how to run couch to 10k
Art by Chris Marrinan

You could not have paid me to go for a run at any point in the last twenty years.

I was more likely to hike up and down mountains all day than run a single bloody mile. And often would.

It was asked of me at times – when training for soccer, dance and the like – but never received well. With a larger-than-average chest, little legs, type 1 diabetes and a mind that never stops, I simply couldn’t think of anything worse.

Unfortunately, I’m also a do-what-you-say kinda woman, so when a loved one tagged me in the Run For Heroes challenge (to run 5k/3.1 miles, donate £5 to the NHS, and nominate five more people to do the same) at the start of lockdown, I dusted off my trainers and set out to get it over and done with.

Only, something changed. Though I had to take a few walk breaks along the way, I finished the 5k not just feeling good but feeling that oft-promised but never-realized ‘runner’s high’. I wanted to do it again and I wanted to do it better.

But when I did – reducing my time from 45 minutes to 35 minutes in just five days – I wanted even more.

So, when I was eventually scheduled to run my twenty-fifth 5k in nine weeks, I ran 10k instead.

Pause for effect.

I WENT FROM HATING RUNNING TO RUNNING A 10K IN LESS TIME THAN PEOPLE ARE MEANT TO GO FROM ‘COUCH TO 5K’.

It turns out our bodies can do some truly bloody amazing things. And I’m here to help yours do them, too.

To be 110% clear, I am nowhere near qualified to become any kind of running coach or set custom 10k plans, but I do have some helpful tips and tricks to get you to 10k without wanting to chop your legs off.

So! Here we go. Your friendly neighbourhood couch to 10k plan:

  1. Run those 5ks. From day one, every run I did was at least 3.1 miles. Some, like the first, clearly took an age to complete, and some felt like nothing. Getting into the habit and pushing through those hard days matters most. Once you know you can, you always will.
  2. Take breaks. I started running on Saturdays and Wednesdays so my legs could get used to the impact. On week three, I felt comfortable enough to add Monday runs.
    Three runs a week will be more than enough to get you to 10k fast, but those breaks are essential to help your muscles recover. Don’t. Run. Every. Day.
  3. Include strength training. On non-run days, I find time to do some core HIIT, at-home lifting or virtual dance classes. Every little helps. (Just don’t go hard on your legs as you need them for your runs.)
  4. Protein. God, I hate myself for even mentioning the stuff, but protein is a game-changer. I drink fresh, vegan protein shake after every run (again, kill me), but do whatever works for you. Boosting your protein not only accelerates muscle growth but rebuilds the muscle fibres you ravage when you run.
  5. Do one fast run and one long run every week. I do a ‘who cares’ 5k on Mondays, a 5k with one super-fast mile on Wednesdays (when I typically beat my personal records), and a 5k-or-more on Saturdays (when I have a little more time to burn). By week six, I had pushed myself up to an 8k and could run for an hour without stopping. At that point, a 10k just doesn’t seem that intimidating.
  6. Train with a friend. Find someone to run with once a week, if you can. My fiancée is an experienced half-marathon runner and, while he can literally speed past me in seconds, those shared-run endorphins are often incentive enough. Partnered running is also one of the easiest ways to socialize while social distancing in lockdown.
  7. Tell yourself you can. The biggest obstacles in life are mental, and running is no exception. I could barely lift my legs off the ground towards the end of Saturday’s 10k, but I pulled through. Because I told myself I could and would. Nothing more.
  8. Bonus tips for type 1 diabetics. Track your blood sugar closely before and after each run. Everyone will be different, but I’ve found it’s imperative to make sure I’m no lower than 6.0 before I go out (or I’m basically asking for a low).
    Additionally, anything longer than an 8k demands a little on-the-go carb-up. I’ve found Huma’s all-natural energy gels (around 20g) the easiest to swallow on the move so far, but you might prefer something with more carbohydrates if you experience especially bad lows.

With all of that said, if you need some encouragement or non-pro advice, I’ve been tracking my progress and experiences on Instagram Stories. DMs always open as long as you’re not sending me your genitals.

