If you are looking for a pair of trainers (sneakers), there are so many styles, brands, soles, prices, those that are dull looking and those that are very bright; that choosing a pair can be quite daunting. It really isn’t as simple as it seems. Trainers are made in different ways and styles according to what they are used for – and it is important too to differentiate between a workout/gym shoe and a running shoe. Although both are similar in design and style, the running shoe has been made to support forward movements and are generally more cushioned to absorb the shock from each footfall; the workout shoe/cross trainer is designed for the gym and is sturdy enough to withstand an intense bout of high intensity interval training. There are Workout Shoes for those who want to do weightlifting; some cross-trainers have the capability to accommodate short distance running, weight training, cycling, HIIT; others are more lightweight and have been created for indoor/studio use eg dance, cardio, aerobics. Don’t pick a workout shoe designed for weightlifting if your normal workouts involve jumping jacks and sprints.
The price of the trainers differ greatly. I came across an interesting study conducted by Nick Rizzo, Fitness Research Director at RunRepeat, the largest athletic footwear review company in the world. Nick is an elite level power lifter too, so he knows his stuff! Nick published a new study analysing 323,776 reviews and prices of 336 workout shoes representing 20 different brands. What I was amazed at was that one of the key findings indicated that the cheaper a workout shoe, the higher the ratings and user satisfaction. The top 10 most expensive workout shoes cost 183.05% more and have a 2.3% lower rating on average than the cheapest workout shoes. I was pleased that my favourite brand, Skechers rated highly; my teenage sons and husband wear Nike and Asics, which scored favourably too. To read Nick’s full report: https://RunRepeat.com/affordable-workout-shoes-better
According to Nick’s study:
3 Worst Workout Brands: Merrell; Vivobarefoot; The North Face
3 Best Workout Brands: NoBull; Skechers; Jordan
3 Cheapest Workout Brands: Avia; Skechers; Ryka
3 Most Expensive Workout Brands: Vivobarefoot; NoBull; Inov-8
So having sorted out the brand in the price bracket you’re happy with, what should you look for in a workout shoe?
Think about your workout/gym routine. Look for a workout shoe designed for the purpose – weightlifting, cross training, aerobics, Pilates….
Comfort. Workout shoes are supposed to feel comfortable and sturdy as soon as you put them on. Unlike normal shoes, there shouldn’t be a breaking in period …. Firm cushioning rather than soft to provide a stable base.
Support. The workout shoe should be able to provide a complete foot support – especially solid support in the side panels and heels. A supportive ankle bar is a necessity for during sprints and interval training.
Fit Well. Too loose can hinder performance and can even cause accidents. The shoe should have a secure lacing system, a padded tongue and collar.
Sole. A good workout trainer should have a relatively flat sole, especially at the heel where it should also be wide. For indoor/studio use, a smooth rubber outsole with minimal or no treads is ideal.
Your workout shoe should also be durable. How long your shoe lasts does depend on how often you use them, but with a bit of due care and attention you should be looking at least 6 months wear plus. Replace when the support is no longer there and visible signs of wear and tear have set in. Always keep your trainers dry and well ventilated. Avoid wearing them outside of your workout eg walking on pavements.
Finding the right workout shoe is like navigating through a minefield, but with perseverance you’ll find the right shoe. Remember, the best workout/gym shoe should offer improved grip and support so you can workout more safely and with greater effectiveness.
My thanks to Nick Rizzo Of RunRepeat.com for introducing me to his research.
Living with an invisible disability is difficult as people and businesses are often unaware of the chronic pain a person may be suffering. Sickle cell anemia sufferer Anne Welsh has written an interesting book about overcoming chronic pain through management, lifestyle and diet choices. This book is an interesting mix – Anne tells her own frank personal story about her life living with sickle cell anemia – warts ‘n’ all. From being a small child, how her parents coped, teenage years, university, work life, boyfriends, married life, pregnancy. Intertwined with the chapters are Anne’s honest look at the decisions made and what she advises to help make the life of someone suffering with chronic pain easier and advice for family and friends too. How to stay positive is her mantra. Although her advice can help all those living with chronic pain, she is adamant to spread the word about sickle cell disease, which is actually the most common genetic disease in the world, but people are not necessarily aware of it. I really enjoyed reading Anne’s book,” Pain-less “- she has a lovely chatty style – and I highly recommend it. You don’t need to suffer chronic pain to understand and devour her book – although she does give invaluable advice! I caught up with Anne recently and asked her a few questions….!! Hi Anne!
Hi! I would say that Anne Welsh is an internationally recognised author, entrepreneur and philanthropist. Most importantly I am a married mother of two and finds great joy in being close to family and friends. I have recently launched my memoir, Pain-less to inspire people who, like myself, live with sickle cell and work hard to find a path-way to a gratifying life while living with pain. It is a book that will motivate the reader to act and overcome challenges in life.
Through this book I am using my voice to help others by speaking on many radio and television spots, such as the BBC and London live, and in front of decision makers and parliamentary political leaders in the UK or in countries around the world where sickle cell is a serious health issue.
I have a degree in Accounting and Finance and an MSc in Investment Management and broke barriers as an investment banker with Lehman Brothers, by establishing workplace practices for ethnic minorities and people with disability. I now run my own consultancy firm based in London, England and is an expert in bringing business opportunities to investors around the globe.
Your book, “Pain-Less” is truly inspirational – but what made you decide to write “Pain-Less” in the first place?
I decided to write my book Pain-Less as I felt it was time to finally share my story with the world. It was truly a struggle growing up. I was constantly in hospital and each time I would lose hope that I would be better or would I just be burden on my family and society for the rest of my life.
As I broke away from the negativity that surrounded my life, I knew that I could make a positive difference to others with invisible illnesses, who were going through similar experiences to me. By sharing my story I could help them to overcome their fears, live life to the fullest and being able to achieve their life long aspirations.
I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish. I liked how you wrote the book – the mix of your personal story, your struggle to overcome chronic pain and your sound advice. Fortunately, I don’t suffer from a chronic complaint but I do know people who do, so it was an eye opening insight for me to understand what it is like living with an invisible disease. I really appreciated the advice you gave in the book to family, friends, peers and employers on how to handle someone with an invisible disability. What changes do you feel that employers/businesses should think about to help those with an invisible disability?
