furlough/ˈfəːləʊ/noun – leave of absence
Most of us had never even heard this word just over a year ago. I’ve been really lucky, working as I do in the travel industry, to have been able to keep working all this time whilst many of my colleagues have been furloughed, and of course many people (not just in my industry) have lost their jobs. It’s been a tough year though, and I don’t mind admitting that I did like the idea of having a break when things were really stressful, but it wasn’t feasible at the time.
I first brushed with furlough a few months ago when I was told I would go from 5 to 4 days a week and be ‘flexi-furloughed’ for one day. It took a little while to get used to this bonus day off, but to be honest I quite like a 4 day week. Then came the big one – a month of furlough. My company is doing the right thing, making the most of the support available, and I guess it was inevitable that I would be furloughed eventually. So, here I am, about to start my stint of furlough. A month off work.
It’s strange, now that everything is starting to open up in the UK and many people are going back to work, to suddenly find myself with time on my hands. At first I freaked out and in my panic started making a mental list of all the things I would have to do during this time to make it worthwhile. Pole, stretch, dance, do Couch to 5k again, walk 12,000 steps a day, tidy everything, read all those books that are piling up… the list went on and my brain hurt. Then I stopped. Literally, in the middle of the street as I was pacing about. I stopped and realised I don’t need to be a superhuman. I don’t have to prove anything
But I know how my brain works, and I know what’s best for my mental health. I need some kind of structure, and I need goals, even little ones. So, here’s my furlough plan:
- Relax and enjoy some downtime. Don’t feel guilty if one day I watch a lot of TV, or another day I take a book to the park and sit and read all day. It’s about time I had a bit of a break and time to recharge.
- Work on my pole, fitness and flexibility goals, but listen to my body as I go. It’s not possible or sensible to train hard every day – I need time to recover too.
- Spend time outside – whether it’s walking, running, or sitting, I want to get out of this flat and see something other than these four walls!
- Cook! It doesn’t have to be anything spectacular, but use this time to cook nice things. I’ve found when I’m busy or stressed I still turn to convenience food (and there is so much yummy vegan convenience food!) but I do actually love to cook, so now’s the time to dust off those recipe books.
- Just be. Every day doesn’t have to be full of achievements or Instagram-worthy moments. Some days it’s perfectly fine to just be. See some friends. Go for a walk by myself. Read. Dance in my kitchen. Whatever makes me happy.
None of this is to say that you won’t be seeing a bit more of me on Instagram and maybe even here in this blog over the coming month. I will be learning new pole things, I am doing a running challenge, and I will hopefully cook something worthy of taking a photo of at some point. But I don’t want to obsess over the numbers and the achievements. When the first lockdown happened last year and lots of people found themselves on furlough, there was a huge amount of pressure on everyone to achieve. Is this the time to write that novel I’ve always dreamt of publishing? Maybe, but probably not if I’m honest. Is this the time to enjoy some (hopefully!) nice weather and have a bit of a break? Yes. And is this the time to simply do what feels good? Definitely.
Let’s see where the month takes me…
New year, new me? Hell no! I’m fine as I am, thank you. New year, new experience though…? Now you’re talking!
If you had said to me 5 or 6 years ago that on 7th January 2020 I would be attending a pole dancing class, wearing short shorts, with a couple of girls I hardly know, I would have laughed in your face. No way could 32 year old me conceive that 38 year old me would have that kind of confidence, or at least the right kind of fake it til you make it attitude. But apparently I do…
Tonight, along with a couple of girls from salsa (who I know a whole lot better now!), I went along to a pole dancing taster class in Bedminster, Bristol. 360 Pole Dancing‘s studio is tucked away in a warehouse type building down a street I had never really noticed before. I was nervous – I always get that way with new places, new people – so I was glad to be going along with someone I could get lost and make mistakes with. As soon as we got in the building I saw another trio of nervous looking girls, and soon more arrived. I was probably the oldest in the group, but that didn’t bother me. The things I was most scared of were not being physically able to do anything… and getting my legs out.
The website said to wear shorts, and I was relieved to see everyone was. In fact, the teachers were simply wearing knickers. I tried to avoid direct eye contact with the mirrors (and the teacher’s stunning arse) and summoned my inner mermaid, then soon realised no one gave a shit about my wobbly thighs.