Now, off you go – Day One starts today!

xoxo, Lela

red dress
I need to look after you. No really, I do. I have a crippling compulsion to prioritise others’  needs far above my own and, naturally, put any hope of relaxation on the backburner.

I, thankfully, learned this force majeure is that of an OCD persuasion. And does far more harm than good. After years of running myself ragged, all it takes is a little bit of enforced perspective and I’m half-way unwound.

Nonetheless, I am a work in progress. Over the last few months I have discovered that dedicating at least one hour a day to something indulgent – be it cooking a meal or doing a dance class – keeps me sane. That music at least two decades old will always make me smile. That wearing a killer dress, even when working from home, takes my brain from ‘work mode’ to ‘party mode’ and almost doubles my productivity. That I can better help those in need when I help myself.

As stress is a heavy-handed trigger for acid reflex/heartburn/other such nonsense, I also make sure to physically limit any irritants while I work on my brain game. I avoid eating late (or forgetting to eat altogether), eating spicy or citric food, and drinking alcohol or caffeine (though, cards on the table, I will always be dependent on an espresso or five to run at a normal human pace).

In this age of digital distractions and predominantly demanding days, relaxation has to be a conscious choice. I fully advocate finding out what works best for you.

And listen to a lot of Robert Palmer while you’re at it.

What I Wore:
Red lace dress (almost everything I’ve worn over the last month has been from Mancunian fashion brand LOTD, for all of you who have been asking on Instagram!)


red dress

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micro scooter fitness
Full disclaimer: I reacted ever so judgementally when I started to see trend-following adults riding scooters around the City of London.

There is something undeniably alarming about a man in a suit commuting atop the one thing your 11 year old self prayed for on her Christmas list.

But I get it. I do. Scooters are fast, fun, compact and get you from point A to B without the storage or road danger hassles of cycling.

Unexpectedly…I wanted one, too.

Scouring each and every Micro Scooter available (my childhood fantasy), I even found a loophole to justify my inner child’s new intrigue: fitness.

It turns out that scooters also double up as incredibly portable gyms. My little Flex Deluxe in Matt Black can burn up to 160 calories in ten minutes, stabilize my core, build leg strength, and even act as a support for rolling yoga stretches.

Scootercise: for the adult who would rather sleep in, do single leg squats, and whiz around with Kendrick Lamar in my ear on the way to their first meeting than wake up an hour early and walk to literally nowhere on a treadmill.

The cherry on top? Every similarly judgemental adult I come across has the time of their life when I offer them a ride.

micro scooter fitness
micro scooter fitness 3
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the chapel candle
I have a confession to make. Though I been doing the “feminist as f*ck” thing for a number of years – all “Girl Power!”, “Love yourself!”, “Equality and kindness for women!” – I am very rarely kind to myself.

Do I believe I deserve as much as anyone else? Sure. Believe I’m a good person? Absolutely. Ever take time out for myself? Uh…no.

And it wasn’t until I went to the launch event of The Chapel‘s new incredible product range that I realized as such.

Rather than inviting 300 members of the press to take Snapchats of her new products and shove as many overpriced canapes as possible down our throats, Amanda (Dicker, The Chapel Founder) asked a handful of us ’round to her Islington Salon, fed us from fresh sharing platters on her own china, poured us her favourite tipples, and led an all-empowering feminist pow-wow.

The entire logic behind expanding her award-winning hair, beauty and lifestyle business was to encourage people to take the brand’s renowned “haven” status home with them. To reclaim time outside of the salon (the only place most of us allow ourselves “me time”) and put themselves first.

“Too often these days we mistake a hectic schedule for a full life, yet the time thattruly belongs to us is the moment when we pause…” – Amanda Dicker, Founder of The Chapel and all-round Wonderwoman

It was a much needed wake-up call for me. As our makeshift circle of trust shared personal stories, I related with patterns my own sacrifice, insecurity, and societal pressure. “Me Time” is long overdue. And The Chapel’s products are the perfect gateway drug.