People with an invisible illness are prone to the same emotions as everyone else. They often don’t ask for special treatment, but they do ask for an understanding of the invisible illness you have. Sometimes negative reactions from your colleagues are amplified because you don’t look sick or have a visible physical disability that accompanies empathy that is often demonstrated by people you may be working with.
Therefore, awareness is key. As a person with an illness you must make your employer aware that you have an invisible disease. Employers should take the time to put in place suitable infrastructure where necessary to make the lives of those living with an invisible illness can perform without restrictions. I can tell you the moment my employers were able to give me the help I needed; I saw an improvement in my performance and my contribution to the team was immediately recognised.
What was, for you, the hardest part(s) to write about in “Pain-less”?
Overcoming the fact that I was putting myself out to the world to scrutinise. A memoir is more than just your life highlights – to do it well you must make the point of including those things that make you the person you are at a moment in life. It creates a personal tension within yourself and forces to analyse your true feelings about many subjects that you had not really considered before. This can be a very mentally demanding task.
I had heard about Sickle Cell Anaemia, mostly through a novel I recently read written by a Nigerian author who mentioned it in passing as one of the characters was a mum whose children died of sickle cell at toddler age – but I had no idea of the symptoms of sickle cell, how some people are carriers and some get the full blown disease, and that it doesn’t automatically carry a death sentence. Neither did I realise that Sickle Cell disease is the most common genetic disease in the world. Being an Ambassador for Raising Awareness Of Sickle Cell Disease, what are your main aims & tasks? What are the main misconceptions about sickle cell?
My aim is to ensure that proper attention is paid to this disease. Often it helps to have those difficult conversations with decision makers and influencers, and I will use my network to have as many as I can.
A huge misconception about sickle cell is that it is a life sentence that and those who suffer from it cannot lead a truly fulfilling life. True it drastically reduces the life span of individuals in areas where basic pain management and health care is not readily available; however, this capacity for care continues to improve worldwide.
Finally, the struggle is as much a mental struggle as a physical one. The disease’s negative impact on a person must be viewed in its totality. Depression, loneliness, difficulty in securing a job are all issues that need to be addressed by the individual and society in general.
In your book you describe your ways of helping to manage your pain via lifestyle choices, diet and medication. I liked the frank way you described your experiences and that there was a lot of trial and error involved along the way as you tried to make your way as a schoolgirl, as a teenager, as a university student, as a girlfriend, as a wife, as a mother too. As an adult, it is easier to make sensible choices re lifestyle & diet; how was it trying to stay positive and manage your disease as a youngster?
As a youngster, I could not fully comprehend why I was different other than the pain was terrible, and I could not do the things my sisters and friends could do. I felt isolated and I truly relied on my parents to survive. I just knew I had to survive. It is not more complex than that.
As a mum myself, I know how stressful it is going through pregnancy and eventual childbirth. Knowing that you also had the added risk of passing on the genetic disease to your unborn child; the pain of giving birth on top of your chronic pain; yet your desire for children – must have made it a tough decision for you and your husband to make! What worried you most whilst pregnant?
Actually, passing on the genetic disease was luckily not an issue. My husband was Caucasian with European lineage so the passing on of the disease on was not a worry.
Everything else on the journey to motherhood was stress filled. Getting to the finish line and having a healthy child pop out was always in my thoughts. Both children were born five weeks and the care regime I was placed under helped me reduce the anxiety greatly. I cannot thank the team of doctors and nurses that helped me along the way.
Being stressed doesn’t help anybody, let alone somebody with sickle cell anemia – so what do you do to relax and de-stress?
I constantly monitor the health of my body. I realise when I need to rest and when I need to reduce the work-load I am under. I just enjoy hanging out with my family, sisters and their families and friends.
Following the correct eating plan and doing exercise plays a very important role in achieving the relaxation and a I less stressed environment.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
I love the classic mixed with modern look. Now we are in autumn you will find me wearing lots of sweaters dresses, ankle length boots in a variety of colours, always accented by the appropriate sunglasses.
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?
Zara and Net-a-porter
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
A new Trench coat from Burberry and the Jimmy Choo white boots.
Boots or Shoes?
When it is cold and raining, definitely boots. Boots, keep me warm and this prevents a sickle cell crisis from coming on quickly.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc
There is something undeniably therapeutic about being in a forest – the greenery is relaxing, the silence, the smells, the general aura of the trees, the feeling of being remote, the shade on a hot day …. Ever since I was a young child I have loved being amongst trees. My woodland playground in them days was Epping Forest, on the fringes of East London and Essex. A woodland setting for a hot July weekend away recently was bliss – destination Thetford Forest.
Thetford Forest straddles the border between Suffolk and Norfolk in the East Anglia region of England. It covers well over 19,000ha (47,000 acres). It is the largest lowland pine forest in England, although other trees are present including oak, beech, lime, walnut, red oak and maple. These hardwood trees are found along the sides of the roads acting as fire breaks. This Forest is actually manmade – a fact I was amazed to discover- it was created after the First World War in 1922 to provide a strategic reserve of timber since Britain had lost so many oaks and other slow growing trees as a consequence of the war.
Considering that 4 main roads bisect Thetford Forest and that visitor numbers exceed 1 million annually; the part of the forest we visited was extremely quiet and remote and we passed only a couple of fellow walkers going the opposite way to us. Thetford Forest is a very popular destination for mountain biking – there are several trails to make the most of the experience.
However, as my youngest son had a broken foot and was on crutches, we didn’t partake. At his insistence though, we did the 5 mile circular walk trail through the forest, starting from Lynford Hall, passing the metal statue of the Lynford Stag at the halfway stage, crossing the Lynford Lakes and back to the hall. The walk is actually a distance of 4.5miles (7.2km) but we did get lost and ventured down the wrong path and had to retrace our steps! As the weather was hot and dry, the paths were easy to walk on (and to use crutches) but there were some areas where the paths were overgrown and my son did have some trouble disentangling his crutches out of the grass!
