We’ve all been there. The good intentions, the 12 minutes of exercise and then… the sweat.

Whether it’s the telltale drip-drip-drip down the small of your back that you know is about to go full touch-and-reveal on your new t-shirt, or whether it’s just getting up from some equipment in the gym and seeing your own butt imprint left in sweat, the wet stuff can really be a buzzkill.

Whether you’re trying to exercise, dancing like a maniac at the weekend or simply… enjoying a sunny day, sweat can feel like a sneaky shaming pal, dobbing you in just when you thought you were going to have a good time. Except it isn’t a false friend. It’s actually clever, useful and kind of amazing – it’s just that we have convinced ourselves it’s the stuff of evil.

Ok, so no one wants to be wandering around looking like they’ve just been hosed down by a fireman, and no one wants to stink all afternoon just because they took their bike to the shops, but to know sweat is – if not to love it – then at least to fear it a little bit less.

So what’s the (g)lowdown on sweat?

Basically, sweating is our body’s way of regulating temperature. We each have 2-5 million sweat glands dotted around our bodies, and they release the damp mixture of proteins, salt and water onto our skin. The process of this liquid evaporating is what cools us down – as you’ll know if you’ve ever got off a crowded bus and felt your top clinging to you like an ice sheath as you hit the cold outdoors.

Despite what we think, there aren’t more sweat glands in, um, ‘moist’ places like our armpits or our groin – it’s just that those areas are harder to get air circulating around to evaporate the liquid. And not all sweat glands are the same, either. Most are ‘eccrine’ sweat glands, which are kicked into action by excess heat, but some are ‘apocrine’ ones, which are stimulated by emotional responses like stress or excitement. Weirdly, that sweat actually smells a little different from the stuff prompted by eccrine glands.

But the weirdest fact is that sweat itself doesn’t actually smell at all. Ok maybe if you had 10 garlic cloves in your dinner you might smell a bit like a French bistro in the morning, but the smell we associate with sweat is actually the bacteria on our skin breaking down the acids in our sweat. Its medical term is bromhidrosis and it’s totally normal. But if you want to get rid of the sweaty pong, the simplest way is to get in the shower: if you’ve got the post-sport sweat off your skin within an hour or so of exercising, that bromhidrosis isn’t going to be wafting around after you all day. If you wait till bedtime to get clean, it just might.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

What else can we do to master this soggy mistress? Well, not that much, but perhaps that is because we need sweat.

And we really do. Why else do we feel so great after a good run, a dance-off in our bedroom or even a chance to sit in the sauna at the gym? Because sweating flushes out loads of the crud on our skin’s surface, cools us down so we don’t pass out at the gym or on the bus, as well as letting us know if something serious is up in terms of illness.

So while we needn’t commit to a lifetime of honking up every small room we enter, we shouldn’t be ashamed of the odd bit of sweat either. After all, look at how many advertising images have artfully sprayed ‘sexy’ sweat onto both men and women, how proud athletes look at their sweat as they finish an event – or even how nice it feels to know that our body, without even being asked, is doing exactly what it needs to.

Now if only we could do the same for our feelings, we’d be sorted.

@Hemmo

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Image: Amber Griffin

Girls, you can do anything you want. Want to be an astronaut? You got this. Want to be a DJ? Sure thing. Want to breed puppies so that you have a constant stream of puppies to cuddle? THAT SOUNDS LIKE THE BEST JOB IN THE WORLD.

Want to go for a swim when you’re on your period? Dive right on in.

Seriously?

Seriously. If you feel comfortable going for a dip when you’re on your period, there’s no reason why you can’t.

It’s actually an awesome idea, because exercise releases endorphins, which can help reduce the fatigue and cramps that sometimes come as an unwanted side order to your monthly visit from the uterus unicorn.

What if I TURN THE WHOLE POOL RED?

Ok, this is where tampons come in handy. Lots of people try them for the first time in order to go swimming, because they’re really the easiest way to prevent leaks. Just swap it for a new, dry one once you’re out of the water. Bombs away!  

TLDR? Here’s the important stuff:
  • You can abso-freakin-loutely go swimming when you’re on your period. You might actually find that it helps reduce aches, pains and argghs.
  • Your best bet is to use a tampon while swimming, to keep leaks at bay.
  • If tampons are a no-go, try a menstrual cup – but pads aren’t your pal at the pool. Sorry!

