Frustrated With Fitness Magazines

Surely I’m not the only one. Surely!

So a couple of weeks ago I picked up a copy of “Women’s Health” (it was in a bundle package with Runner’s World and that’s the excuse I’m going with) and leafed through it, as you do, half-hoping that it would give me some good ideas about cross-training and keeping myself ready for the half marathon. I’ve read fitness magazines before. I never found them particularly offensive – at worst, I just snort and tear pretty photographs out for my scrapbook collages.

This one, for some reason, left me fuming. It was all the things I found annoying about other women’s magazines, but magnified to about 1000, and finally made me want to take to the Internet to air my frustration.

First things first, what is with that magazine’s obsession with fertility? And I don’t just mean increasing your own fertility – a hefty chunk of the advice doled out was about helping increase your partner’s fertility. “Encourage him to drink less beer” and “Make sure he has a soft bike sear” – the kind of advice you only see about once a year in Cosmo – seemed to appear on every other page, which made me wonder:

a) Are all the readers of “Women’s Health” cisgendered, able-bodied heterosexual women of a baby-making age, or are they simply assuming that?

b) Since when is it a woman’s responsibility to take care of her partner’s health, reproductive or otherwise?

c) Not everyone picking up this magazine is interested in having babies, for a variety of reasons. So why is reproduction such a key feature of the mag?

Focus on baby-making aside, I found it annoying how often the suggested workouts and diets relied on expensive equipment and access to a gym/pool. Britney Spears has a great bod and she needs to be in top shape to be able to do an ongoing show in Las Vegas, but not all of us can afford to have a treadmill in our house, buy a gym pass, or even buy a fancy sports watch that measures our heart rate. (The first time I tried to understand what “tempo running” is, I gave up halfway through because it required me to do the kinds of mathematics I haven’t touched on since high school. I wasn’t able to figure it out static, let alone while pounding the pavement.)

What about the people living in rented accommodation? What about students? What about the introverts who would like to keep into shape, but can’t stand an over-crowded gym, or the fitness newbies intimidated by pretentious, overly zealous instructors? Can you give us a guide to choosing the best coach for us alongside that workout plan, or do you assume everyone can afford the “dating approach” – spending money on lessons until they are most certain that this person is not a good fit for us? (And don’t even get me started on the “12 months minimum membership” contracts.) What about those of us who can’t drop £100+ on a juicer, or even a cheap Sainsbury’s food processor? Or those of us who don’t have a car to help us haul our weekly shop from the farmer’s market?

In fact, while I’m on the subject of food, how does anyone manage to purchase some of these products if they don’t live in London, or rely on dodgy Amazon wholesalers? Where do you go to buy rice malt syrup if the delivery cost for one measly Biona squeezy tube is more than the product itself? Or spelt pasta? Or raw cacao? The local supermarket might or might not stock it (my money is on “might not”) but for everyone else, it’s either online shopping or driving to the nearest big city to find a Wholefoods.

Of course, sometimes you  find a well-stocked Holland and Barrett, and I can’t complain as the farmer’s market at Bath is both cheap and accessible… but I’m pretty privileged, not only to live in proximity to such shops, but also to have a healthy pair of legs and a strong back to carry me to and fro. Not everyone has that, but to read some of these fitness mags, you get the impression that, unless you are eating locally-bought wholefoods and only the rawest of chocolate, you are committing a moral sin against your body.

The irony, of course, comes when, after reading an article about a power workout, or a cartoon where a woman looks down at her belly saying “what went wrong?” and the belly responds “cake”, you get a two-page ad for zero-calorie chocolate pudding, or fat-free yogurt. Seriously? You’re going to sing the praises of whole foods and exercise while trying to sell us products that are processed within an inch of their lives? No thank you.

All of this, of course, is present in other magazines as well, but for whatever reason, two weeks ago, I reached the end of my patience. I took the magazine straight to the recycling and didn’t even think twice, I was that frustrated.

Am I the only one? Surely I can’t be.


