The Best Black Leggings

Black leggings are the core of my wardrobe, I wear them ALL THE TIME. To work. When I’m working out. Around the house. I always have a pair of black leggings on me when I travel and I honestly believe they’re the most useful thing I have in my wardrobe. You can get away with black leggings for pretty much any occasion (ok, maybe only at a pinch, but you see where I’m going with this) and I reckon it’s good to invest in one or two really good pairs you can wash and wear on repeat.

When I’m hunting for black leggings I have a few non negotiables - they have to be high waisted, not only for comfort, but because this means I can wear them with short and long tops easily; they need to hit my ankle, I prefer a 7/8 length as it shows just the right amount of ankle (how Victorian of me); the fabric has to be thick and crucially pass the squat test! My leggings get tested in all sorts of environments, from yoga classes to the gym and out on runs; finally they need to last, I have high expectations that my leggings can be washed frequently but still hold their shape.

Beyond my must haves I’m open to anything, as long as the leggings come in black! Here are a few of my favourites right now:

The Best Black Leggings - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

As far as I’m concerned these are the best black leggings out there. The rise is spot on, they hit my ankle in just the right place and the copper colour zip is a nice touch but not too obvious. I’ve had them for nearly a year and wear them all the time, which mean they get washed around twice a week but are still in great condition! The stretchy cotton fabric maybe isn’t the best for sweatier workouts, but for work and out and about these leggings are my go to. Gap doesn’t stock the exact design any more (I knew I should’ve bought two pairs!), but I’ve linked to a close second.

Gap, £72.95

The Best Black Leggings - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

Another pair from from Gap, these tights always get a lot of attention when I wear them! I love the black on black star print as it’s got loads of impact without being over the top, the fabric is super thick and supportive and they’re sweat-wicking which makes them perfect for hot yoga. The only drawback is that sometimes the waist rolls down when I bend, which is annoying but I’ll overlook it for the print!

GapFit, £59.95

The Best Black Leggings - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

One word about these leggings, pockets! I think it must be something to do with how often women’s clothing either lacks pockets or, where it does have them, they’re totally useless, but I get really excited when clothing has big functional pockets. I love that these tights have two huge pockets, one on each thigh, to stash all sorts of bits and bobs, whether its my phone or a stray resistance band. The fabric is super soft and flattering, and there’s a nice big waistband which makes them perfect for after a big meal. Plus they pass the squat test.

Lululemon, £98.00

The Best Black Leggings - A Pretty Place to Play, London Fitness and Running Blog

Lululemon’s Wunder Under pant is pretty much legendary, and with good reason! These leggings are hugely versatile and are my favourites to throw in my bag when I travel. I particularly love that they’re reversible, so if you need to eek one more day out of them you can (I have no shame), and there’s a pocket on the waistband if you need to stash anything securely out of sight (like a credit card or emergency cash!). I’ve had my pair for years and they’ve washed and worn amazingly. Absolutely worth the investment.

Lululemon, £78.00

I know that all four of these picks are at the pricier end of the scale, but I’ve been wearing all of them for years (having bought them myself! None were gifted, and this isn’t a collaborative post), doing all sorts in them and the cost per wear has been exceptional. I’m always going to encourage people to buy the best quality they can afford, you don’t need 10 pairs of tights when one really good pair will do the job. Gap regularly does amazing offers and it’s worth signing up to their email list to be notified of discounts, and Lululemon do the odd sample sale which is well worth the effort to go to, plus you can pick up lightly worn items second hand on Depop and Ebay easily.

Do you have a go to black legging that I’ve not included? Let me know in the comments!






What It's Really Like to Cycle in London with B'Twin

This post is in collaboration with Decathlon.

It’s been two months since Doris came rollin’ into my life. Two months of navigating London on two wheels. Two months of learning how to be a cyclist in London. Cycling in London gets a lot of bad press, and concerns over cycling safety are one of the greatest barriers to people cycling in the city according the the Mayor’s office, but I thought I’d share how I’ve really found it.

What It's Really Like to Cycle in London - A Pretty Place To Play

The idea of heading out on busy urban roads is scary. There are lots of vehicles. Buses, trucks, moped, cars, other cyclists. Lots of street furniture. Lots of pedestrians. There’s a lot going on. Lots of potential to get spooked out. Lots of things that could happen. I remember the first time I cycled in London over 10 years ago, I was so spooked out I didn’t even contemplate cycling in the city for years afterwards. When I did start cycling again I made sure I was well prepared to deal with these challenges. I went to a workshop at a local cycling shop that focused on skills for cycling confidently in the city. I learnt how to cycle assertively, refreshed my understanding of my rights and responsibilities as a road user and brushed up on my road safety skills. It was an invaluable experience and really boosted my confidence, I came away feeling like maybe I could do this thing!