Thetford Forest is home to a large population of hares, rabbits, game birds, scarce breeding birds such as woodlarks and golden pheasants, and breeds of deer (muntjac, roe deer & red deer). The air was alive with the sounds of birdsong and you could hear the occasional rustle in the trees … was that a gruffalo?! …. alas we didn’t see any deer but we knew they were close by as we came across piles of deer poo pellets! Ethan was trying to avoid landing his crutches in them! By the lakes we saw a few frogs though…
The wildlife are able to thrive in the forest because of the Forestry Commission’s strict policies – dogs are welcome to be walked in the area but must be kept on a lead at all times and kept away from the children’s play areas. In the Lynford Arboretum area dogs are not allowed (except guide dogs). Each winter, The British Siberian Husky Racing Association hold several husky racing events in the forest. I have been on a sledge driven by huskies when I was in Finland – they went really fast over bush and logs etc – it was like a rollercoaster! So I can only imagine what fun husky racing can be! Might be something to mark in the calendar….
Our start and end destination to our walk was the beautiful Lynford Hall, set in the heart of Thetford Forest. The original Hall was built in the 1800s and belonged to the Sutton family, and sat in its grounds of 7,718 acres. In 1857 Mr & Mrs Lyne Stephens took up residence & began to rebuild the present hall, designed by William Burn. It took 7 years to build, and when it was finished in 1869 it became a grade 2 Mansion. Mr Lyne Stephens made his money by inventing Dolls Eyes that opened and closed. In 1930 it became residence of Sir James Calder who frequently entertained his friend, the then American Ambassador, Joseph Kennedy, and his son, John F Kennedy, who eventually became US President. Even King Edward VII viewed Lynford Hall as a Royal Residence but chose Sandringham instead.
In recent years Lynford Hall has been the setting for many popular TV series including “Allo Allo”, “Love On The Branch Line”, “You Rang My Lord” and “Dad’s Army”. Nowadays it is a hotel that also hosts events and weddings – such a great venue amongst the lakes, parkland and thousands of acres of forest that adjoin Thetford Forest itself.
When we’ve visited Thetford Forest before we stayed at Center Parcs …. and there are various other lodges and campsites in the forest that offer accommodation in the forest. This weekend though we stayed at Lynford Hall. My boys said they felt very “Royal” ! I didn’t get a picture of my youngest going up and down the grand sweeping staircase with his crutches but I did get pictures of the gorgeous views and gardens…
One thing my sons were fascinated with was the old gramophone that sat outside our room – I think they were dying to have a go but didn’t! Standing in the ballroom I can just imagine the Royals and other VIPs of the day, dancing to the sounds of the gramophone…
What a weekend – a lovely mix of nature and history, peace and romance! Do trees inspire you in the same way?
As part of my husband’s ongoing cycle training for the Grand Depart Classic in Brussels (first leg of the 2019 Tour De France) on Saturday 29 June 2019 – he is riding on behalf of Prostate Cancer UK (find out more HERE) – Adam took part in early May in the Lincoln GP Sportive (Lincoln Grand Prix). Although the Brussels ride is around 125 miles, the 75 mile Lincoln GP ride was excellent training as the finishing line was at the top of a 23% gradient cobbled hill – aptly named Steep Hill – and the cobbles were something Adam had not yet faced and the Brussels ride features two cobbled hills of steep gradients – so Lincoln was the perfect training ride. Fortunately the hills in Brussels are not at the end of a gruelling 75 mile undulating cycle ride but occur when legs are still relatively fresh, so to speak. Our two youngest sons and I were in Lincoln to cheer on Adam and to give him some moral support as he attempted the cobbles. In the meantime, the boys and I had about 6 hours to kill whilst Adam was poodling around the Lincolnshire countryside so we did some exploring of our own around the city of Lincoln…
This was the first time I had actually spent some time in Lincolnshire – I had travelled through the county on my way to Yorkshire, Newcastle and Scotland in the past – so I was looking forward to spending some time in Lincoln. I must admit I was under the impression that Lincolnshire was a flat county – however, I now know that Lincoln itself is pretty steep and Adam assures me that the Lincolnshire Wolds that surround Lincoln were pretty undulating too! Having arrived in the evening, in rain, it was great to open our hotel room curtains and have a terrific view of Lincoln cathedral and blue skies. The boys and I decided the first place we will be exploring was to be Lincoln Cathedral.
It was a 10 minute uphill walk to the Cathedral and on the way we diverted into a small park with trees planted in dedication to university staff who had died. It was a pretty place to wander around with a small outdoor gym. I must admit I was hoping that there was an underpass or shortcut across the busy main road via the park but I was disappointed that the park’s path was a circular route (oh well, just think of those Fitbit steps!)
Lincoln Cathedral is pretty impressive. It was first constructed in 1072 in the gothic style of that era. In fact, from 1311 – 1548 it was the tallest building in the world. Nowadays it is the 4th largest cathedral in the UK after Liverpool, St Paul’s, and York Minster. The original Cathedral was damaged by an earthquake on 15 April 1185 – an eye witness described the Cathedral as having been “split from top to bottom”. All I can say is that the reconstruction must have been sturdier as the Cathedral looked strong to me! Lincoln Cathedral is one of the few English cathedrals built from the rock it is standing on. The Cathedral’s stonemasons use more than 100 tonnes of stone per year for maintenance and repairs. It was in maintenance mode when we visited, but the building still looked splendid. You might have seen Lincoln Cathedral in films: it doubled up as Westminster Abbey in “Young Victoria” and in the Netflix Shakespeare film “TheKing”. Lincoln Cathedral also once housed a copy of the Magna Carta – now it is housed in Lincoln Castle …
Out of Lincoln Cathedral, past the Magna Carta pub, we ventured onto Lincoln Castle with its extensive grounds and intact wall. Visitors can now walk the full circumference of the wall, which is an impressive third of a mile long. The views over Lincoln and the countryside are supposed to be stunning but I must admit that the clouds started to roll in and a cup of tea beckoned so we retreated to the cafe that was set within the castle walls & the Victorian prison instead. Lincoln Castle was built by William The Conqueror in 1068. The Victorian prison was added on in 1788. In the Castle grounds was the impressive building of Lincoln Crown Court, alas not open to the public. The boys though were more interested in the Lego Space Exhibition being held in the grounds. Presented and built by Bricklive, the exhibits included larger than life models of The Earth, astronauts and the Space Shuttle.
