Give the gift of freedom to play this xmas, not toys

The way we load our children up with toys… is the crime of the age; it is a sin against our children; it corrupts their simplicity; it stimulates their destructiveness; it sates and blunts their curiosity and hastens the time of their general discontent with life. (Burroughs, 1906) 

toys

This post comes at a pertinent time of the year. That time of the year when most of us feel compelled so start buying lots of stuff for other people who don’t really need any more stuff, who often say they don’t know what stuff they want because they already have so much stuff, and will inevitably put the said stuff in the back of a cupboard before discovering it a year or so later and putting it in the bin (or if you’re lucky, taking it to a charity shop). See also George Monbiot’s excellent article titled ‘The Gift of Death’.

My son has been learning about the history of toys at school. I’d rather they had called the topic the history of play – the history of toys just highlighting (unintentionally I hope) that we’re now in a world of consumerism, and the history of toys making the assumption that we always were. We are lucky to live on the doorstep of the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, London, where they also paid a visit. A museum much more about toys than childhood. I have spent many a day there with my children, trying out the rocking horses, watching the model railway go round, looking at how transformers have changed in the past 20 years or so. I was slightly surprised at our last visit when we discovered the Paw Patrol lorry behind the glass, much to my son’s delight and my bemusement. Has the Paw Patroller really earnt the right to stand there next to wooden rocking horses, 100 year old dolls and meccano?

The museum and school are correct, of course, in their inference that toys are now important to children, probably more so than ever. As consumerism has taken hold and disposable income and aflluence has increased, we are buying more toys than we have ever done. It’s now commonplace that children will have a wide range of toys at their disposal within their home. And with less children now per household than in the past, they may not even need to share them with other siblings.

As part of their learning, the school have also asked children to make their own toys, using ‘junk.’ There was a pretty big build up to this. A week of collecting up our rubbish to take into school was pretty exciting. R made a rocket blaster, which he is immensely proud of. We still have it in the house, along with an ever growing pile of ‘junk’ in the corner of the bedroom, and some sellotape and scissors. I can’t stop him. My youngest son has now got the bug. Every bit of ‘junk’ he has he wants to keep to help make his rocket or car or crane. The various rockets and machines are growing in size and stickiness, covered in messy sellotape. It’s fair to say, the junk modelling has been as, if not more, entertaining than any Paw Patrol toy.

So what have toys got to do with children’s mobilities? Children in the past always used to make their own toys. And if they didn’t make them themselves, they probably didn’t have any, or certainly very few. Making your own toys fosters creativity and imagination. You can take them outside, you may be more likely to share them with your friends. With a wider range of toys purchased for them at their disposal, children are more likely to want to stay inside and play rather than going out into the neighbourhood to play with their friends. Parents, too, may find it easier and safer to keep them indoors when they can easily be entertained with their toys.

Our obsession with ownership and on our children having toys is likely to be one of the many factors that stops children wanting to play out and parents feeling inclined to allow them to. If you have your ready made Paw Patrol vehicle, perhaps it makes sense to stay inside and look after it, not get it dirty, and to look after your ‘stuff.’ Particularly if someone has spent quite a bit of money on it. But a bag of ‘junk’ or loose parts encourages social interaction and can make children want to get outside and get involved with others.

I’d like to think less toys is better for both the environment and children’s well-being. They really don’t need more ‘stuff’ – what they need is time to think, time to create and to be given opportunities to foster their independence and freedom. Maybe even get a bit bored from time to time. Here’s to a toy free xmas!

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Why I’ve started to hate the run commute

run commut

I’m starting to dislike my run commuting habit. I loved it at first. The ideal form of multi-tasking in my view – allowing me to get some physical exercise, whilst getting to and from work, avoiding overly busy rush hour trains and getting my heart rate up higher than I do on my bike. It seemed like a win win. With a young family, where every minute counts, the idea that I no longer had to spend an ‘extra’ hour running each day and could turn it into my commute instead was one I couldn’t resist. I might also be able to give my mum a call whilst running too – something I couldn’t really get away with on the bike and which was impossible on the underground – all because, of course, I didn’t have time otherwise.

