Crisis Icebreaker at Brockwell Lido

Crisis Icebreaker Cold Water Swimming Challenge - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

F**k. F**k that’s cold. Bloody hell. Christ it’s freezing.

Just a few of the phrases yelped by myself and fellow swimmers as we leapt into Brockwell Lido on Saturday afternoon. It was really bloody cold. And it was raining. And I’d definitely do it again, because it turns out there’s nothing like the rush of immersing yourself in cold water.

Huddled by the side of the pool wearing all the layers I was getting nervous about what I’d signed up for. I’m used to pushing myself out of my comfort zone, but maybe a dip in a freezing pool in the middle of December was a challenge too far. What if I wussed out and couldn’t do it? What if I froze (metaphorically) and just couldn’t face the jump? What if this was all a really bad idea? I tried to remember why I’d signed up, as I mentioned in my last post you do some funny things when you’re a couple of thousand words into an essay and have been indoors for much to long, but there was more to the decision than that. I was doing this to support Crisis. If I was cold from the half hour I’d been outside, knowing that at the end of the day I’d be going home to my safe, warm flat, then how must someone who’s homeless feel in the middle of winter as the temperatures drop? I wasn’t pushing my boundaries for myself, I was doing it so at least four other people could spend Christmas somewhere safe and warm where they can access support and advice to begin the journey out of homelessness. I don’t know these people, but I had them in my mind as I plunged myself it to the icy pool.

Ok, plunged is probably a bit much. It wasn’t that elegant. Think of it more as tentatively throwing myself in alongside a reindeer and an elf I’d made friends with in the changing room (I love the camaraderie that doing dumb sh*t creates!). My skin stung as I hit the water and a gasped for air as the people around me swore and cursed. Pushing off into breast stroke other people waded across the pool, staggering through the water to where friends and family were waiting with towels and hot drinks. I kept pushing, but it’s shocking how poor your form becomes where your freezing your tits off. The side of the pool was in sight and Mike was primed with a towel and my big down coat, ready to start operation warm up. I kept paddling, each stroke more and more effort, hauling myself to the wall as my shocked body felt around for the steps out. Shuddering, shaking and beaming I’d done it. I’d broken through my comfort zone and it felt AMAZING.

Crisis Icebreaker Cold Water Swimming Challenge - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

As soon as I got out of the pool we started working on getting me warmed up. Following Adam’s advice I dried my feet and clumsily attempted to put on my warmest socks. It was insane how quickly my feet froze up once I left the pool. I’ve never felt anything like it, my toes burnt with numbness and it was really difficult to get them into my socks. Next up Mike threw me a hat to pop over my swimming cap (which didn’t come off until I was in the bath about half an hour later!). I layered up gradually, hoodie, leggings and coat got thrown on over my cossie as I sipped herbal tea from a flask (points to Mike for thinking to bring that along!). Other swimmers darted in and out of the sauna, but it was packed out and I was too chilly to wait.

As I thawed out I realised that I felt amazing. After a week of not really being all there following a concussion I suddenly felt brilliant. My mind and body felt alive. I’d always wondered why people did this - the obvious reaction when someone tells you they like to dunk themselves in cold water is to call them a nutter - but now I understood, there’s a crazy rush that comes with both putting yourself out there and braving the elements. You feel invincible. It gets your blood pumping and your energy surges. You become capable of anything. I don’t think I’ll be becoming a a regular cold water swimmer, but I will definitely take the plunge again. Everyone should, it’s amazing!

There’s still time to sign up for upcoming Icebreaker events, or to DIY your own, you can find out more information here. Try it, you might like it (and either way you get a swimming badge, which is epic!).

My sponsorship page is still open, you can find it here.

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?

Feminista Film Festival

Feminista Film Festival - A Pretty Place To Play

According to research from Women in Sport and the Youth Sport Trust, only 56% of girls see being physically active as important, in comparison to 71% of boys. Less than 50% of girls see PE as relevant to their lives, and most troublingly girls appear to start losing interest in physical activity at just seven years old. I don’t know about you, but this absolutely breaks my heart. Not only are we missing out of potential sporting talent, girls are missing out on all the opportunities that being active can bring them. The boost of confidence, the hormones than make you feel good, the camaraderie of being in a team and that moment away from all the other pressures of the world.

So how do you stop girls losing interest? From thinking that sport isn’t for them? Academics at Canterbury Christ Church University have suggested that identifying and encouraging more female role models in sport could help prove to girls that physical activity is just as relevant to their lives as it is to their male peers. It’s a bit simplistic, but I do believe you can’t be what you can’t see. If girls don’t see women achieving in sport, how do they know that physical activity is for them?

Feminista Film Festival - A Pretty Place To Play

However, as research has widely acknowledged, there’s a real shortage of female role models in physical activity at all levels, whether it’s professional, grass roots or performance sports, as well as coaching, teaching and in sports science and management. In fact, there were no women in recent lists of the top 100 highest paid athletes. The thing is, it’s not like there aren’t women out there doing amazing things. There really are. The issue is making women in sport visible. Telling women’s stories and creating those role models. That’s where documentary film making comes in. I love documentaries, they allow complex stories to be told in creative and engaging ways. A great documentary captures your imagination and inspires you to do more, go further. Documentaries are inspirational and empowering. Yep, it’s not mass media coverage or insane sponsorship deals (both things I could talk about for hours, there’s some complex relationships going down there), but it’s a start.

Feminista Film Festival - A Pretty Place To Play

Feminista Film Festival is a three-day film festival from 28-30 September which uses the power of documentary film to celebrate female athletes and artists. The aim of the festival is to increase visibility of women in sport and the arts by creating a platform to tell their stories on screen. More information, full programme details and tickets can be found here

There are so many amazing films on the programme. From the deeply powerful ‘The War To Be Here’ where young Maria Toorpakai defies the rules of the Taliban controlled area of Waziristan by disguising herself as a boy, so she can play sport freely, to the inspriational ‘The Mirnavator’ that explores the psychological side of ultra running. Plus, the whole of Saturday is devoted to family-friendly films, perfect for those girls in your life that might not think movement, physical activity and sport are for them. Film is powerful, and while this might not be the biggest festival, or the most well known, it’s quietly making waves so that one day all girls and boys will believe that physical activity is important.

*images via Feminista Film Festival