Next stop, Steep Hill. This cobbled hill & its adjacent street, Mickelgate, was where the finishing line was. We still had a bit of time to visit a shop on Steep Hill that I had discovered online some months previously: Roly’s Fudge Pantry! I couldn’t wait to discover this little fudge enclave and I thought Adam and his fellow team cyclists might appreciate fudge once they passed that finish line. Let me tell you, the fudge pantry did not disappoint! The sweet aroma hits you as soon as you crossed the threshold and there was fudge being made in front of our very own eyes. So many flavours to choose from ! The fudge was appreciated by the cyclists at the end and we came back the next day to buy more before our drive home . We tried the following flavours: Maple & Walnut; Honeycomb; Strawberry & Prosecco; Mint Chocolate; Hot Cross Bun; Whisky & Ginger; Chocolate; Salted Maple & Pecan….. it was hard to pick a favourite but my 3 faves were salted maple & pecan; strawberry & prosecco and whisky & ginger. Apparently you can now buy them online.
Other shops on Steep Hill worth checking out are Pimento Lincoln’s Original Vegetarian Cafe for their soya hot chocolate with vegan whipped cream & marshmallows; Annushka Russian Dolls Shop (!) and the Mouse House Cheese Shop & Coffee Bar ….for marmite scones …
Around 2.30pm, my boys and I were halfway down Steep Hill ready to cheer on the cyclists as they make their arduous way up the steep cobbled hill. Adam and his teammates made it up the hill in one piece and are ready to face the Belgian challenge.
Lincoln is a university town so after dark on a Saturday night the place was buzzing with bars, clubs and restaurants – it was especially vibrant down by the waterfront. We ate in Zizzi’s and I highly recommend their King Prawn Linguine.
Lincoln had so much to offer that I didn’t manage to explore the shops, the Museum of Lincolnshire or The Collection Usher Gallery …. but I will endeavour to visit next time ( a repeat visit to the fudge pantry would be on my itinerary too)
It might have been the popularity of TV shows like Strictly Come Dancing or it might have been the heady days of the 1970s/1980s with the emergence of films such as Saturday Night Fever, Grease, Fame…but one thing is for sure is that on the whole the UK seems to be “dance- mad”. I’m sure the other world nations are the same, though. Since launching in January 2017, City Dance Parties have gained in popularity, and they were winners of the “Best Hen and Stag Provider” category at the 2019 British Wedding Awards. The dance parties are not just for hen nights, as I found out when I chatted with founder, Jenny Haynes. Hi Jenny!
Hello! My name’s Jenny Haynes, and I’m the founder of City Dance Parties, a nation-wide dance party company that specialises in dance classes for hen parties, birthdays and corporate events.
Congratulations on being the winner of “Best Hen And Stag Provider” at the 2019 British Wedding Awards – so, what triggered the eureka moment to begin your company, City Dance Parties?
Thank you! What a bonkers surprise, I’m absolutely over the moon still. I trained as an actor at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, and to earn a bit of extra money to help with living expenses, started teaching hen party dance classes on a Saturday afternoon (we were in school Monday-Friday from 8am -7pm). It was after my partner pointed out that he always really enjoyed hanging out with me after I’d finished teaching the classes as I was in such a good mood that I realised how much I really enjoyed the work, and thought this was something I might want to take more seriously. After I graduated from Bristol, I started putting things into action, so I could try to forge a side hustle that would work in tandem with auditions, and acting……we’ve grown step by step from there really!
Have you always wanted a career in dance or did your aspirations lie elsewhere?
I’ve always loved dance/movement, and always wanted to work in the physical theatre and movement side of acting – discovering how much I enjoyed teaching hen parties dancing took things on a slightly off piste path (a path I’m very grateful for), into a career that is a mixture of event planning, dancing and teaching!
You offer a vast range of dance classes, including Burlesque, Beyoncé, Bollywood, Dirty Dancing, 80s & 90s dance classes, salsa ….What would you say are the most popular dance masterclasses?
The most popular last year was definitely Beyonce! Everyone is loving Queen B (and with good reason in my opinion) – we once had a booking for a Beyonce class for a 70th Birthday, which I thought was absolutely F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S. This year (for obvious reasons), Spice Girls have been making a big resurgence, and 90s dance is always super popular, as 90’s Children/Teens are all starting to get married now! Disney, which we added last year, has been a really popular choice, and, Dirty Dancing continues to be a firm favourite!
Which dance masterclass is your personal favourite?
I have to say I love a bit of Roaring 20’s…..it’s the perfect opportunity to get dressed up, and get really into the feel of the class (we’ve had some fabulously dressed groups for our 20’s classes over the past few years!). 90s Dance, Beyonce and Belly Dance are also solid favourites of mine to teach!
What does a typical Hen Party Dance Class include?
The exact details of the class can vary slightly depending on what length of class you choose, and what style, but you can expect lots of laughs, all the basics of your chosen style, taught to you by a professional choreographer, dance-offs, and a fun-filled group routine (we sometimes even crack out a MegaMix routine depending on the style of dance!) that everyone can perform together, and video, so that you’ve got a long lasting memory of your special day.
A lot of parties like to dress up or at least have a few accessories to jazz up the weekend – what clothing guidelines do you recommend? What dressing up outfits are most popular? What has been the most unusual/unique dance party outfit you have seen?
We tend to say that as long as you can move comfortably, that’s the main thing! Some groups love to dress up, others wear dance/gym gear, and some wear slightly more relaxed clothes they’re wearing out later on. It’s all about finding what you’re comfortable in, and what will make the session most enjoyable for you. We’ve had some fantastic fancy dress, and some absolutely bonkers costumes….some of my highlights are: a group we had come in dressed as archaeologists and dinosaurs, a group that came dressed as various iconic artists from the 90’s (YES to the lady who came in a power rangers morph suit!!), and a group who donned the most stunning vintage outfits for a 20’s masterclass. One that always sticks in my memory though, is one from a few years ago, when a group of ladies came to a burlesque class slightly later on in the day (I think a few glasses of bubbly had been had by that point!), and within 5 minutes of the class, one lady had stripped completely naked, and was stood covering her modesty with two strategically placed feather fans!! (NOT compulsory for Burlesque Classes I might add!)