The issue I have with the run commute is its purpose. The reason I started running wasn’t simply to get from A to B. The run commute has turned my running into a chore – something that I have to do to get to a certain location for a certain time. It takes out the flexibility on route planning – I pretty much run the same route every time, because again, with every minute meticulously planned the run is also planned to get me there at the right time and a kilometre too far won’t do. It takes the flexibility out of pacing. I usually have to run at a preset pace to get to work/nursery/home* (*delete as appropriate) on time. No slowing down if I’m feeling a bit run down or tired. Speeding up is generally ok, but often less appealing when weighed down with a backpack. There’s no choice of time to leave. I’m out the door at the planned minute to make it on time. And the overly timetabled nature of the run commute means it’s often near impossible to find someone else to run with. You’re running on your own. There’s no meandering, just running for the sake of it – on a mission.

The run commute can take multi-tasking to its limit. It’s saved me time, but has it also started to take the pleasure out of running? What has happened to those runs to go and explore a new route or test out my pace and see how I’m feeling? What has happened to delaying going out till a bit later because I don’t feel like it right now? What has happened to running with others? I started running because I enjoyed it. I enjoyed exploring new places, enjoyed just putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes running faster, but usually with others to spur me on. Now I religiously run the same old route every week on my own.

It strikes me that this is relevant even to non-runners. London has some of the highest levels of walking of any city and cycling levels are on the increase, but how much of that is just for its own sake? Most of the walking and cycling we see in London is again, people on a mission to get to/from work, on the same old route, hardly even looking up as they head from their house to the office. They’re not moving because they particularly want to, they’re moving because they have to.

This all gets me down a bit. As an advocate for an active society I want people to enjoy physical activity for its own sake and I don’t want our only form of activity to be just getting from A to B because we have to. I want people to enjoy running, walking and cycling, to find pleasure in meandering around and exploring new routes, and to make it an important part of their lives, not something that stops once they get a new job or new routine. Children know that meandering is good. Trying to get a child to walk from A to B without stopping to look at something or pick up something is near impossible. It is inherent within us to explore our environments. Yet, we’re doing it less and less and we’re encouraging our children to do it less and less. Our busy lives mean we are always intent on getting from A to B without looking at the in-betweeen.

So, I’m not ditching the run commute completely, because I do quite like a bit of multi-tasking and the reality is I’m time poor right now. But I am going to be doing a bit more meandering too to ensure that when I stop commuting, I’ll still be running.

The London Plan and the unglamorous world of planning policy

London Plan

I’ve spent the best part of the last two years writing policies for the London Plan. Important policies, in my view, on health, social infrastructure, children and play. The things that matter to a lot of people. The results of those two years of work were published yesterday. I’m pretty happy with the finished draft.

Health is more strongly embedded in the plan than it was, with one of the strategic policies in chapter 1 titled ‘creating a healthy city’ and addressing the top level health inequalities across London. The Healthy Streets policy (T2) follows on from Transport for London’s work on this and starts to embed the principles of a city for people rather than cars into the plan, with a strong focus on walking and cycling. This unfortunately has replaced the walking policy, but there’s still a cycling policy at least – phew! No mention of running as yet, but I’m working on it. Social Infrastructure policies are strong and more detailed in places (chapter 5). The Play and Informal Recreation policy (S4) now has clear links to accessible routes for children and young people, play provision that is an integral part of the surrounding neighbourhood, and the ability for a child to move around their neighbourhood safely and independently. This feels like a significant step forward form the previous plan, although for those who have been working in the field of children and play for a while, they may feel more like it’s a step back to over ten years ago and Ken Livingstone’s London Plan. In any case, we are now moving in the right direction again.

At over 500 pages, this isn’t a document that the masses will read and, of course, that was never the intention. It’s not exactly a page turner (has any policy document ever been?), although the cover looks quite nice. Its readership is generally confined to those who think they have something to say about it, or those who are forced to. Hopefully, planners in London, architects and developers will read these policies though. Will they understand their full meaning though and know how to implement them? It’s certainly not a given, and any additional guidance to support the policies and that may help people in their implementation will inevitably follow on behind the policies themselves.

Ultimately, this is not a snazzy brochure or PR document for the Mayor’s latest strategy – this is a formal planning document. A document that now has to go through near two years of public scrutiny before it can formally adopted as planning policy. If you want to respond to the consultation, you have to do so on the basis of the ‘tests of soundness’ – successfully putting many people off from having their say. There is no glamour in this. The excitement that has arisen in a some of us over the last few days as the draft was published, will have most definitely subsided by the time the final version of the plan is due for publication, after we have spent near enough another two years scrutinising the thing word by word.

