A Response to ASICS x Elite Models

A Response to ASICS x Elite Models - A Pretty Place to Play

On Twitter? Follow runners? If you can answer yes to both these questions then you probably know about the latest campaign from ASICS. A collaboration with Elite Model Look, an international modelling competition, it features pale, ethereally pretty and very young models. It’s a bit like watching a school PE class but with better kit and less arguing. Surrounding the images is rhetoric about how Elite models lead active healthy lives, and they’re here to encourage us to do the same.

As I tweeted a few days ago, nothing about this campaign is good. OK, it’s quite nicely shot. But that’s all, and really that’s assumed. Honestly, I’m not really sure where to start picking it all apart. My overarching thought is that the campaign is dull and irrelevant. Companies have always used models in campaigns. They always will. Sometimes you just need a pro to get something done. But typically these models will be athletic. They will look like they’ve hit puberty and workout. Like they might actually run. This lot don’t. As I said, it’s like looking at a bunch of pre-teens in their gym class. Which is confusing and just doesn’t seem to align with ASICS’ inherently athletic branding. I can’t see who the campaign is designed to connect with. But then maybe it’s not meant to connect with anyone? The fast thumbs and disgruntled voices of the running community has got people talking about ASICS. True it’s negative press, yes some people might vote with their feet, but most wont.

A Response to ASICS x Elite Models - A Pretty Place to Play

Beyond being dull and irrelevant, the models in this campaign really are very young. Very very young. So much of the media revolves around youth, but this campaign feels like more or a stretch than normal, and there’s something really uncomfortable about that. Youth is already fetishised in the media, often to the exclusion of diversity, but this pushes the boundary even further than normal.

Looking past their youth, the models in this campaign all look eerily similar. Maybe it’s all the cheekbone. Most likely it’s the dominance of white skin and long sleek hair. There’s the odd exception, but the bodies featured conform to each other so closely it’s hard to see. Campaigns featuring predominantly young, white, thin people simply help perpetuate myths about cosmetic ideals. Not only is this boring (can you see a theme here?!), but also harmful. As long as society continues to preference this narrow profile as the cosmetic ideal people will continue to believe that movement isn’t for them. After all, you can’t be what you can’t see.

And then there’s the train tracks…but I’ll leave that to Twitter to discuss.

Have you seen this campaign? What are your thoughts?

Recharging with Ayurveda and E.On

This post is in collaboration with E.On.

Ayurveda for a healthy autumn - A Pretty Place to Play

I know it’s not on trend to say, but I really don’t love Autumn. Pumpkin Spice makes me gag, I hate that the nights are closing in and while I do enjoy both flannel and knitwear, I’d sacrifice my jumper collection for warmth and sunshine any day. It’s a time of year when I often end up feeling totally depleted and really lack motivation. However, I also live in London, have no plans to move in the immediate future and a massive to do list, so I need to suck it up and find ways to cope as the leaves fall around me.

A couple of weeks ago E.On invited me down to their Recharge Retreat on the Southbank to hangout with Jasmine Hemsley and get some ideas around how to recharge as the winter closes in. I always find Jasmine’s perspective interesting, and as we discussed the change in seasons she spoke about how we can respond to feeling drained in a way that is nurturing.

Ayurveda for a healthy autumn - A Pretty Place to Play

Much of Jasmine’s thinking focuses around Ayurveda, an ancient holistic system of wellbeing. It’s about harmony between the body, mind and spirit and tuning into the ebb and flow of our nature. While it might sound like another trend, it’s a science of life that’s more than 5,000 years old and was developed to help people thrive in an ever-changing environment, something that’s never been more relevant than it is today. A medical system in it’s own right, Ayurveda literally translates from Sanskrit at life (Ayur) knowledge (Veda). There’s a lot to Ayerveda, but at it’s core it’s an energetic system. We each have a Dosha (body type), and our Dosha has individual needs that need to be addressed through how we eat, move and live in our space. However, the really beautiful thing about Ayerveda is that we can incorporate it’s principles into our lives in little ways. No big lifestyle changes, just tweaks that will help you thrive, and one of the most practical ways to do this is with food.

Ayurveda for a healthy autumn - A Pretty Place to Play

Huddled in a makeshift kitchen on the Southbank, Jasmine told me how what, how and when we eat is at the heart of Ayurveda. We should be focused on nourishing and satisfying our bodies, something that’s a real departure from all the noise that surrounds us about low-calorie, low-fat diets and the tendency to grab-and-go. Food sustains us at the most basic level, but we need to understand how to let it benefit us so that it recharges our systems. We can’t just ingest mindlessly. In Ayerveda this comes down to healthy digestion, and Jasmine has a few simple tips we can all adopt easily to keep our digestive systems healthy and get the most out of what we eat this autumn.