You currently operate in Bath, Bristol, Brighton, Cardiff, Durham, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle and York. Any new places on the horizon for 2019?
We actually added Edinburgh, Glasgow, Nottingham, Birmingham and Chester to the list last year! I’m always keen to keep expanding and branching out into new cities. Sheffield is one that’s definitely being added to the list, and we’re slowly taking over the UK! I never want to rush things and try and grow too quickly, as I want to really establish a good quality base in each city we offer. We do have our first international booking in May this year, so just watch this space!!
Would the dance classes take into account those who may be uncoordinated, unfit or not as agile?
Absolutely. With an event like a hen do, or a birthday, there’s often going to be a big range in abilities, ages, and often co-ordination, so I try to cater the sessions so they’re really suitable for all abilities, and they’re fast paced enough for those experienced in dance, but also really accommodating and fun for those who have never donned their dancing shoes before! We’ve had groups of ex professional dancers in before, and ladies who have never taken a dance class in their life; whatever the ability, our main focus is creating a class that’s fun for you, and will ensure you have the best time possible. Often the idea of dance can be a bit nerve-racking, especially if you haven’t got much experience, or haven’t danced in a while, so we try to make the sessions focused around having fun, creating some special memories and building confidence. It’s actually one of my favourite things about the work….having ladies come in who aren’t confident at all, and are perhaps a little resistant about the idea of dancing leaving with big smiles on their faces, new skills, and the realisation that dance can be great fun!
I love shows like Strictly Come Dancing – I especially love watching the Argentine Tango! Which dance style do you enjoy watching? Is there any dance style that you would like to try that you haven’t attempted before?
I LOVED watching So You Think You Can Dance when I was a teenager – it’s an American reality dance show, that showcases some incredible choreographers and dancers of all different styles. I personally love a bit of jazz and commercial….the sassier the better! I’ve never been particularly good at tumbling or flips, so I’d say the ‘Acro’ or ‘Gymnastics’ side of dance is something I’d love to really master one day.
Personal now, what outfits/footwear would you normally wear for a dance class?
Now…I’m a sucker for a lace leotard. I have some customised City Dance Parties leotards I wear for classes I teach (I mostly work on the admin side of things now, but always try and jump in and teach on quieter weekends!) , and my absolute favourite is a backless black lace number. Combine it with some bright, funky leggings (my wardrobe is 99% lycra so I need to make sure I’m kitted out properly!) and some bright trainers and you are good to go! A brand I’ve been LOVING recently is KYODAN, which I buy through TK Maxx; they’re really gorgeous designs, fab fitting, and won’t break the bank.
Boots Or Shoes?
I have to say shoes…..in particular trainers!! I grew up wearing high heels on any occasion (Geordie Girl born and bred!) but after a back injury in my early 20’s switched over to trainers pretty much full time, and I’m now a convert to trainers for pretty much whatever occasion I can get away with wearing them!
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can learn more about City Dance Parties
Thanks Jenny! Those classes sound a lot of fun! Talking about loving lace leotards – in the 1980s one of my favourite “disco” outfits was a bright yellow lace leotard/bodysuit which I wore with black satiny leggings and a bright yellow/black kimono style shirt/jacket held together with a wide black patent belt! And black patent court shoes with a high thin metal stiletto heel! 🙂 Couldn’t dance in heels like that nowadays though!
All photographs have been published with kind permission from City Dance Parties; apart from the Pinterest photo which is by Linda Hobden
I’m heading down under to New Zealand this week to chat to Susan Stevens, founder & CEO of “Made With Respect”. Made With Respect’s mission is to support sustainable brands from around the world in the areas of fashion, self care, home and outdoor products; as well as educating and informing consumers of the importance of making conscious choices and living more sustainably. Sounds very impressive! Hi Susan & welcome….
Hello! My name is Susan Stevens, I live in NZ with my husband and 3 children (2 girls and a boy) aged 6, 9 and 12. I travelled extensively in my 20s with my husband, experiencing many vibrant cultures and appreciating contrasting landscapes. I have always loved spending time outdoors and at the beach and now with our children we spend almost all our free time in the water surfing. I have a huge appreciation for nature and what it provides us. I am passionate about protecting the amazing natural resources that we have been blessed with, particularly the ocean and the wildlife that we share this planet with.
What was behind the inspiration for Made With Respect?
In 2018 we launched Made With Respect, but my journey really started when I left behind a successful corporate career after experiencing a suppressive work environment and learning the importance of empowering and enabling others. In 2014 when I launched my first business working with artisan brands and overseas suppliers, I saw first hand the transparency (or lack of) in supply chains. Through my work over the past few years I’ve become gravely aware of the negative impact we as consumers have on our planet, it stirred a passion within me to create a business that made a difference whilst supporting and enabling others with a shared vision.
The stats are quite scary. If the global population reaches 9.6 billion by 2050 (currently 7.5 billion and projected to increase by 1 billion in the next 12 years), the equivalent of almost three planets could be required to provide the natural resources needed to sustain our current lifestyles. Given we’ve only got one planet, that is quite a concern. Add to that the WWF 2018 Living Planet report which shows evidence that nature is dying with 60% decline in the animal population across the planet, 83% decline in freshwater species and 90% of seabirds consuming plastic. Alarmingly, if we continue with the current rate of plastic waste there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. We have to stop burying our heads and being ignorant of our behaviour because unless we change, our future looks bleak. I created Made With Respect to not only be a platform that champions sustainable brands who give a damn, but through MWR Movement, we are educating and informing consumers of the crucial role we play in the problems our planet face and through taking consistent conscious actions we can start to be part of the solution.
Your company is a proud member of “1% For The Planet” – what does that entail?
As a member of 1% for the Planet, MWR donates a minimum of 1% total revenue to approved nonprofit partners who do essential work across six core focus areas; climate, food, land, pollution, water and wildlife. So that means that every dollar Made With Respect generates gives back to the health of our planet.