I just hope that after all that scrutiny, the key phrases that are important to me remain and don’t get negotiated out either intentionally not. And if it can be improved through the consultation process then that would be great. We can then figure out how to implement the thing and actually make a difference (or start all over again if a new Mayor is elected…).

The relentless process driven world of a planner. If I haven’t put you off by now, you can read the whole plan here

Could autonomous vehicles be good for our children?

As a strong walking and cycling advocate, as well as someone who wants to see our children outdoors and with exponentially more amounts of independent mobility, could I really have a good thing to say about autonomous vehicles?

I’ve just been reading an article from the New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/11/08/magazine/tech-design-autonomous-future-cars-100-percent-augmented-reality-policing.html#picturing-the-self-driving-city, which gives some unique perspectives on the future for autonomous vehicles (AVs). And it’s started to depress me a bit (probably a lot). Of course, the usual points on shift in control are mentioned, how traffic might be smoother, and it covers all the fancy fan dangled things that you might be able to do in one of these AVs. But in spite of all this, and as Wiener notes within the article, ‘as technologists imagine a driverless world, they seem to be doing so with a distinct lack of imagination.’ They forgot something. They forgot that our City streets aren’t really working as they are. They forgot that people need to use these streets too, not just cars.

The article raises many issues that point to a world that is ‘virtual’ in nearly every sense, when we are more detached from reality than we are now and where we are completely reliant and technology for our every day lives. When we use vehicles more to get around, because of their increased convenience and where we really don’t care about interacting with other real people. These are all the things that I dislike about the message that AVs sends out.

I dislike that they risk people walking and using public transport a lot less, because of their ability to move around the city more efficiently and quicker and without any effort on the passenger’s part.

I dislike the fact that they begin to further detach us from the natural world, with suggestions that windows will be large tablet screens, to distract us from what is going on outside in the real world.

I dislike the fact that they still all need to park somewhere.

But I’ve also begun to wonder if there are some positives to the whole AV thing, for people and children in particular. What I do like is the fact that we can trust their actions and that they follow the rules, and this gives us potential as real humans to take advantage of this and start to take back our streets. Unlike most drivers, autonomous vehicles will be programmed to stay within the speed limit. Assuming that the ‘Twenty’s Plenty’ campaign continues to grow across our cities, this is most likely to 20mph, a relatively safe stopping distance. They will also be programmed to stop if a real human is in their path. I tested this out recently, when Keolis trialled one of their autonomous vehicles in the London Olympic park. Sitting inside the AV, it was annoying having people walk into its path every few seconds and it having to bang on the breaks. I remember thinking it would have been quicker to walk and, of course, if I hadn’t taken a trip in it for the novelty value, I would have done.

Keolis

Now imagine a street where you can pretty much walk in front of any vehicle and it is guaranteed to stop for you. With the current power struggle on our streets between cars and people, we appear to be in a position where a robot is more likely to stop than a human. We currently can’t trust that a human driver will have seen us or will stop. So we are forced to either wait until there is no traffic coming or use a dedicated crossing out of our way. However, a robot should be guaranteed to see you. It will stop, no? Could this change the status quo of our streets? Would you be more likely to let your children out to play on the street, if you knew that cars would see them and stop for them, and that there was no risk of them driving at 40mph down a 20mph street? An additional benefit is that it is likely to be very annoying sitting in a driverless vehicle stopping every few seconds, so maybe those people will choose to walk instead?

This is all still a long way off. But if those of us who want to use our feet (people power and all that), then perhaps we can start to shift the mindsets of all road users and help them to realise that people are part of the street scene too. Of course, this is just one potential positive in what appear to be a long list of negatives right now. The thought that a parent could have the ability to tell their child to get into an AV and then programme it to drive them to their after-school club because it’s ‘safer’, all whilst the parent is at work, is pretty scary. I really hope we will have learnt by then that real people and real experiences are important too – not just efficiency.

My ultra marathon top tips

rttkI’m going to be running Race to the King in just under two weeks time. 53.5 miles over the South Downs (and 1.5 miles more than I originally signed up for), from Arundel to Winchester.

Without going into too much detail about my training for the race (or lack of it), here are my top 12 tips for running an ultra, before I’ve actually run one. Let’s see how these compare with the reality of Race to the King next week.

