I’m so glad we came. It was somewhere I’d wanted to visit for a while. I’d asked a friend if they wanted to come and they said no. I could’ve put it off and waited until someone wanted to come or Mark was home BUT I’m so glad we just went anyway. It was the best day. I am forever in awe of the beautiful places we can visit and their power to make me feel so small get so fulfilled.

If you’ve been waiting for a sign to go and visit that place you’ve been wanting to visit but haven’t ‘got around to’- just go!

Where shall we go next?

Char x

[this post mentions gifted items but is not a sponsored post. I have no affiliation with Komoot, I am just sharing something I love using and I think you could find useful too]

Pure Joy

OpenMove by Afterskokz

I get asked all the time what I listen to while I’m running and what headphones I use to listen with. I struggle to run without listening to something and lately it has been podcasts over music. I can get lost in a podcast, especially a funny one where as I just focus on running to tempo with music and can still kind of keep track of how long I’ve been running for and how far is still to go if i’m just running to music.

My main concern while running with headphones has always been safety. With social distancing during lockdown, it made it harder to just run on the pavement. I found myself jumping onto the road to give room to walkers. Doing this meant that I had to be more vigilant and aware of my surroundings, to be able to hear traffic all around me.

I also noticed that since the start of lockdown SO many more people have started to run. This is so amazing! I love that the running community is growing and that I get a chance to share something I love with more people.

This week Aftershokz launched their newest headphones- OpenMove. They are a new entry level pair of bone conduction headphones. They’re the perfect pair for if you have been intrigued by the technology or fancy trying out bone conduction headphones for the first time. I was lucky enough to get to try the headphones, I wore them for the first half of my ultramarathon and here are my thoughts.

They’re super light (29g to be precise) so you barely even feel they are there. They also stay in place so you don’t feel them bouncing around whilst you’re running. The bone conduction technology means that they are open ear headphones… this means that you are fully aware of your surroundings as there is nothing covering your ears, they sit just in front sending mini vibrations through your cheekbones. I felt confident jumping on and off of the road where I needed to knowing that I could hear what was going on around me.

I have the slate grey but they come in three more colours- alpine white, elevation blue and himalayan pink. Some other product perks are that they boast a 6hr battery life and are waterproof- great if you love running in the rain like me.

You can find the product on the Aftershokz website here.

I can’t wait to hear how much you love them too.

Char x

* I was gifted this pair as part of the Aftershokz Shokzlab testing programme. All views are my own.

How I Afford My Running Kit

*disclaimer- this is not a sponsored post. This post is not endorsed by any of the stores/brands mentioned or linked. I am just sharing what has helped me in the hope of helping you! *

It’s no secret that I’ve started taking my running more seriously over the last 6 months. I ran competitively at school, continued running a bit through 6th form and uni and then *poof* the love went and I stopped. A year ago my life dramatically changed and I started running again as something for me and my dog to do together in our new place of living. Boom! The love was back but the problem was, I had no real running kit anymore. I barely had any activewear at all left to be honest.

When I moved a year ago, life also got a lot more expensive. A new flat with higher rent, more driving, an anxious pup going to doggy daycare as we risked eviction from our new place when I was trying to leave her alone. All of this means I have very little expendable income. When I say very little, I mean very little. Like, debating how much I need/want Netflix some months and thats only £8.99 that would be saved.

This means that I am not in a position to be buying the latest trainers in the newly released colours of the season or a £100+ hydration pack. Choosing to tackle an ultramarathon means my runs are long. Choosing to tackle an ultramarathon in September means my runs are HOT. Both of those factors mean I need appropriate kit at a budget friendly price. I’ve got some tips below if you find yourself in a position like mine or just want to save a few pennies while you’re shopping.

  1. I buy my shoes from sportsshoes.com . I over pronate so I wear a stability shoe. My first pair I bought this year were Saucony Guides £39.99 instead of £119.99. I wanted to be able to rotate shoes so I also recently bought the Under Armour HOVR Guardians £57.49 instead of £114.99. I have also started some trail running so have just ordered a pair of trail shoes, Nike Wildhorse 5 £62.99 instead of £104.99. A total saving of £179.50. MAD!
  2. When you want to try new supplements/ nutrition products have a look around your IG. It is highly likely that one of your fave influencers out there probably has a discount code. Buy samples/ small amounts first. This way if you don’t like the product, you aren’t out of pocket by loads of ££ and you aren’t stuck with a load of product you don’t like and aren’t going to use. Before I started working with Kendal Mint Co. I found an influencer with a discount code and ordered their welcome pack. It allowed me to reduce my spend and try one of each of the products before ordering what I decided I wanted more of. The most risk free way of trying new things. If you want to do the same, my discount code is: charlotteclarke10
  3. You don’t NEED a fancy big brand hydration pack. When I was shopping for mine, the temptation was SO REAL to buy into a big brand and spend £100+. For what? to look like the other runners on IG?! It was actually my boyfriend who said he’d bought his from Decathlon and to look there. £12.99!!!!! They don’t have the exact one anymore but I’ve found one here for £17.99 that is basically the newer version of mine AND it comes with a 1L water bladder included.
  4. Shop around. Do you have an amazon prime account that can get you what you want/need with free next day delivery instead of paying for it from a brand website.
  5. Have a look online for discount codes too. I’m very lucky to work for a University in my full time job so I get student discount. Lots of websites and brands have random discount codes available online. Just have a little look before you place your order.
  6. Have a look for 2nd hand. Places like Ebay and Facebook Marketplace are great. I got my Tomtom running watch for £40 on Facebook marketplace and it does the job! There are plenty of people who have ordered trainers in the wrong size and missed a return deadline so turn to these sites to sell their items. I for one, am keeping my eyes open on Ebay for a pair of Hoka one one trainers because I just can’t afford a full price pair and have no shame in saying that