Your website features brands from all around the world – from France, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Spain, Peru, Italy, USA, Ireland, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Canada, Denmark, Netherlands, Iceland, Germany, Lithuania. What criteria have you have set for brands to qualify to partner with MWR?
Brands who we partner with that design and manufacture sustainable products in self-care, fashion, home and outdoor must fall within the following 4 pillars;
Devoted to craftsmanship; making quality products that last and can be passed down through the generations.
Transparent supply chain; good working conditions, no child labour
Natural materials & natural ingredients; no chemicals or toxins (organic where possible), recycling, upcycling, regeneration and reduction of waste, embracing renewable resources and preserving the environment
Contributing to make the world a better place; supporting local or disadvantaged communities, being more than a profit driven operation
We have amazing brands who are giving back on so many fronts, not only are they operating in a circular economy, minimising waste and making the most of resources but many are contributing part of their profits to worthy causes or supporting disadvantaged communities.
We absolutely have to embrace these brands, we have to shine the spotlight on them and make them the example.
From clothing to bed linen, and lots of categories inbetween, your website caters for many. To date, what has been the most popular items/products/brands ?
Skin care, followed by children’s & women’s fashion, has been the most popular categories so far. But ideally we want to be known as a place where consumers can conveniently shop (and support) sustainable brands across categories. There are amazing sustainable brands in the market, but often they’re not easy to find as they don’t have the marketing budgets or distribution networks of the multi-nationals that are purely profit driven.
In a world where people tend to be time poor, if we can’t find what we want then we’ll resort to the easiest and most convenient option – the problem with this is often the quickest and easiest is also the most damaging and destructive. One of MWR’s goal, through our partnerships with sustainable brands, is to make it easier for consumers to find, buy and support those brands that are making a positive difference.
What’s your favourite item?
I’ve got so many favourite items and brands that I can’t name just one!
As Made With Respect is based in New Zealand, are the products on the website available to purchase worldwide?
Absolutely, our brands are located from all around the world and their products are shipped to customers around the world.
At Made With Respect we are conscious of our own carbon footprint. To ensure we operate sustainably and in order to reduce our own impact on the environment, rather than holding our brand’s products in a central warehouse, instead the brand ships directly from their workshop to our customers. There is no double handling of product and no additional packaging wastage.
I noticed on your website you have The MWR 31 Days Of Sustainable Habits Challenge – can you explain this challenge? What habit did you find was the hardest to change?
The objective of MWR 31 Days of Sustainable Habits Challenge is to show consumers we don’t need to go to extreme measures, we simply have to make more conscious choices in our everyday life to make a positive impact, we want to reinforce that small changes ultimately make a difference. I see this as being the crucial place to start, because it’s often the starting that is the hard part, once started it’s much easier to build momentum and once you start something you become more aware and more educated, education is key.
I think people can become overwhelmed when they don’t know what to do and where to start, the mentality then becomes `how can one person possibly make a difference’. What our Sustainable Habits Challenge does, is it shows consumers there are simple things they can easily implement into their lifestyle that will make a difference. For instance;
Place lint in the trash rather than wash it down the drain. Why? Because microfibres, which are too small to be caught by waste treatment plants, are responsible for 85% of shoreline pollution across the globe.
Buy natural fibres instead of synthetics materials. Why? Because they are by-products of petroleum and are non-biodegradable plus during the wash cycle these micro plastic fibres are released into our waterwaste and end up on the shoreline, eaten by wildlife and fish and polluting our foodchain.
Carry a reusable drink bottle. Why? Because 50 billion plastic drink bottles are consumed every year, for every 10 bottles, only 2 end up recycled the rest end up in landfills and polluting our oceans and beaches.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
I generally wear very neutral colours; white, grey, beige, navy blue and in particular black. I’ve always felt that colour dates and may only be ‘on-trend’ for that particular season whereas neutral colours, especially black is very versatile, timeless and can be dressed up or down.
In summer you’ll mostly find me in shorts & a camisole or a little black floaty summer dress with sandals. In winter I love wearing jeans or black pants, a tee, jacket or blazer and a pair of casual white sneakers or ankle boots.
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?
Yes, Made With Respect!
I’m a very conscious shopper (I always have been), I prefer to buy less but buy quality pieces that last and look great for years.
With MWR I always support our brands first. If I do find myself browsing in clothing shops and I see something I like I always check the label first, if it’s made from sustainable materials such as organic cotton, linen, tencel then I’ll try it on. Once you become aware, it’s amazing how easy it is to spot synthetic materials.
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
At the moment I’ve got AmaElla lingerie on my wish list.
I don’t buy a new wardrobe every season. I have pieces that I’ve worn, both clothes and shoes (that get reheeled) year after year, because they are made from quality materials that wear well, wash well and last. They are designed to be timeless so they transcend fashion trends and for any pieces I do chose to take out of my wardrobe, they are always in great condition to recycle at op shops, or loved all over again when passed on to girlfriends, my mum & more recently my daughter.
Boots or Shoes?
I love ankle boots in cooler weather. A good quality & timeless style will last you years, they are so versatile with pants, jeans, dresses and skirts, you can dress them up or down.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc so that readers can find out more about Made With Respect.
Thank you for your interview Susan. So many important points to ponder over and the sustainable habits challenge is a start and doable. Your website features some beautiful products too – thank you for introducing us to some quality and sustainable brands.
All photographs have been published with kind permission from Susan Stevens (MWR).
Living the Vegan Lifestyle has been in the news a lot recently – January was “veganuary” and the spotlight was on all things Vegan. The reactions from various people have been mixed when the word “vegan” has been mentioned – most people I’ve spoken to hadn’t really got a clue what the Vegan lifestyle entailed; some guessed that it was a more extreme form of being a vegetarian; some have embraced the ethics of being a Vegan wholeheartedly; some were interested and some were not. Personally I am not a Vegan – I do eat meat but I do embrace vegetarian and vegan dishes too. There are a few Vegan restaurants springing up and with thousands of products being granted the coveted Vegan trademark on a daily basis, embracing a Vegan lifestyle is not as daunting as you may think. I caught up with the lovely Dominika of The Vegan Society to find out more about The Vegan Society and living the Vegan lifestyle. Hi Dominika….