  1. It’s all about the pacing. At halfway, you should be feeling good. If you feel yourself starting to tire before this point you’ve started off too fast. Whoops.
  2. Be ready for the killer third half-marathon. That’s the bit just after halfway. Mentally this is going to be the hardest one to take I think. But I’m ready for it. Really…
  3. Relax. Start off super slow, keep your heart rate low and enjoy it.
  4. Eat regularly. Particularly in the early stages when your heart rate is lowest and so it’s easiest to digest. Even the best fat burning machine is going to need some carbs to get them through it. If there are regular aid stations then use them rather than carrying all your own fuel for 50+ miles. That’s my plan anyway.
  5. Drink regularly. I can get away without drinking much over marathon distance, but I don’t want to let myself get too dehydrated for this one. Carry a drink with you, potentially with electrolytes in it, fill up at aid stations, and drink to thirst.
  6. Train slow. Slower than you might normally. Teach your body to burn fat as fuel.
  7. Train fast and short. Keep some short, sharp speed in your legs so you don’t lose too much strength from training slow.
  8. Train on hills. Lydiard hills for form and strength. Regular hills at slow paces for endurance.
  9. Get a good night’s sleep the night before the night before. Because on the actual night before, you probably won’t (but try to).
  10. Fix any niggles early on and don’t run through them. Stop to stretch or sort out your shoes. That minute spent early on will be time well spent in the later stages
  11. Remember why you’re doing it.
  12. Keep moving forward.

I’ll let you know how I get on in two weeks time!

MUMS ON THE RUN IN HACKNEY!

Exciting news – I’m going to be leading some FREE sessions starting in August, aimed at mums and their babies or toddlers!

Want to get active after having a baby and struggling to find the time or energy? Come along to FREE running sessions and bring your baby or toddler in the buggy too. A series of eight sessions progressing up to a 5k or 10k race at the end, which you’ll also be entered into for free! No specialist equipment required – just your trainers and a buggy for your child. And if you want a chat or a rest after, we’ll find a local cafe or spot in the park.

The programme is a series of eight weekly sessions starting on Tuesday 4th August. At each session, we’ll cover different aspects of running to help you to get fitter and faster and fully prepared for the race at the end. You’ll also be given guidance on what to do with yourself and your baby over the rest of the week and tips on how to incorporate exercise into your new life as a parent.

Where: Hackney Downs Pavilion, E5 8NP

When: Tuesdays, 10-11am, starting from Tuesday 4th August for eight weeks

Booking isn’t essential but is advised. If you want to book or have any questions, please contact hello@runwithholly.co.uk

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need a specialist buggy? You don’t need a specific pram or buggy – if you’ve got a three-wheeler then bring it, but if you haven’t then don’t worry. I’ll ensure the sessions are suitable for all.

What should I wear? Layers of clothes – you never know how hot you’re going to get! Good trainers. Good fitting and supportive sports bra, particularly if you’re still breastfeeding

What if it rains? Wear something water resistant and bring a raincover for your buggy. We’ll be out come rain or shine.

What not to forget? Water for yourself and drink for your baby, rain cover/sun shade, snacks for your child, suncream

How do I prepare? Feed your baby before you come to the session. This means your baby is more likely to be content for the session (although never guaranteed unfortunately!), and if you’re breastfeeding it will also mean you’re more comfortable to exercise

Mums on the run flyer

The longest run of my life

I spent most of last Saturday morning running. That’s most as in the majority, not just a bit, but pretty much all of it. My two year old son had had enough before the race had even started. He wanted fish and chips – there weren’t any. I was waved off by my husband and a screaming toddler, with many ‘ahhs’ from the other runners. Yes, this is how I spend a morning off from the children – running up and down hills.

I was running in the Endurance Life Sussex coastal trail marathon. Inspired by a shortish run along the Cornish coastal path last summer, as I was just starting to get my fitness back post-babies, I decided to sign up for this challenge. I was also at the time, not looking forward to building up the miles again and so I thought that a challenge like this would be easier to persuade myself to train for than just another London Marathon (yes, I’m running that too in a month’s time). Ahemm…

With a whole morning to kill, I had lots of time to think about what I do and don’t like about trail running (and hills…), so here are a few to summarise last week’s experience.

Pro: the scenery and course is varied. Seriously, I hardly even noticed the first hour go by, I was so busy just going with the flow!

Con: the scenery and course is varied. There are hills. And if you live in east London like me, you probably won’t be very good at them.

Pro: you are treated to some lovely sea views from the cliff tops

Con: the wind. Just a lot of wind.

Pro: the varied terrain is easier on your legs and you should feel less stiff after the race than normal

Con: you’ll be running for longer than you normally would because of the varied terrain.