Your Bake Sale Checklist

Sometimes, when you think about an event, be it a party or a trip, there are some things that pop into your brain immediately. Others don’t even occur to you until you’re there, on the day, wondering how you could have forgotten something as vital as a spatula.

The hole-puncher, however, is entirely optional.

While I forgot the spatula, I did have most of the important things with me, so today I’ll share with you my main bake sale checklist.

Before the day

– ensuring a table

– obtaining permission to sell on the place

– completing risk assessment (depends on the venue. I was at Uni, where you have to do it regardless of whether you’re affiliated with a society or not.)

– money tins with security seals from your chosen charity (for transparency’s sake)

– some posters or flyers from your charity (optional, but I’d get it – it adds legitimacy and helps spread awareness, if your customers want to know more about it)

– aluminium trays in which to bake your goods (easy to carry around AND to dispose of later; plus, it’s easy to pop pesky brownies out of them when you forgot the all-important spatula)

– cake boxes or cake tins, depending on what you have/what you’re making (I bulk-ordered mine from Amazon, which turned out cheaper than getting them from Kitchens or Lakeland. That said, the delivery time was very, very close.)

– your recipes (although I did improvise a lot on the actual day)

– a large bag to carry everything

On the day:

– some change to give people (though, really, most had enough)

– vinyl gloves and antibacterial gel

– napkins and/or food bags (I got both, but in hindsight one would have sufficed)

– blu  tac for securing posters to table

– notecards with allergy information – dairy-free, gluten-free, contains nuts, berries, stevia…. people don’t always ask, but like to know (I used the back of my business cards for this)

– clingfilm to cover trays

– a spatula or palette knife (pre-cut your brownies and cakes. It’s for the best.)

– your goods, obvs

– a notebook for writing things down (you have no idea what might pop into one’s mind while standing in the cold, smiling, for four hours)

– garbage bag (optional,  but useful)

– tablecloth (optional)

– lots and lots of good humor (INDISPENSIBLE!)

Why Bake Sales Are Best Done In A Pack

So the bake sale happened and despite my best attempts at seamless organization, there was still a lot of hurdle-jumping.

(Hurdle-jumping while carrying several traybakes, obviously.)
I’ll write more in depth about putting everything together and post my own checklist of bake sale items, but before we get there, here are the main reasons why it’s better to recruit your friends to help you out if you choose this particular path to fundraising.

You split the prep work…

Even if you love baking as much as I do, and you’ve practiced your recipes, your hands get tired, your feet get tired, and your back starts to hurt. And, if you live with roommates like I do, they might want to use the oven.

… and you split the carrying

Turns out you can do bicep curls using brownies as weights, making them one of those foods that is delicious AND good for your lifestyle. That said, if you want to conserve your energy for the big day, it might be nice to split the weight with someone, or have them drive you to location. (I took the bus, myself. It was unusually on time.)

There is always someone to watch the stall

This is especially true for the colder months, when it is essential to have cups of tea at all times, but more to the point: nature has a habit of making itself known, and you can’t just take off to use the loo and leave your sale without supervision. What if someone wants to donate fifty quid to the cause and you’re not there to receive it?

And it’s just plain nice to have someone to talk to

I had these ideas that the goods would sell out fast, that I’d be talking to people non-stop, and that everyone would  want some cake. (Who doesn’t like cake?) The reality of bake sales, however, is that you spend a lot of  time smiling at people and trying to make eye contact. (Elusive as a unicorn, eye-contact is. For some reason people don’t want to look at you when you want to be seen.) Having a mate to chat with makes things a lot easier.

That said, the people who did come to buy from me were more than happy to chat, be it about the busy week  ahead or about the charity I was raising money for. And even when it turned out I’d overestimated how much stock I’d need for this enterprise, nothing went to waste – the chaplaincy was more than happy to accept the cakes that I could not sell. So I’d say it was a win.

Even if I wished for a cup of tea.


Rudolph The Red-Nosed Raineer

Testing, Testing


Bake sales are not uncommon on my campus. In fact, it’s pretty normal to see different societies lined up around lunch time, selling cupcakes and brownies and cookies for various charities. Makes sense – everyone loves cake!