Hello! My name is Dominika and I work as media and PR officer at The Vegan Society. We are the world’s oldest vegan society whose co-founder, Donald Watson, came up with the word ‘vegan’ back in 1944. Everything we do is to help people go vegan and remain vegan!
The Vegan Society has produced an app – Veguide App – that covers the basics of transitioning to a vegan lifestyle with 30 short daily videos. What inspired the creation of the app?
We wanted to bring vegan pledges into the 21st century – we know that most new vegans are young people, and this demographic is also the one most likely to use mobile apps and social media. VeGuide features two mentors in the similar age group to our target audience which we thought would help its users to relate to them.
VeGuide is free to download on Android and iOS devices. Its users receive a combination of daily informational videos, motivational quotes, quizzes, recipes and discounts, all of which aim to help them ease into vegan living.
The Vegan Trademark – sunflower symbol – guarantees that products are free from animal ingredients and animal testing. There are now over 30,000 products and services registered with the Vegan Trademark. How does a brand go about registering their products?
Brands can contact our Vegan Trademark team at email@example.com, which will be followed up by some questions that include the number of products a company wants to register, their turnover and size, so that my colleagues can provide them with a quote. After this, the Trademark team carefully checks all the ingredients in the products about to be Trademarked to make sure they’re animal-free. We can also help brands veganise products and suggest alternatives to any animal products their items contain.
From curries to cakes, virtually any recipe could be made suitable for a vegan lifestyle, as long as they are made from plant-based ingredients. Have you got a personal favourite vegan dish or recipe?
I’m all for quick and easy recipes that don’t require tens of ingredients! I’m personally very much into Korean and East Asian cuisine, so I love dishes like kimchi jjigae, ddeokbokki, jjajangmyeon, Japanese curry, mapo tofu, bibimbap, and various side dishes, called muchim in Korean cuisine. For those with a less oriental preferences, I find that making vegan versions of easy classics like lasagne, chilli con carne, shepherd’s pie, enchiladas or roast dinner is best!
I read on your website that honey was the product probably most frequently mistaken as vegan -friendly. I must admit I thought it was! Why is honey excluded? What other foodstuffs are also mistaken as being vegan friendly?
Honey is a product made by animals, so for the sake of consistency is excluded from a vegan diet. Veganism opposes the use and killing of all animals. Other foods that sometimes may not be vegan are alcohol (beer and wine mainly).
What are the nutritional and other benefits of becoming vegan?
Eating a balanced vegan diet helps to limit saturated fat and get plenty of fibre, vitamins and minerals. Research shows vegans have lower blood pressure, lower chances of getting heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. This is partly because animal products, unlike vegan food, contain a significant amount of cholesterol.
In the UK all medicines are required to be tested on animals before being deemed as safe for human use. Obviously, if you are a vegan how are you able to get the medication needed without compromising your beliefs? What are The Vegan Society’s recommendations?
Vegans avoid using animals as far as is practicable and possible. When choosing cosmetics, vegans can pick products that have not been tested on animals but unfortunately we don’t currently have such a choice with medicines or vaccinations. The Vegan Society never advises anyone to stop taking prescribed medicines but we do encourage patients to speak to their doctors to see if a vegan-friendly alternative is available.
What is the hardest part, or the hardest thing to forgo, did you find, of transitioning to follow a vegan lifestyle?
Many people find it difficult to avoid cheese. However, the human tastebuds have a wonderful ability to adapt, so if you resign from cheese for a month or two and then try vegan cheese, you’re very like to enjoy the flavour. Most vegans say the hardest part of going vegan was simply making the decision to do it.P
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?
I shop online a lot, on websites like Asos, EMP and Yesstyle which features East Asian fashion. When I go to a shopping mall, I often wander around all the different stores in search of a thing I’m looking for at that moment. It’s amazing how easy it is to find vegan clothes and footwear on the high street!
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
I’ve been looking at Luxe Derbys from Will’s Vegan Shoes for a while now. They’re beautiful but pricier because they’re made of eco-friendly, durable vegan leather. I’m just waiting for the right moment to get them!
Boots Or Shoes?
Boots – I get cold very easily so I like footwear that covers my ankles! However, I’m 6ft tall which is a lot for a girl, so I’m not at all interested in adding any more inches which makes it tricky with boots!
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about The Vegan Society.
Thank you for the chat Dominika – those Japanese and Asian dishes really do sound interesting (and no doubt delicious!) I really hope, dear readers, that Dominika has helped to dispel any myths and if you do want to follow the Vegan route, then Dominika has given you some inspiration to go ahead and take that leap!
Photo Credits: Pinned Photo by Linda Hobden. The other photos in the article have been published with kind permission from The Vegan Society & Dominika Piasecka
I’m lucky to have the salt marshes & mudflats virtually on my doorstep – it is just the place to blow away the cobwebs after days of overeating and drinking during the Christmas/New Year period. In fact, it is a great place to walk whatever season – the marshes change so much and the salty air is so embracing. On New Year’s Eve 2018 the weather was cloudy but mild – unlike previous years where the air was crisp and the skies were cloudless and blue. The ground was a bit muddy underfoot too … very muddy… but nothing that a good pair of wellies or walking boots can handle. So where are these salt marshes?
The Saltmarsh Coast is the 75 miles of coastline and creeks that stretch from the estuary of the River Crouch to the south to the estuary of the River Blackwater in the north, of the Maldon district of Essex in South East England. The Blackwater Estuary is internationally recognised as being an area of outstanding importance for wildlife and conservation – the marshes are habitat for migrant wildfowl and waders; and a magnet for thousands upon thousands of wild duck, geese and wading birds. On Old Hall Marshes it is estimated that around 4000 Brent geese feed here in winter. The site also supports 24 species of butterfly, dragon and damselflies.
Historically the Romans were interested in this highly salty area – the Roman town of Colchester (Britain’s oldest town) is only around 10 miles away and the famous Maldon Salt is still produced in the town of Maldon. However, in the 19th century the major industry here was oyster dredging. Small oysters were dredged at Tollesbury and sent along to the Kent coast to mature. There are still small oysters to be found. As the Tollesbury mudflats are a very important area for native oysters, it is a good place to spot oystercatchers, so my birdwatcher friends tell me.