Pro: it’s ok to walk a bit up the hills some times

Con: I’m a runner. I prefer running to walking. And all those people out for there Saturday morning stroll were probably laughing at me as I huffed and puffed past them in a slightly funny walk

Pro: it’s possible to have a sandwich mid-run. Yes, I did abandon those sugary gels for this race, opting instead for flapjack and a peanut butter and honey sandwich. A picnic mid-run? Why not?

Con: not possible to carry a picnic blanket. Or sit down.

Pro: I didn’t get attacked by a horse

Con: the guy in a high-viz t-shirt in front of me nearly did

Pro: it didn’t rain

Con: the wind. Again.

Pro: free biscuits and jelly babies on the way round

Con: are these worse than those sugary gels??

Pro: gentler hills than Cornwall, thank God

Con: still hills

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So the key lesson I’ve learnt from my Sussex experience is a pretty obvious one. To race well, you have to train on the same terrain as you’re going to race. I live in Hackney. It’s pretty flat and I also do most of my running with a double buggy so tend to avoid hills wherever possible. Probably not ideal preparation. Still, I managed to finish in 4h22, was 25th overall and 4th lady, so I’m pretty happy with that. I paced it will with pretty even splits for first and second half and was feeling good at the end in spite of it being my longest ever run!

Now here’s to a swift recovery so that I can see what I can manage on the flat at the London Marathon in a few weeks time! Surely it’ll feel like a breeze.

Sleep and springtime!

I used to think of myself as a night owl rather than an early riser. I would generally struggle to get up in the morning and my first activity of the day would always have to be a three course breakfast and a cup of coffee. Two children and nearly three years later and, well, I’m not quite sure what I am, but I am probably more of a morning person than I used to be. Which, when it comes to running and racing, might be no bad thing.

The combo of small children and lack of sleep is pretty well documented so I’m not going to go into detail on it, suffice to say I am not probably a glowing example of health right now and the sleep deprivation is going to take a while to subside. But it’s getting better. And thanks to a 1 year old who often likes to wake at 6am and an early morning coaching schedule, I have begun to adapt from a night owl to a morning lark, which I am hoping, if nothing else, is going to make me run faster on race day.

It’s something that’s easy to forget, or not even consider, when you’re training for a race. You know you’ll need to run, so you practice by running a lot. You may practice running at your race pace to get your body used to it. You may practice your race day nutrition to get your body used to it. Everything is practiced over and over before the race. Apart from that one thing – how to get yourself out of bed. Because if like me, you’re intrinsically more of a night owl than a morning lark, then getting up at 6am for your morning race is going to be a bit of a shock to the system.

The moral of the story? Don’t let your circadian rhythms be your downfall come race day. If you want, you can borrow my one year old to get you up at 6am, or otherwise just start to set your alarm clock that little bit earlier each day for at least a few weeks before your race so that your body is less in shock when it comes to race day. And then once you’re up, you need to run. The key is training your body to run in the morning. Now I’m sure a lot of people are already training in the mornings. Indeed many are out there well before me! But if you’re not and you’ve got a morning race coming up, then you should be. Again, there is no point in perfecting your race pace, nutrition, toileting, warm up, cool down etc etc if come race day your body starts to wonder what the hell is going on, when you start running before midday for a change! Make sure you get at least one or two runs a week done in the mornings, get your body used to it, and if you’re training for a longer distance race it wouldn’t do you any harm to have minimal breakfast before you go out either, to start to mimic how you might feel on race day during the latter parts of the event.

Our bodies like routine and habit. Like our minds, they like to know what to expect. So if you want a fairly easy fix to help to make you run quicker, then give it a go. I’ll admit this is just a hunch, but I think it makes sense, and based on some of the findings mentioned in this recent BBC report, it’s surely worth a go. And probably don’t go booking an early morning race for this Sunday, as with the clocks going back too that is going to be pretty tough to get out of bed for!

Why is sugar ‘nutritious’ for runners?

It’s a question I am regularly asked – what should I do about nutrition? What should I eat and drink during my training and races? How many gels should I take? I am becoming more and more disheartened by sports ‘nutrition’ and the vast array of products that are sold to us runners as being necessary to run better and sometimes, to run at all.