But if you’re strictly a pad person, things can be a bit tricker. Pads are designed to absorb fluids, so wearing one in the water means it’ll become soggy pretty quickly, and won’t be able to do its job properly – or stay stuck to your bikini bottoms either.

So it’s tampons or nothing?

Keep your cossie on for the moment, because there are some other options.

If you don’t fancy tampons you could try a menstrual cup, which is inserted in the vagina and captures the blood rather than absorbing it. You just empty it out in the loo every few hours, and pop it back up.  

Or if your period is light and you’re happy to go with the flow, you could try wearing a dark coloured swimming costume to hide any small leaks or stains. Don’t believe people who tell you your period stops in water – that’s a big ol’ myth – but it’s true that many people find they can have a quick dip with no disasters.

BUT WHAT ABOUT SHARKS?

Nope, total lie. They can’t smell your period, we promise. (And especially not in a leisure centre in the Midlands).

So in conclusion: just because you’re riding the crimson wave, doesn’t mean you can’t play in the actual waves too. Pool party, anyone?

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Amber Griffin

You know when you wait ages for a bus and then three come along all at once? Well, that’s how becoming a teen felt for me.

I had found primary school easy. I had lots of friends, exams were a breeze and I never really thought about how I looked. But then lots of things came along all at once.

My parents had never got on well, but suddenly they were fighting so much more. I had my first crush, but he didn’t like me back. I started my period, but had a lot of painful cramps. My friends were arguing and taking time off school to go to the park. And to top it all off, I was finding it really difficult that everyone else in my class — not to mention everyone else on the planet — seemed to have big boobs and mine felt tiny in comparison.

So much had happened in one go that I didn’t know how to deal with it. It’s easy to pick up one or two Maltesers when they’ve fallen out of the packet, isn’t it? But what about when the whole packet falls on the floor? Well, you either start picking them up… or you don’t pick them up at all.

That’s what I did. Instead of coping with one thing at a time, I felt really overwhelmed. It was like a big, sad cloud was following me around and raining on me all of the time. I tried to hide it and pretend my parents breaking up wasn’t a big deal really or I didn’t even want to have boobs and look like the girls in the magazines. But deep down I was overwhelmed. And the worst part was that I thought other people could tell. This meant I did less and less. I didn’t want to socialise with my friends or get dressed up because I thought I was just a quiet, sad girl to them.

I didn’t really know where these feelings were coming from, either. I thought everyone else was dealing with things a lot better than me — and that I should be happy. After all, I got good grades, I had friends, I had a mum who was just absolutely ace. All I really needed at the time was someone to tell me that it’s ok to feel sad and confused sometimes when you hit your teens. Worrying about your body when it’s going through puberty and changing so much is really natural. Getting sad about your parents arguing would probably even make Beyoncé want a good cry. And feeling unsettled when friends were falling out and crushes wouldn’t text back? Well, that was something everyone was going through too.

But it felt like just me.

One day I remember feeling so trapped and sad that I just ran outside to get away from everything. As simple as that. I ran and I kept running. And suddenly my heart was beating faster, I could feel the wind against my face, I was breathing normally, I was holding my head up high, I wasn’t caring about how my body looked. I felt free.

More importantly, I felt happy.

Happy that I could make a decision to get outside when it felt like life was too much, that I could make my body work for me, that I could feel a surge of happy exercise endorphins in my blood and that I could breathe free and easy rather than feeling panicky and nervous.

I’d always loved to exercise when I was growing up. But PE lessons had sucked all of the fun out of running and climbing and dancing around — all of the things I loved when I was young. Team sports felt so boring and fake to me. But discovering running for myself felt like I had opened up a brand new world.

From then on, anytime a sad or nervous or “I’m rubbish!” feeling came along, I’d decide not to let it take over. Instead, I put on my trainers and went outside. Taking some time out of each day to do something for me, how I wanted to do it, in the way I wanted to do it felt really good. It didn’t stop the sad feelings, it didn’t make my parents get back together or magically grow me a huge pair of boobs to make all of the other girls in my class jealous. But it made things feel easier, happier and somehow just a little bit lighter. Because I was proving to myself that I was stronger than my sad thoughts.