I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t easy. And there were moves I didn’t quite have the strength for (yet). But you know what? It was awesome fun! We ran through some of the starter moves, wrapping ourselves round the pole from various angles and attempting to leave the ground. In one of the more advanced moves the teacher seemingly levitated as though she had employed some kind of witchcraft, whilst I struggled just to cross my legs around the pole and grip on with my thighs without smashing into my lady parts too much. We learnt how to get up gracefully (ish!) from the floor, arse first of course, and even did a little bit of sexy sliding about on the floor (I was reminded of the ‘sexy worm’ move we once created in a bachata dance class some years ago when practicing body rolls against the wall…). With a little assistance, I even did one incredible spin, which made me feel like a goddess, and I will hold on to that slightly rose-tinted memory as inspiration for the weeks to come.
Yes, you heard me right. I’ve signed up for a 6 week course. Why not? It was incredible fun, a great workout, and hopefully something that will help to build my strength – both physical and mental.
Have you tried anything new yet this year? Go on… give it a go! 😉
Find out more about 360 Pole Dancing on their website, Facebook and Instagram. This post is not sponsored – I just like to shout about cool, local businesses and all the great stuff there is to do in Bristol.
As part of my Veraflow dance fitness instructor training studies I’ve been asked to look at the question “What is fitness?“. Curious to look at more opinions than my own, I asked my Facebook friends what fitness meant to them, and here are the highlights.
A lot of friends spoke about “having decent energy levels” and “being able to do things“, and interestingly a lot of people mentioned mental health. One friend said “fitness is being able to do what I want to do without wondering if my body can do it“, which I thought just about summed up how I feel about fitness too.
Another friend commented, “fitness helps me clear my mental state after I’ve sat behind my desk at work all day“, and I couldn’t agree more. No matter how bad, stressful or busy my day has been, a session in the gym with my personal trainer or a night of salsa dancing will always make me feel better.
Lots of people referred to having a “better quality of life” due to fitness, and said that fitness is something that makes them happy.
One friend summed it up perfectly, “Fitness is the opposite of that depressing feeling when the hill is too steep, or the bag is too heavy. It’s about being able to enjoy life and the world around us for as long as possible.” Yes. This is exactly how I’ve been feeling abut fitness recently. I’ve been noticing how things that used to be a struggle or make me tired are so much easier now. For example, I went to London for the day last weekend, and I found myself taking the stairs instead of the escalator, jogging up them without a care in the world. Even standing on the escalator used to exhaust me before, but I’m fitter now and much more able.
So what is fitness? It will be something different for each person, depending on your own individual journey. Perhaps for some it’s running a marathon, and for others it’s simply being able to get out of bed each day. For me, fitness is being able to live the life I want to live, being happy and healthy, both inside and out.
What does fitness mean to you?
A bunch of pink, sweaty women, writhing around in a school gym on a Tuesday night – what must we look like? Every week (well, almost every week – you know, unless there’s an offer of something better to do) we gather to shake our booty to the Latin-inspired beats of what is known as “Zumba“.
We wiggle, we shake… we even try to shimmy. The toned and tanned instructor smoothly moves from dance step to dance step, encouraging us to be sexy. Sexy? In an exercise class? Yes. We’re supposed to be sexy women, proud of our bodies, shaking our butts and sticking out our boobs. Calling out to imaginary men to come and dance with us.
We try. In our minds, we all aspire to look something like this:
In reality, we actually look more like this:
The class is entirely female, although men are welcome. Men do do Zumba, but not here. Our class is made up largely of middle-aged women – some younger, some older. There are certain stereotypes you will find in every exercise class. There’s the ever-so-keen one who always arrives first and stakes her place at the front, chatting with the instructor. Self-tan woman, who is an interesting shade of orange. Awkward girl, whose body is really stiff and robotic. The older lady, whose boobs occasionally brush the floor. And me – the hopelessly uncoordinated yet still enthusiastic one.
I generally stand somewhere around the middle, but to the side so I can dash out for water when I start choking on my own sweat. I try to watch the instructor and ignore everyone else around me. I try to “dance”, rather than “exercise”. I try to forget aerobics classes and think salsa, merengue, hip hop. I try to “zuumbaaaah” but, being British, I do find all the shouting and “yee hah”s a bit much.
Still, at least I earn my dinner on a Tuesday night.