Firstly, let me clarify what I mean by sports ‘nutrition’ products. I mean things like bottles of Lucozade and gels, such as PowerBar and SIS. Yes those products that, although marketed as being critical to get the best out of your performance in a race and to not collapse and die during a training run, are pretty much just sugar. Yes sugar. You know the stuff that if you’re not a runner, everyone tells you to eat less of? Yes that’s right. The stuff to blame for the majority of the population being obese. The stuff that has minimal health benefits whatsoever and is certainly not full of nutrition.

I am loving the latest campaign from a public health collaboration in the north west. GULP, which stands for Give Up Loving Pop, is a controversial campaign trying to remind us that sugar and, in particular, sugary drinks are bad. For once, I love their fairly unsubstantiated statistical claim that ‘Drinking one can of sugary pop per day increases your risk of dying from heart disease by a third.’ I’m not entirely sure how they came to that conclusion, but for once I don’t care. There are so many other unsubstantiated claims out there, that why not add one to the mix that actually has a positive effect. And I don’t care because even if they are bending the truth a little, the crux of it is surely still correct – sugary drinks are not good for you.

The GULP campaign is really trying to target children and young people, but there is no reason why this should not apply to adults too. Because surely sugary drinks are not all that good for anyone are they? Oh yes, apart from sports people, when they come in a sporty packaging or a gel form, and your body is drained of all resources. Really? Now, I’ll readily admit that I am not a qualified nutritionist. I like to think I know a fair bit about nutrition (perhaps even more than the bods at Lucozade), but I’m happy to be challenged on this next point by someone more qualified than me. It’s controversial, I know, but if we need to eat or drink during our runs and races, wouldn’t we be better off eating something that has some nutrition in it? How about some dates, or one of my lovely homemade flapjacks, full of magnesium filled pumpkin seeds and potassium filled banana (although admittedly with a bit of sugar in them too as I haven’t yet figured out how to stop them falling apart without it….I digress). Or is it really the case that pure sugar, without any real vitamins or minerals is better?

If I’m wrong, then sorry for this post. But if not, then maybe it’s time to start getting a bit more creative with our sports nutrition and start experimenting with foods that our a bit less easy to hold and maybe a bit messier to eat on a run (although as I currently live with a one and a two year old, my idea of mess is probably slightly different to yours…), but at least they might be a bit more healthy too.?

Anyone for a date and pumpkin seed butter sandwich. I’ll let you know when I’ve gone into business with my healthy homemade flapjacks too, in convenient gel packs, so you can eat them on the go…

This Girl Can (when I’ve got the time!)

I should probably be grateful that I have always been the skinny one. I have never had to worry much about excess body fat or how to keep the weight off. I have always enjoyed getting outside, being active and getting sweaty too. I’d say I worry quite a lot about what people think about me, but strangely not when it comes to going for a run or working up a sweat. Then I just get on and do it. Maybe because I know what I’m doing and feel confident that what I’m doing is also good for me (most of the time!). And it’s pretty handy that I have that self confidence right now, as I certainly get a lot more comments and looks running with a double buggy than I did when I was running on my own!

Why is it, then, that Sport England’s latest campaign to get women more active has slightly saddened me? Not the campaign itself, but the reason for it. For those of you who haven’t seen the ad yet, This Girl Can is specifically targeting women who are currently too nervous or embarrassed to exercise and pretty much telling them to get out there and do it. Which is great. It’s just a shame that it has come to this. That women are now so concerned about their body image, that they are too embarrassed to put on some shorts or jogging bottoms, or get a bit red in the face in public. And I imagine they are still feeling pressure to lose weight to become a bit more like the size 0 models they see plastered everywhere. Which makes it even worse as the best way to lose weight is to exercise, not to eat less and stay cooped up indoors.

I remember when I first got pregnant, thinking about the different challenges of having a girl and a boy, and I was reminded then of the current trend for school girls not to want to do PE for the very reasons the This Girl Can campaign is challenging. It really does make me wonder what we and the media are doing to our children to make them think like this. And who is most to blame? Is it the media or is it the parents soaking up that media and feeding it down to our children? I am often grateful to have two boys who are less likely to face challenges such as these for many reasons, but the main one being that society simply accepts that they can be sweaty and dirty and that’s ok. Or is it just me? I wonder if I would treat a daughter any differently.

So please, all you ladies out there reading this, if you want to exercise then just do it! Some people might judge you, yes they will, but it doesn’t matter. Feel good about what you’re doing and know that you’re doing yourself good too. If you see someone judging, just laugh right back at them! And to all you parents, please lead by example. As our lifestyles become more and more sedentary, it is our children who this campaign really has the most important message for. They have the most to lose right now.