It doesn’t always work, though. Sometimes I don’t go running. Sometimes I still sit inside and forget how nice it feels. Sometimes lots of sad feelings still come along. But that’s a natural part of being me.

And years later, I still run and it’s still the best medicine for when I’m feeling sad and when things get too overwhelming. I’ve not trained for a marathon, I don’t spend a lot of my money on fancy running clothes or run a lot of races for charity. But I do feel like I have a secret weapon for whenever life gets a bit too much.

@BeccaCaddy

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Image: Manjit Thapp

Sure, you can’t beat slobbing in bed or binge-watching movies all weekend, but who agrees you feel a whole lot better when you’ve actually moved your bod a bit? (And schlepping to the fridge and back doesn’t count, sorry).

There are a gazillion good reasons to exercise – getting a strong body, having a healthy mind, being sociable – and even if it’s the last thing you want to do when you’ve got your period, physical activity can help with monster period cramps and bad moods too (hello lovely endorphins). Try it.

But what’s your fave way to get sweaty? You only have to watch the Olympics to know there’s loads of ways to love sport. Whether you like cycling round the park, smashing a ball over a net, or killing it in a HIIT class, if you find a way to have fun while you get fit, shimmying into your lycra will never feel like a chore.

Take our test to find the fitness tribe that suits you best!

Changing rooms. Your thoughts please…

Which of these would be your go-to shoes?

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Be honest. When it comes to sporty stuff, how competitive are you?

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What’s your fave thing about keeping fit?

You’re picking out a new gym bag. What do you choose?

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It’s time for a post-workout snack. What are you craving?

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Which of these mega achievements appeals to you the most?

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Imagine that it’s a hot, sunny day. Where are you?

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Your friends would describe you as…

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Which one of these motivational mantras are *so* you?

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Image: Bring It On

“You don’t want to get too big, though, and start to look masculine”, was one of the completely unwelcome responses I received around three years ago when I was discussing having recently started lifting weights.

It’s odd how people take ownership of your body, isn’t it? How strangers hold very defined expectations and assume you’ll stick to them so that you remain acceptable in their eyes.

As women and girls, we are the recipients of a barrage of expectations and I often felt heavy with it. I was tired of feeling ‘less than’ or ‘not good enough’ and something needed to change. So I joined a gym and I got a personal trainer and I started lifting weights.

Girl power

For the first time in my life, I began to feel powerful. I started light and before long, weights that seemed impossible to lift in those first few weeks began to feel easy. My posture improved and I stood up tall for the first time in my life. I even started to stride into the men-centric weights room without a second thought.

With every extra kilogram I could lift, I gained an extra level of appreciation for what my body could do. It wasn’t just there for hanging clothes on or looking nice, it could shift big hunks of metal off the floor. That in turn meant I could lug my suitcase onto luggage racks without any help, carry the heaviest bags of shopping and, essentially, handle my own business. No assistance needed, thanks, me and my muscles have got this covered.

So if gaining strength did all that and more for me, why do people still insist it’s so terribly unladylike? Unfortunately it’s all to do with gender stereotypes. The ones society is supposedly leaving in its wake.

While I’d love to tell you that everyone thinks that girls and women can be whatever they want to be, some people don’t. Those people think all women should be dainty and delicate. They believe in outdated forms of masculinity and femininity and, in their eyes, strength and muscles are inherently masculine. Pfft.

I have a few things to say to those people and I’m not alone. For every misinformed, shouty, sexist internet person shouting about how muscles are for men, you’ll find a totally cool woman who knows that strength, health and fitness are for everyone, actually.

Girl gains

Enter: GirlGains. GirlGains started life as a hashtag, launched by three inspiring women; Zanna Van Dijk, Tally Rye and Victoria Spence. But it soon blossomed into something bigger as girls identified with the message of strength, capability and confidence that came with it. The GirlGains hashtag quickly passed the 50,000 post mark and transformed into a community backed up by monthly events.

The success of the movement is testament to just how many women and girls are feeling the benefit of strength training, not just physically but mentally and socially too. I asked the GirlGains founders about why it’s just so great:

“One of our favourite forms of exercise is lifting weights. Not only does it have a multitude of health benefits, including increasing bone density (especially important for us ladies), but it makes us feel empowered. There is nothing better than lifting a challenging weight and pushing your body to become stronger than ever before!”