That said, I know myself. When I get an idea, I grow overly excited, lose my head, and then have to rush in the last minute to get things done. So as soon as “doing a bake sale to supplement my fundraising goal” was a solid enough idea in my head (as in, I went from “intending” to “planning”) I started bookmarking and testing recipes.

(Full post on planning an actual bake sale is coming this way soon.)

Here’s the thing: I used to bake a lot when I was a teenager. Then the body image issues started up, and then I went on this sugar cleanse which messed up my relationship with baked goods. My attempts at making cakes and cupcakes in the last two years have had more downs and ups, as I experimented with various sweeteners and discovered that, sadly, it’s not the same.

Naming Basil and recognizing his jerkish self has been helping me, though. We find it harder to forgive ourselves than we do others in large part because we have accepted that Basil is right, and Basil knows best – saying that he doesn’t is pretty liberating.

I’m still using sweeteners, but hey, baby steps.

Here’s some reasons why it’s good to have a dry run before the big sales day:

You get people’s feedback.

In many ways, quitting sugar for a while is like losing track of your taste buds. Suddenly, food seems incredibly intense, and those flavored coffees you liked so much are now impossible to drink. Which is all well and good, but when you’re making food for others, (and you’re intending to sell it to them) you need to make sure that they enjoy your offerings. (By far, the most feedback I’ve gotten this far is “not sweet enough.”)

You figure out what works for your sale and what doesn’t.

I made the most fascinating red velvet cake as prep. Unfortunately, it had a tendency to fall apart, not to mention it took forever to make. If I did this as part of a team, that wouldn’t have been a problem; as is, I need to make a ton of food to sell in a short span of time, (and I have roommates) so short baking time is crucial.

Also, on a more self-explanatory note, any sort of food that is messy to cut and eat is automatically out of the question, as are some more… unconventional choices. (Though I do love my chilly cheesecakes. Oh, how I love them.)

You know what you’re making and how

Ideally, you’d want your goods to cool off completely before you try to transport them. (Something about germs breeding in the heat and the closed space, etc.) So knowing your prep time is vital, and it also helps to know how long something “keeps” (so you can make it the night before.)

More to the point, getting ready for sale day is stressful enough – you don’t want to worry about your produce not coming out right. Having a dry run means knowing exactly what is going to come out and that it is delicious.

(You also know how much everything is going to cost.)

You raise awareness

Regardless of how tempted I am to keep all my output for myself, there is something very rewarding about surprising someone with a (cup)cake. Or, better yet, enlisting your friends as recipe tasters. It gets you feedback (see above) and it also gives you a chance to explain what you’re doing and why. Also, if people know you’re doing a sale, they can drop by and pick up something on the day, which is reassuring. (I’m not the only one who has nightmares about leftover stock, am I?)

Finally, and this is very important, you get to play in the kitchen


And I love feeding people. It’s the reason why I chose this particular activity to supplement my fundraising goals as opposed to something else. (There is a world of options a Google search away, everyone.)

And you know, I think I like the planning and browsing part even more than the actual baking. (Kidding. I love the baking process. Especially when I discover I’m out of an ingredient and I work around it.) That part when you’re thumbing through cookbooks, bookmarking pages, comparing brownie recipes to find just the right one… be still, my beating heart!

Also, a bake sale gives you an excuse to spend ridiculous amounts of time in specialty shops and the baking isle in Waitrose. No, I won’t be baking a castle-shaped bundt, but it’s nice to look at the tins.


What are your favourite recipes for bake sales? I’ve got three nailed down, full details coming soon, but I’d love to hear any suggestions you may have.

Currently Loving – Books

Running Like A Girl by Alexandra Heminsley

I actually heard about “Running Like a Girl” from Vivianna ages ago and had it on my wishlist for months, only picking it up over the Christmas holidays because… well, I was worried.

I mean, how good can it be?

As seen by my review here, very, very good.

