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.

Active Skincare with Charles James and Bianchi Dama

This post is in collaboration with Charles James Skinhealth.

Active Skincare - A Pretty Place to Play

On an average day I reckon I wash my face at least three times, if I’ve trained more than once then I’ll be washing even more, getting rid of the sweat and gunk that builds up while I live my life. Sometimes I have the time to do a complicated (for me) multi-stage skincare routine, usually I don’t, most of the time I just about have time to splash water on my face and be on my way, smearing on moisturiser on my way to my next appointment. It’s not dignified, Caroline Hirons would squirm, but needs must…or at least they did, thankfully last month the team at Charles James Skinhealth took me in hand and sorted me out with skincare that’s perfect for my lifestyle.

In partnership with Bianchi Dama, one of the UK’s leading elite female cycling teams, Charles James have achieve what feels like the unachievable, skincare for people with demanding lives who want healthy, protected skin but are low on time/energy/inclination. It’s a unique partnership, no skincare development has ever been been established with such an active team, but who better to put it through it’s paces than the pros? Women who sweat a lot and are juggling not only their cycling careers, but jobs and lives too. It’s fair to say Bianchi Dama presented the team at Charles James with some serious challenges - probably more than they anticipated - when it came to developing their skincare line, but they stepped up and put the work in to delivering. Pretty much what Bianchi Dama do when they train and race.

Active Skincare - A Pretty Place to Play

Together Charles James and Bianchi Dama created two products that do literally everything. Two bottles to shove in your bag that’ll deliver the same benefits as hauling around multiple vials, tubes and pots. Perfect if you’re constantly on the go, aiming for a quick turn around in the gym changing room or off of an adventure and you need to travel light. Of course, this is all great, but a skincare product is nothing if it doesn’t live up to its claims, so I put Charles James and Bianchi Dama’s creations to the test for a month, and here’s what I thought…

Active Skincare - A Pretty Place to Play

Active Cleanse

Hands up if you reach for a wet wipe after your workout? Yep me too. They’re a quick, easy solution when you’re in a rush, but they’re also generally not that effective and can have a pretty horrible impact on the environment, which is why I was so excited to try Active Cleanse. Use with or without (!!) water to lift away ingrained impurities, surplus oils and dead skin cells to leave your skin fresh, clean and revitalised as if by magic! I’ll admit, the first time I used this product I didn’t realise you should wipe it off with a tissue if you’re using it without water and thought it was a bit too sticky, but now I know how to use it I can confirm it does exactly what it says on the tin. I love that it’s just one bottle for everything, and that comes in at a hand-luggage friendly 100ml, perfect for on the go. I’ve used it for more than a month and at no point has the formula irritated my hella sensitive skin, plus I’ve been breakout free! Winning! My only criticism is the smell, it reminds me a bit too much of hand sanitiser (it doesn’t help that its a gel formula too), which is a bit off putting when you’re putting it on your face.

Active Skincare - A Pretty Place to Play

Enhance and Protect

If you spend a lot of time training outside your skin is bound to take a beating, so it’s important to protect it, which is where Enhance and Protect comes in. This potion seems to do everything - it stimulates cell turnover, moisturises and firms the skin, while also protecting it from free radicals and the sun, and it contains a whole host of active ingredients including retinol, hyaluronic acid, hydrolysed wheat protein, DMAE, aloe vera, vitamins C and E and SPF 30 sunscreen. Normally you’d find yourself layering multiple creams and serums to get all this stuff on your skin, Charles James have managed to cram it into one cream! However, the big draw of this cream is that it doesn’t run into your eyes when you get sweaty - no one likes stinging eyes when they’re trying to perform, and it’s what sets this product apart from others that claim to protect your skin. I loved the texture of this cream, it was the perfect weight to feel nourishing without being heavy and I could easily apply it several times a day. Again, there was no irritation and I felt like it left my skin looking fresh and even, which is always a win!

I really admire what Charles James and Bianchi Dama have achieved here, the products they’ve produced are innovative and really thoughtfully developed, which sets them apart from other ‘sport’ skincare products I’ve tried. They realise that a multi-step routine with lots of bottles and pots just isn’t viable and focused on how to deliver the biggest bang for your buck in the most user friendly formats. Retailing at between £14 and £24 for the Active Cleanse and £22 to £38 for the Enhance and Protect these products aren’t the cheapest, but they’re good value as the pack so much in you should end up buying fewer products over all. Plus they last for ages. I’ll definitely be making room for these products when it comes to packing for The Speed Project next year!

*I was gifted both the Active Cleanse and the Enhance and Protect, but all opinions are my own.

**images care of Charles James Skinhealth