It’s not about getting that perfect body or punishing yourself with hours on the treadmill, it’s about challenging yourself, testing your limits and finding a new found sense of positivity and determination.

If I’m ever feeling down, I know I can go to the gym and remind myself exactly how strong I am. I might turn up feeling stressed, useless or a bit lost but I’ll leave feeling accomplished and powerful.

And as for those ‘manly’ muscles? Well, I’m no Arnold Schwarzenegger but I do have a sly flex in the mirror every so often and I love that my biceps look defined and that my shoulders look strong. There’s no shame in building muscle; your body is yours to make exactly what you want of it.

Feeling inspired to start lifting weights? Follow these tips…

Start light

As tempting as it is, don’t try and lift the equivalent of your own body weight over your head on the first try! It can be frustrating when the person next to you is throwing 100kg around like it’s nothing but take your time and build up sensibly.

Get advice

It’s all too easy to injure yourself if you don’t practice proper form, so make sure you get some advice before you start. Luckily, this doesn’t have to mean shelling out for a personal trainer. Take advantage of free taster sessions, get a few pointers from a professional who works at your gym, ask a PE teacher or check out some YouTube videos and practice with no weight first.

Use a mirror

Seriously. Mirrors aren’t just for bros to check out their biceps in or for post-workout selfies, they’re there so you can make sure you’re using the correct technique. Find a spot in front of a mirror and watch out for anything you need to improve.

Don’t overdo it

Muscles need rest as much as they need training. Don’t go overboard and start lifting weights seven days a week. Make sure your schedule includes enough rest days, too.

Ready to go? Here’s to girls with muscles!

@SophieBenson

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Image: Bring It On

Sure, some people LOVE exercising at school. Whether it’s team games, athletics, gymnastics, absolutely bossing the bleep test – a little sporting activity during the school day can be a lot of fun.

But, whether it’s because you don’t get on with other people in your class (but now have to shower with them, hello), you’re made to do really long cross country runs in the dead of winter like something out of an Enid Blyton book, or you get all hot and sweaty before maths class when you have that crush sat right behind you… sometimes PE can suck.

Really suck.

The thing is, moving about is (breaking news!) really good for you. Working out gets your heart pumping, can improve your skin and does wonders for your mood. This means it’s important for your health – inside and out – to exercise, but not that it has to be boring or happen in school hours to make a difference.

Here are seven ways to work out that are about eleventy times more fun than anything that happens in PE lessons.

(NB: must also pay attention in maths)

Rihanna work work gif

1. Walk, walk, walk, walk, walk

We know, it sounds obvious. It sounds boring. It sounds like something you do every day anyway, doesn’t it? But adding just a few more steps here and there can actually make you feel a lot better – and there’s nothing nicer than getting fresh air after double physics. Luckily what last year we called ‘walking’, this year we call ‘playing Pokemon Go’. Have you caught them all yet?

Liz Lemon dancing gif

2. Dancing queeeeen

Whether you’re at a party with a big group of friends or just rocking out in front of your mirror, dancing is scientifically-proven to be the most fun form of exercise, ever. (Well, if science is based on us asking all of our friends and them agreeing with us.) The best thing about dancing is: the more you do it and the more of your body you move, the better it is for you.

3. Walk, sprint, jog (then do it all over again)

Walking can be boring. Sprinting can be tiring. What’s the answer? Do a bit of everything! Mixing some walking with a bit of sprinting, then switching back to walking again, then finishing off with jogging gets your body really moving. It adds variety to your workout and it’s a tried-and-tested way to keep very fit. You can make it even more fun by taking a friend with you – or get good pet karma and take your dog.

Foxes on trampoline

4. Trampolining, bouncy castle-ing and general jumping

Trampolining is so much fun, because it makes you feel like a little kid again. Bounce around, do some tricks and make sure you do lots of laughing when anyone falls over – it’s kinda the rules. NB: this tip also works just as well on a bouncy castle.

Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse ice skating

5. It’s time to get your skates on

Roller skating is a great way to have fun with your friends, move about a lot and keep your body working – it actually takes a lot of muscle strength to keep your body balanced. Feeling frosty? Try ice skating instead.