What it's really like to cycle in London - A Pretty Place to Play

The first time I dipped my toe into city cycling the infrastructure in London was not what it is now. While the city has a long way to go, but compared to a decade ago provision for cyclists is so much better. My favourite discovery so far has been quietway routes. Quietways enable cyclists to travel through safe, less busy streets across the city. I LOVE THEM. I love how they wind their way through back streets, helping you explore your neighbourhood and get to know parts of the city you wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. While the cycle superhighway is great, it can also be crowded and a bit intimidating at rush hour (I see you people in lycra with focus in your eyes!), and the Quietways offer a very pleasant alternative. Seriously, nothing beats pootling along a tree lined street of sweet terraced houses. Finally I love how the Quietways connect parts of the city that the cycle superhighway doesn’t necessarily reach. London is big, not everyone lives right by a main road, Quietways help connect the dots. It t

I’ve raved about it before, but CityMapper has been a game changer for me when it comes to cycling in London. Planning safe routes to get you from A to B is an overwhelming prospect when you’re finding your feet as a cyclist and CityMapper takes the stress out of it, especially when you can set it to show you only the quietest route to your destination. It’s a real confidence boost.

What It's Really Like to Cycle in London - A Pretty Place To Play

There’s a theme here, confidence. That’s the thing I’ve learnt about cycling in London, it takes confidence. It takes confidence to share space with vehicles bigger than you. Confidence to take up space when there are vehicles bigger than you. Confidence is hearing the stories and knowing the risks but doing what you can to manage them. That’s what city cycling comes down to, risk management. Bad things do happen. There are accidents. There are other road users who aren’t going to think about you. But there are things you can do to manage the situation. Making sure people can see you - that means getting decked out in hi-viz, having good lights, learning how to anticipate and indicate. Protecting your head with a good quality helmet. Taking time to plan routes. Sticking to cycle lanes. Stopping for traffic lights. Know the highway code and follow it. No, not everyone around you will do the same, but you are putting yourself in the best possible position you can to stay safe and enjoy cycling in the city.

Finally, the tip that has stayed with me the most - there’s no shame in getting off your bike and walking if things look hairy. Got my Mum to thank for that one.

*Doris was kindly gifted to me by Decathlon, but all opinions are my own.



Mental Health

Mental Health - A Pretty Place To Play

On World Mental Health yesterday my feed was full of posts about how it’s ok not to be ok. Although it might not be the best sample, after all I curate my own feed, there’s the sense that mental health is being talked about more. Women’s Health, a magazine with a circulation of more than 130,000, has a whole month devoted to the issue, and brands are increasingly jumping on the bandwagon (or posting rhetoric at opportune moments). This is all great. I am genuinely pleased mental health is becoming something people talk about, and to be honest if it wasn’t for this environment I probably wouldn’t be as open as I am. However, what if it’s not as good as it seems?

Chatting to friends off the back of World Mental Health Day there was a sense of frustration.  Some expressed the feeling they’d been reduced to a statistic, a 1 in 4, and concerns were voiced that our, often traumatising, conditions were somehow being glamourised, cooped by anyone with an Instagram account and an agenda. Another hashtag. Hattie Gladwell wrote an article last year about her frustration around mental illness being portrayed as ‘quirky’ and her concerns that people may not understand the seriousness of these disorders. That this may give the impression that mental illness is something that can be controlled through simple steps - going for a run, meditating, drinking more water (these things help, but they don’t solve the problem). An impression that is damaging to people who don’t understand mental illness. There was the concern that white anxiety has resulted in people were supportive around mental health to a point, but as soon as things get uncomfortable that support vanished.

My own experiences mirror these frustrations. Being told that the most interesting people always have mental health conditions, yet when I have a crisis that I need to walk into the fire, toughen up, stop sulking. There’s the sense that sometimes you have to have the right sort of mental health issues. Nothing too serious. Nothing that manifests itself in an ugly way. You can be ‘quirky’ but god forbid if things get ugly. And that’s the thing, mental illness is ugly. OCD isn’t about cleaning, it’s dark intrusive thoughts that leave you traumatised and consume every part of you. Anxiety isn’t about worrying about a test, it’s an overwhelming feeling of fear and dread that stops you in your tracks and pins you down. Depression isn’t feeling sad, it’s a black cloud that follows you, pouring down on you as you try to struggle through. Of course everyone experiences these conditions differently, but what I’m trying to say is that these conditions are serious, debilitating and traumatising. And that’s before I’ve even mentioned the conditions that are deemed unpalatable - Hannah Jane Parkinson wrote about this aspect beautifully in The Guardian. I accept my anxiety, but my God I’d rather not have it.

Writing about this stuff is difficult. Everyone experiences their own feelings their own way, and I don’t want to reduce anyone’s personal feelings, how you identify is your choice. However, I do want to say be careful. Be careful about saying you have OCD, anxiety or depression. If things feel bad go and see a doctor, don’t self-diagnose, don’t push a pathology on yourself that may not be applicable. Don’t say you cured your pathology through kale and HIIT, because when you do these things you risk reducing mental illness to something that can be easily dismissed, which is what things like World Mental Health Day has been trying to overcome. It is ok not to be ok, let’s make it ok for not being ok to be ugly.

* image: Alex Dixon Photography