These are just a few tips from me. It can be stressful trying to work out how you’re going to afford new things for yourself especially when you need them but just don’t have lots of money to spend. I know I am very privileged to even be able to buy things for myself full stop but I thought I would share some things that have helped me and could also help you. The things I have bought for myself have been spread over the last 6 months rather than as and when I fancy something.

I hope these tips help you out and save you a little money like they have for me!

Char x

Let’s Start over; Hi, I’m Charlotte!

After yet another break away from my little space here on the internet, I am back and feeling more positive and ready to go than ever.

I felt like I lost my identity for a while. I didn’t feel like my posts or stories were worthy of an audience. The fire has been lit again inside and we go again.

Those of you who have been following me for a while, thank you for sticking by my on thing extremely winding journey I am so grateful for you. Those of you who are new here, hello!

I first started blogging back in 2013/14 when I returned to the Professional Dance Industry after my 2nd heart operation. It was more of a portfolio kind of blog talking about jobs, shoots, rehearsals and all that I encountered as a professional dancer, model and some TV work I did too. It was actually more of a way to keep friends and family happy and informed with what I was doing. I’d perhaps post a beautiful sunrise photo on facebook on my way to set at 5am and I’d get so many ‘where were you going?’ ‘what were you doing’ comments that I couldn’t talk about in some cases due to NDAs until the work was released. So I set up my blog and everyone knew that once I could talk about it, I would and it would be here.

I then left that world and got into health and fitness blogging. I was preparing for my first bikini competition, I was vegan and I was sharing it all with you. I was working towards my Level 3 Personal Training qualification and reviewing classes, kit and places to eat and train over London. I used to create lots of recipes from scratch and write them to share with you.

A few years passed and I had a great time doing this and then I stopped the bikini competitions and changed my place of work and with that I also lost and drive to write about what I was doing. I entered into a relationship that evolved to be something I would never wish on anyone else.

In that relationship I lost who I was, I lost my voice, my power and spent 8 months explicitly being told by my partner to be scared of my partner. So that’s how it was. In that relationship I deleted my entire blog content, I didn’t feel like the same person anymore. ALL of my hard work over the years, gone. (believe me, I regret it now). I overhauled my blog and it became a space called ‘Adulting…’ It was a place for me to write about navigating adult life. I felt like I had nothing else to talk about. I was injured after a bad fall so I wasn’t training. I needed an outlet but I didn’t feel interesting. I posted a few times and then left it.

After 8 months or fear, being shouted at until I was shaking and unable to stand, my things being thrown in the street, the promises to change, it all exploded one night and enough was enough. I packed up my life and moved out of our home with my puppy with nowhere to live and I’ve never been more proud of a decision in my life! I’ll talk about it a little more another time but I did self refer for help with my Mental Health following this. I received treatment for PTSD to help me move on with my life and not take this experience and how I was treated into a future relationship.

I’ve blogged a little since then sharing parts of my experience. The trauma didn’t end there. My previous post to this one, The one with the inappropriate Airbnb host’ goes into just one of the awful experiences. I wanted to share some of my struggles to normalise talking about these things so that people don’t feel alone in their experiences.

Now we are here. Whilst I am back and seemingly starting over, my blog will now be a mixture of all of the entities it has held the form of. I am LOVING training so much again and am training for an Ultramarathon at the moment. (Fingers crossed it still goes ahead!) My fitness posts shall return documenting some of my journey and helping you with yours. I am back baking and writing recipes so those kinds of posts will return too. I have had such great feedback from my recent posts on here and Instagram where I have spoken about my mental health, being open about therapy and that it’s okay not to be okay. I will continue posting about this and together we can normalise this kind of conversation. Fitness, Food, Wellbeing.

I’m in the last year of my twenties, I am happier than ever and am so happy to have you here for the ride with me.

Lets go.

Char x