Any kind of “fitspiration” type reads are a dangerous ground for me, for a variety of reasons. There are some articles/books/websites that I avoid purely because I find their brand of inspiring talk to have the exact opposite effect on me.

“Running Like A Girl” was exactly what I was looking for: straight-talking, practical, self-aware, and firmly into “this is my experience” territory, which is good because it inspires without giving Old Basil more ammunition. And Alexandra Heminsley is an awesome writer – even if you have no intention of ever running, pick this book up for the sake of reading it.

And if you are running, huzzah! It’s choke-full of tips on kit, pace, and also a history of running suffrage (which was a thing, and the women participating in it were awesome to the MAX!) and this is from someone who has run several marathons. Heminsley also touches on things like shopping for your first pair of running shoes, which to the uninitiated can seem like a terrible, terrifying process (not unlike hazing,) but she gives you good tips on making it as painless as possible. (They were very much appreciated.)

Finally, if you have loved ones who are baffled by your decision to take part in any sort of race, this is the sort of book that will inform them, sparing you the headache of having to explain: “I just like running!”

The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

I’m about 5 chapters into the audiobook, but I love what I’ve heard enough to want to recommend it to everyone in the world. Amanda Palmer is controversial, and makes no qualms about that – she broke off with her music label, crowd-funded her latest album, has a “pay what you want” download system for some of her songs and couch-surfs while on tour even after years of being a musician. And, honestly, I find her book to be quite inspiring.

We, as people, find it difficult to ask for things – be it money, favors, or help. We feel self-conscious. We don’t like showing vulnerability because the Basils in our heads tell us we look weak, that others think we’re weak and won’t help. Amanda Palmer tells us: “That’s not true.” She tells us to stand up against the “fraud police” we have in our brains, and to “just take the donuts,” (the donuts being a stand-in for every sort of help we receive, from words of encouragement to money.) She tells us how she often makes herself vulnerable by asking and how, time after time, the world is generous, and we are worthy of that generosity.

It’s something I can relate to, and I find it changes my attitude, not just towards fundraising, but to life in general.

But since I’m talking about fundraising in this blog, I’ll say this: if you feel awkward asking your friends and family to help donate to whatever cause you’re fundraising for, this book may help you. If nothing else, Amanda Palmer will give you permission to ask. Because it’s okay. And because you’re worth it.

Note: images via BookLikes.

Your Online Fundraising Page: Set Up

“The gift isn’t proof of love or goodness; a gift simply is.”

Running for charity is great. (Actually, doing anything for charity is great! No, really. The sense of self-fulfillment, it is intense!) As we go along, I’ll get into more details and practical tips, but for those of you wondering how to get started, here’s what I did.

Firstly, I emailed the charity I wanted to run for. (Off the Record, in case you were wondering.) I’d seen flyers of theirs around my campus, so I knew they had places in the half marathon – I needed to find out it there was one I could take. (Most races have an entry fee. If you enter as a representative of a charity, they pay your place, and in return, you pledge to raise a certain amount of money.)

Once I had confirmation, the charity sent me some instructions on how to register for the race, and then on how to set up an online donations page. There are different websites that offer this service, but I didn’t get a choice on the matter. Maybe it’s different for different races – you will see when you register yourself.


Different websites offer different customization options. On mydonate, I can add text, images (either uploaded or from a gallery) or a YouTuBe clip, which actually lets you cover all your bases in terms of appealing to a wide audience:

Some people prefer reading text. Others like visuals. Videos allow for both, but if you’re not in the habit of doing it, it might be quite difficult and frustrating (like this if you want a whole post on videos!)

You don’t have to specify the amount you’re raising, but it’s nice to have it up there. Technically, you can raise money for a few months after the event, which gives you time to really talk to people about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.

Speaking of getting in touch with people, there are several ways you can let them know you’re fundraising:

1. The website allows you to link your fundraising page to your social media accounts, thus letting everyone in your friend circle know what’s going on.