1. Switch from cold or iced drinks to hot. In Ayurveda, digestion is understood as a fire – “Agni” – which we want to be working optimally when we introduce food to it. Cold foods and iced drinks (even room temperature as we move into winter) can dampen it. Opt for hot water or herbal tea to keep your digestive fire ablaze!

2. Prioritise well cooked foods, such as freshly cooked soups and stews, as these are more readily digestible. Avoid too much raw food (regarded in Ayurveda as cold, dry, light and rough) which can put a strain on your digestive fire, in turn leading to poor absorption of nutrients and imbalances in your body.

3. Savour your food. Eat mindfully without distractions and in a stress-free environment to nurture your digestion and connect with the food that ultimately becomes you. This can make a big difference to your overall sense of wellbeing and becomes a regular opportunity to create calm in a fast-paced world.

4. Use herbs and spices (aka nature’s medicine cabinet) in your everyday cooking, not only to create delicious flavours and keep seasonal foods interesting, but also to support our health by helping to maintain important functions in our immune, hormonal and digestive systems. 

5. Have your main meal at lunchtime when your digestion is at its peak and go back to traditional suppers — light meals eaten earlier in the evening to make sure you are able to fully digest your food before bed for a better night's sleep.

*images: Anna Rachel Photography. Bra gifted by Shock Absorber.

PhD Life - one month in

PhD life - one month as a research student - A Pretty Place to Play

In the run up to quitting my job to become a student again I had this vision of what life would be like. I’d get up each day full of energy, workout at the crack of dawn, make sure my house looked on point, smash out amazing blog post and be way ahead of the curve with my research. It was the full on hyper-productive dream. I was so naive.

Change has always been a sore point for me, I find it exhausting and overwhelming. While I’d imagined I’d jump out of bed that first morning and have conquered the world by lunch, in reality I’ve been tired and sluggish with a brain that’s reluctant to engage most of the time. I’m not storming off to the library each day, often I’m staring cross eyed at some dense philosophical text not even my tutor understands wondering what on Earth I’ve let myself in for. My university doesn’t do a great deal to relieve this pressure, in fact it makes a point of reminding us at every turn how challenging the life we’ve chosen is, how hard getting a PhD is and just how much were expected to sacrifice. Of course I knew all this when I signed up, this wasn’t something I went into blind, but the reminders can get a little heavy!

Phd Life - one month as a research student - A Pretty Place to Play

On reflection I don’t think I should be remotely surprised it’s taken me some time to adapt to this new life. My mum reminded me a couple of days ago that what I’m going through is normal and not to be too hard on myself, something that Anna reiterated to me when we caught up at a shoot last week. A change like this is big, of course it’ll take time to settle, especially after 8 years in a 9 to 5 job.

At the start of all of this I had it in my head I’d only be being productive if I was pulling a full 40 hour week of focused work at my desk, and ever since I’ve been really critical of myself that that has just not happened. However, Anna gave me some really helpful advice, she explained that if I was in a more traditional role even though I’d be sat in an office 8 hours a day I wouldn’t be productive for those 8 hours, and that her rule of thumb is 3 productive hours a day is about Where you want to be. Of course there’ll be times I do more, but as a starter for 10 this feels like a good benchmark for productivity day to day.

Of course, me being me I got sick as well. My body always likes to have a physical reaction when things change, and this time it expressed its dissatisfaction in the form of a chest infection. My second this year, I spent nearly all of last week in bed unable to stand because me head felt like it was going to explode. By the end I was so bored and frustrated of it all, annoyed I’d lost a week of good study time. Although I did discover whisky works a treat as a home remedy, so sliver linings.

PhD Life - one month as a research student - A Pretty Place to Play

Transitions are never easy. There’s lots of rhetoric on the internet about how to be productive, efficient and the ultimate ‘boss’, but sometimes life comes down to allowing yourself time. I’m starting to believe change is something you need to ease through rather than attempt to take control of, and that ultimately things will come out in the wash if you let them. It could be spending the best part of a week in bed, but four weeks in and I am starting to feel more in control. I’ve got more energy and my mind is clearer. Maybe it’s the change haze lifting. Maybe I might reach my own expectations eventually.

*images: Alex Dixon Photography