Self-care doesn’t have to mean lying for hours on the sofa with slices of cucumber sliding off your face. Here’s why we all need a day of active relaxation once in a while.
Candles, hot baths, face masks… self-care is usually something we associate with taking it easy at home. And if you’re someone who struggles to slow down or sit still, the prospect of lying on the sofa with a couple of cucumber slices sliding off your eyelids might not be the most attractive proposition – especially if the weekend is your only opportunity to exercise. The solution? A fitness self-care day.
If you’re anything like me, then your fitness regime is probably the thing that keeps you sane. Because it’s such an integral part of your life, however, it’s not something we necessarily treat with any kind of compassion. We run, lift, move for our mental and physical health but rarely with any intention to really enjoy what’s going on. It’s also rare to carve out time to make our fitness regime better, whether that’s buying better products for our gym bags, getting physio or fuelling with something delicious.
Concerned that I feel and look pretty haggard after a few weeks of late nights followed by early morning workouts, I decided to spend a day actively recharging. In just a few hours, I returned home feeling refreshed, limber and ready to start the week with renewed vigor. Here’s how to have the ultimate fitness self-care day.
Start by trying a new gym class
Because I’m a cyclist, I rarely go to spin. However, choosing Seven Dials as the location for my special day, I decided to try a spin (or ‘Ride’) class at Digme. The 10am class is packed – always a good sign (if 40 people have managed to schlep to central London, probably with mild hangovers, you know it’s going to be a vibe). 15 minutes in and I realise why everyone’s here; the music, instructor and overall atmosphere are electric.
While loads of people do classes before or after work, there’s something luxurious about being at a studio on a weekend morning. For one thing, you’re not skipping the cooldown for fear of being late to work. Then there’s the fact that you can shower, change and moisturise in your own time – without having to wrestle into jeans and bras that stick when you’re slightly damp.
Have a good stretch
Let’s be honest: no one has time for proper stretching. Sure, you might do the odd hamstring stretch pre-Parkrun, but I’m talking about a dedicated half-hour of lengthening. Post-spin, I pop over the road to assisted stretch lab Stretch Inc to see what difference being pulled apart by someone else might make. The session starts with a massage gun warm-up, which sounds fine, but actually had me gripping the bed in absolute agony. Clearly, I’m tighter than I thought.
Once that initial shock is over, however, the therapist windmills my knees, lengthens my hamstrings and cracks open my hip flexors. When I roll off the bed at the end, I feel like a massive weight has been taken off my shoulders.
Assisted stretching is having a bit of a moment right now as more of us recognise how tight our key muscles are. It’s essential that you only have it done by professionals, however, because it’s easy to stretch someone beyond their natural limits. My session feels more relaxing, deeper and longer-lasting than a sports massage – proof of which comes the next day when I manage to do my longest run of the year so far (18km) with relative ease.
Coffee is always a good idea
Workout and deep stretch over, it’s time for a break. I sit in Watchhouse with my oat latte and banana bread, ruminating on how limber and fresh I feel. Again, I can’t remember the last time that I bought a coffee to drink in-house that wasn’t for a coffee shop work meeting.
Sort your skin out
Having been told a few months ago by a make-up artist that my skin seemed to be super dehydrated, I’m paranoid that cycling across polluted London and sweating profusely during runs is drying and ageing my face. So, I go to get professionally examined.
Seven Dials is packed with skincare brands, and I pop into Fresh to pick up a few hydration-drenching face masks (including one you can sleep in, Floral Recovery Calming Mask – my kind of lazy skincare) and Kiehl’s, which offers skin assessments. Using some special kind of skin wand (sorry, that’s all I can describe it as), I’m told that while my skin barrier is excellent, I’m borderline dehydrated. That means, the specialist advises, maintaining a good skincare regime and making sure that any lost liquids are replenished post-workout.
The other thing that loads of us are obsessed with is getting a good night’s sleep. That’s particularly important if you’re active; it only takes a couple of late nights for those workouts to feel harder and your skin to look jaded. I make a beeline for Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery serum and cream – both of which smell deeply of calming lavender – and vow to smother myself in them before bed.
Have a mindful, solo lunch
No day out is complete without a good lunch. I tend to think self-care is a solo activity (especially fitness self-care – none of my mates would ever want to go to a spin class) so I go for a bougie lunch at Flesh and Buns with nothing but a copy of Vanity Fair for company.
Over my miso aubergine and rice platter, I marvel at how relaxing and enjoyable it is to eat at your own pace without having to make small talk or be distracted by a laptop/Netflix/the cat. It’s the first time in a while that I actually make an effort to eat mindfully; chewing every mouthful and noting how each bit of the meal tastes.
Find a new fragrance
By 3pm, I’m ready to get on my bike and cycle home… but not without one last port of call. Active commuting is all well and good, but once you get into the office, you need a game plan. I tend to keep a jumper in the office and carry my clean clothes in a waterproof bag within my backpack – which I can then put my sweaty cycle gear into. I shower before I cycle, and have a little pouch of mascara and deodorant too. Despite a full change of clothes and a whack of antiperspirant, however, you can still smell a bit… musty.
I pop into Le Labo for a sniff of their super-potent fragrances and end up with a scent that I’d never normally go for. It’s woody and musky – ideal for daubing on while cooling down.
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You can do a fitness self-care day anywhere – it doesn’t have to be in central London or a town. The point is to do things you normally never have time for and will make your active life easier or more enjoyable in the long run.
Maybe your day could include making a load of protein balls to eat over the course of the week or shopping for a new fancy gym kit. You could get a relaxing massage or have your toenails done to help protect them during your runs. Whatever makes you feel refreshed is worth making time for.
For more wellbeing ideas, check out the Strong Women Training Club.
Images: Getty/Fresh/Stretch Inc
Miranda Larbi is the editor of Strong Women and Strong Women Training Club. A qualified personal trainer and vegan runner, she can usually be found training for the next marathon, seeking out vegan treats or cycling across London on a pond-green Tokyo bike.