One feature I always photograph whenever I walk the seawall and that is the Tollesbury Tree …. it looked quite lonely this week!
There were still grasses and berries abound but under the cloud the mud reigned supreme.
I can’t wait to show you the seawall in Spring and in the sunshine….here’s a sneak peak from a previous summer ….
All photographs are by Linda Hobden; map downloaded from Maldon District Council’s Saltmarsh tourist site.
Embarrassingly, I had always associated cheerleading competitions with America – along with baseball and American Football – until recently, that is, when I discovered that cheerleading competitions are alive and kicking in the UK too! I’m delighted to introduce onto my blog this week, Kimberley Mason, founder of ICE (Incredibly Cool Events) who gave me an insight into the cheerleading scene in the UK. Hi Kimberley!
Hi! I am Kimberley Mason I was born in the West Midlands and was raised on dance classes and competitions.
What inspired you to start up ICE (Incredibly Cool Events)?
After running my community interest company and working in sport for disadvantaged communities I felt there was a big need for affordable accessible cheerleading and dance competitions.
ICE organises cheerleading and dance competitions, workshops & Coaching. What would a cheerleading team expect if entering an ICE event?
They would get a help from a friendly team during the lead up to the event, affordable prices and all the support needed to get their teams feeling confident so they could give their best performance on the floor. There are big trophies, a medal for each competitor and a beautiful back drop to perform in front of. We have a highly trained judging team that offers constructive feedback at each of our events.
When did you start “cheerleading” & what was it about cheerleading that attracted you ?
I started Irish dance at the age of 7 and although I loved it the heavy shoes were not for me. I then tried freestyle dance and loved it. Dance became my passion from then onwards and I took part in competitions on a weekly basis. I found cheerleading at the age of 18 and the more I learnt the more I fell in love with it. I loved the fact that it was a team sport and the way the competitions were organised. The cheer spirit and the team ethos were definitely the main attraction.
What are the benefits of cheerleading?
Cheerleading has many benefits; it improves fitness, helps with life skills such asworking as team work and co-operation, it helps build confidence and there is a fantastic social side.
Is cheerleading suitable for everybody?
Yes all ages and abilities, cheerleading is done on a level basis so there is a level suitable for everyone. There are different elements to a cheer routine, dance, tumble, stunt and jumps.
Do you enjoy any other genre of dance?
Yes I enjoy all styles of dance, we offer pom dance, jazz, contemporary, lyrical, hip hop and next season we will be offering Acro.
Although you are based in the UK, are teams outside of the UK allowed to enter your events?
Yes of course we welcome everyone.
What ICE events are planned for the rest of 2018/2019?
We have lots of dance and cheer events lined up for the next season and they take place all over the country :
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
At the moment I’m pregnant with my second baby so a big maternity dress with expandable sandals for my swollen feet. When not pregnant you will find me in leggings and jeans and flats, usually covered in George’s (my toddler) latest meal.
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?
I love ASOS because there is so much to choose from and outfits and shoes for every occasion.
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
I would love some fashionable day wear but I have a feeling with baby boy number 2 on the way it will be a while until I make any major investments into my wardrobe, although I will be investing in some winter boots at the start of the winter season.
Boots or Shoes?
Boots, they look lovely and are very comfortable plus there are lots of different styles, long, mid length, ankle, flat etc so there is something for most occasions.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc
Ahh …Summer Sun! In the Northern Hemisphere the summer season has begun in earnest with the UK, USA, Canada and Europe warming up nicely with an impromptu heatwave …. and there is no better time than now to introduce Australian brand, Tesalate, to the blog. Tesalate towels are not only beautifully designed but they are super absorbent and, most impressive of all, they are totally sand free. Co founder Jacky was lovely enough to answer my questions about her vibrant and eye catching designs. Hi Jacky!
Hi! I’m Jacky, co-founder, designer and beach bum (tester). Volkan is my business partner.
What inspired the launch of Tesalate towels?
Volkan and I were hiking to a remote beach in the Royal National Park near Sydney. On the hike back, our towel was heavy, smelly, and filled our backpack with sand. So, we figured we can make something much better.
I love the eye-catching designs of the towels – my favourite is the Phoenix design. To date, what has been your most popular design?
In every country, a different one is popular. What we love seeing is that people are often adventurous. They will buy something really colorful and out there.
What’s your most favourite design in your collection?
To Tuscany, but then again I’m a sucker for turquoise.
I’m often interested about origins of some brand names – and Tesalate is one brand name I’m intrigued about. What is the reasoning behind the name?
Our original designs were all tessellations (repeating patterns).
Apart from being beautifully designed the towels are compact, super absorbent, lightweight … and astonishingly are totally sand-free! What are the towels made of? How do you care for them to help maintain their absorbency?
We spent a year developing our own fabric called AbsorbLite. It’s made of a form of microfiber, which means it has a lot of performance features. Our finish and processing allow it to be completely sand-free.
Growing up, did you all have dreams of being a designer or did you have other career plans?
I always knew I wanted to create something. Design for us is more than the towel. It’s how we interact with customers and it’s the environment we create for our employees.
As Tesalate is based in Australia, are your products available to purchase worldwide?
We ship worldwide for free. In fact, we have shipped to over 100 countries since we’ve launched.
If you could visit any place in the world to get inspiration for a new towel design collection, where would you go and why?
Sydney! Luckily we live here. There are a hundred different nationalities, and every area has its own subculture. I’ve been to a lot of amazing places, but I have never been to a place where it is a mix of so many cultures. Plus, we have a world city, we have amazing beaches, and we are surrounded by national parks. Can you tell I love Sydney?
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
Beachwear or anything that is comfortable.
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?
There are too many to mention. But generally, I like to shop at sites selling beachwear.
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
Nothing definite comes to mind right now. But quality should matter most when it comes to choosing any product.
Boots or Shoes?
Neither. I like going barefoot since I love going to the beach.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc so that readers can find out more about Tesalate.
Wow, dear readers, what do you think about those towel designs? I love each and every one of those designs and I still think that being totally sand free is just amazing! Thank you Jacky for taking the time to chat on the blog about your fantastic product.
All photos published with kind permission of Tesalate.