2. Send emails.

3. Offline donations can also be logged on your fundraising page. There is an option for that.

While you’re setting your options for your page, you can select to receive an email whenever someone makes a donation. You can also set up an automatic “thank you” email to be sent to the person making the donation, which is actually quite nice – not everyone chooses to have their donation visible on your page, and even if they do, they may choose to stay anonymous. (Which is totally cool, but as far as my experience goes, nobody has ever complained to receive a thank-you note.)

Some general housekeeping rules when it comes to your pages:

Always, always, always check your spelling. Your friends may not care about the difference between “your” and “you’re”, but it can be jarring, which is not always a good thing.

Go for the customization options that suit you best. You will find that there is no video linked to my page – that’s because I’m a lot more comfortable with using words rather than images. People may have different styles of perceiving the information, but that doesn’t mean forcing yourself to do something you don’t feel comfortable with. (More on that tbc.)

Post your links more than once on social media. If you’re worried you’ll forget, write down a reminder somewhere you can see it, or set up an alarm on your phone, and post once a week (or however long you’re comfortable with.) Facebook algorithms are cheeky little things – they only show you the feeds of certain friends of yours, and they only show your posts to certain friends of yours, (unless you want to pay to “boost” your post.) Your Twitter feed is constantly renewing itself, with information coming from all directions, and we don’t generally go looking for something we saw two weeks ago simply because it takes forever, and we don’t have the best attention span on social media.

Finally, be patient. I specialized in Marketing, so I know fundraising takes a while, but I still like to imagine, before the start of any campaign, that the donations would come flooding in immediately. Alas, mon ami, this is not how it works. Not everyone can or wants to donate, and you know what? That’s fine.

I put in the effort to fundraise because this is important to me. What matters is that I show up and do my best.

The rest, it is out of my hands.



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Getting Started

Even the best of us feel barred out at times.



“What is going on here?” I wonder when, one Sunday in 2011, I’m walking back to my student house from town. “Why are these people cheering?”

It’s March and it’s ridiculously hot. I’m slowly making my way through the park and into my neighborhood when I actually see the runners go by – people in regular clothes and in costumes, young and old, all sorts of body type and athletic ability. And everywhere around them, on every end of the street, people cheering and cheering and cheering. It was Half Marathon day and everyone was out.

I went home. I changed. I went outside to cheer, too. It was just so infectious. Everyone seemed to be having a good time. I love this,” I think. “I’m so doing this next time!”

It took me 3 years to work up the courage.

3 years of tentative runs, of stopping and going, of resolutions made and broken. 4 house moves, (half of which in France,) 2 jobs, 2 degrees, an orange belt in Jiu Jitsu, (and a partridge in a pear tree) and still, even as I sit here and write this, there is a nagging voice in the back of my head asking me if I can really do this. Was I really doing this, and for charity, no less? I, who had nothing but “points for effort” grades in P.E.; I, with the Klippel-Trenaunay syndrome and a phobia of asking people for anything; I, who had to seek help because I was running myself into the ground with over-training and under-eating – how do I dare to sign up to do this?

The voice in my head, ladies and gents. I call him Basil.

There are 4 weeks to the half marathon, but I figure it would help to put together a little blog about running and fundraising. If nothing else, it gives me a nice outlet. And if anyone needs inspiration or practical advice for charity fundraising (best bake sale recipes? tips? to do lists?) perhaps they will find this blog and it will be of use.

Fair warning, though: I’m an over-sharer.

I mentioned I have Klippel-Trenaunay, and that I had/have difficulties drawing the line between reasonable exercise and running myself into the ground. I’m not saying this to be faux-spirational (I am doing this and so can you, etc.) because, let’s face it, I may just bust a knee *knocks on wood* and this whole operation would be for naught. Rather, to those of you thinking about getting started, or thinking you cannot possibly “do this running/fundraising thing right”, I wanna say: “I get it.”

Boy, do I get it.

I’m not going to break any records. I’m as slow as a tortoise. I’m also not, as of yet, having phenomenal successes with my fundraising. But someone has to rep for us Average Janes, and for Bath, UK, I think I’ll do.