The three products – candles, hand cream & pulse point fragrances – come in three fragrances; Oparus (Bergamot, Geranium, Sandalwood, etc), Mellifera (Apple, Tuberose, Vanilla, etc), and Noctula (my favourite – Mandarin, Violet, Patchouli, etc).

Though I fell in lust with all three scents I, naturally, went for the “hot red lips” (Noctula) scented candle as when you complete the 80 hour burn time you can use the exquisite ceramic candle holder as a home accessory.

That has “me” written all over it.

cheers

A post shared by Lela London (@lelalondon) on

dance class london
Y’all know how I feel about dance classes. They are truly the one thing that I can drag myself into a sweat for, bar none, and I do a lot of them. In fact, I’ve spent over 20 hours dancing this month alone and have found so many incredible gems I had to share some of my favourites with you.

So, here they are: the current best dance classes in London

One Day Salsa Masterclass
I’m not sure I had properly considered how much dancing would be done in the seven-hour Salsa Rapido 1-Day Intensive Course, but it is – eponymously – intensive.

The point of the class is to leave with the ability to dance salsa anytime, anywhere – whether it’s your first or fiftieth time doing so. Hence the intensity (but don’t let me scare you off, it is fun as hell and there are two rest breaks in addition to a break for lunch).

The creator and expert of a dance teacher, Alastair Sadler, is a laugh-a-minute and keeps you on your toes from start to finish. Quite literally. These intensive workshops have been 15 years of salsa dancing in the making for him.

Though the spacious basement of Bar Salsa! may welcomes you as – let’s be honest – pretty hopeless, time flies before it bids you adieu when the bar opens to the public, somehow confident enough to dazzle anyone with your one-two-three step.

Do you need a partner? No. (Every leader and followers swaps around during the class to keep everyone learning).
Do you need to have dance experience? No. But it also wasn’t boring for someone with dance experience. There were even a few people who had done the class before and wanted to refine their skills.
Do you need to bring a change of shoes? Absolutely. You’ll thank me later.

Whether you’re prepping for a trip to Cuba or simply want to burn 2000 calories feeling sexy, Salsa Rapido is an absolute must.

Swing dance
If anyone knows anything about Swing Dance, it’s London’s Swing Patrol. The ever-expanding group of swing classes and socials have been the city’s calling card for all things hip and Lindy-hoppy for years; I could hardly pass up their Swing Dance Class for Two steal when I found it on Not On The High Street.

Having already done the salsa masterclass a week prior, the four hour masterclass seemed like a piece of cake. Until I was there. Sweating out of my eyeballs.

Despite its cuteness, swing dance is not a cakewalk. The session introduces you to the six-beat swing, the eight-beat (or Lindy Hop), and the Charleston but – even with fifteen minute breaks between each – takes no prisoners. It is deliriously fun and a HIIT workout for the musically inclined.

Grab your swishiest skirt, best pal, and head out on Swing Patrol. Quick. While you’re trying to secretly become Emma Stone in La La Land…

Last but not least Nonstop Dirty Dancing
…of the non-twerking variety. We’re talking O.G. Baby and Johnny Dirty Dancing. Now at Pineapple Dance Studio.

This was, by far, the most difficult and dancer-friendly class of the three. One for the guys and dolls working towards a body that makes ‘That Lift’ a possibility.

‘Non-stop Dirty Dancing’ is exactly what it says on the tin; constant movement, constant Swayze-worthy tunes, and constant access to the brilliant dance tutelage of Paul Kitson – the first British actor and dancing to play the leading role of Johnny Castle in the original London West-End musical.

Blending salsa (thank you, Alastair!), cha cha, mambo, Latin, jazz, and other iconic moves from the film itself, the class is a treat for superfans and dancers alike.

The class runs every Tuesday at 6pm and, if you feel so inclined, you even have the opportunity to practice The Lift of Dreams before you put yourself – crumpled – in the corner.

(Can you tell I’ve spent my entire life wanting to become Baby?)