Swimming baby underwater

6. Splash around

If you love to swim and doing length after length doesn’t bore you, go for it you athlete! But for most of us, it’s much more fun to dunk each other’s heads in the water and see if we can totally nail a handstand on the bottom of the pool. If you’re feeling ambitious, get your mates together and dream up your very own synchronised swimming routine. With a little bit of practice you’ll have everyone around you super impressed by your seamless moves – or it’ll just be a great thing to have a giggle about on the way home.

Dog on a bike

7. Get on your bike

That’s right, it’s time to dig your old bike out from your shed and take it for a spin. As long as you have a helmet you can explore your local area on two wheels rather than just two feet. It might be easier than walking (and it’s definitely easier than running), but it gives your legs a good workout.

Or if you’re feeling really adventurous, try a unicycle. You’ll find growing numbers of acrobatic skills classes in most areas – so if the thought of double hockey in the rain really gets too much, you can always run off and join the circus.

@BeccaCaddy

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Hailey Hamilton

This is a love story about myself and yoga. If you knew me in my teens, you’d think it an unlikely love story, as I was lazy and regularly tried to get out of PE at school by ‘forgetting’ my kit. But in my mid-20s I did a full 180 on exercise and fell in truly, madly, deeply in love with yoga.

The reason I love yoga is simple: its benefits are both physical and mental. After a few months of practice, I grew not only stronger and more flexible in my body, but also in my mind.

Knowing what I know now, I wish I’d got into it sooner. I’ve long suffered from anxiety, fretting incessantly about exams, homework, friends (you name it, I’ve probably hyperventilated about it). But yoga gives me some headspace. It doesn’t solve my problems or make them disappear, but it pushes my anxiety to the edge of my mind for an hour or so – meaning I leave with fresh perspective.

You may have heard about meditation, which is where you switch off your worries by focusing on the here and now (the present), usually through deep breathing. Well, yoga is basically moving meditation. You’re encouraged by the instructor to think so precisely about different postures (positions) that you put your body in – how your feet are placed on the mat or whether your shoulders are tense – that you can’t help but switch off from your day’s worries.

Most yoga classes start off slow, building up to a more challenging standing or balancing posture and then winding down again to more relaxing postures, ending in ‘shavasana, where you lay outstretched on the floor with your eyes closed. Sometimes you can lay there for five minutes and it’s so relaxing after all that exertion that I’ve even fallen asleep and, ahem… definitely snored. This part of the class is really important, instructors say, because it allows you some downtime to reflect on the class and face the world with a calmer, more balanced approach.

Spending an hour on the yoga mat focusing on myself has helped me through some really tough days when I’ve felt stressed, lost and inadequate for a multitude of reasons. I wish I’d tried it sooner so I could have used it at school, and coped better with the pressure I was feeling.

Intrigued? Here are five things you need to know about yoga before you get started:

1. You don’t need to be able to get your leg behind your head to do yoga

It’s a common misconception that you need to be super flexible to do yoga. You don’t. Our bodies are all different and we will all have different strengths and weaknesses. Yoga is all about learning about your body and working with what you’ve got. It will help with flexibility – to open your hips and shoulders – but it will also help you to become stronger and develop better balance.

2. Not all yogis are chilled-out hippies.

If you think all yogis are sat under a tree meditating somewhere you’re mistaken –loads of us are sat on the sofa eating pizza. People who practise yoga come from all walks of life: from Premier League footballers to the elderly woman sat next to you on the bus. There’s no ‘right way’ to be a yogi; all types of people practise for different reasons.

3. It doesn’t matter how good you are.

Yoga is a non-competitive practise, so it doesn’t matter if you can’t contort like the yogis on Instagram. All that matters is what you do on the mat. Trust me, you’ll be so preoccupied with whether your feet are in the right place or trying not to topple over completely, that you won’t even notice other people.

4. You don’t have to spend a fortune.

Yes, some yoga classes cost a bomb, but you needn’t splash the cash. Just buy a yoga mat and pair of cheap leggings (look at the activewear range from Primark, Forever 21 or H&M) and watch a video on YouTube for FREE (try Yoga with Adrienne). Note: If you plan to practise yoga in a class rather than at home, yoga mats will usually be provided – but always check ahead.

5. There are lots of different types of yoga.

Do your research and try a few YouTube videos out to find out which is best for you. My advice is start Hatha yoga (good for beginners as it teaches postures) and then try out something like Vinyasa Flow (which is based on fluid movements from one posture to another) or Restorative (which involves staying in very relaxed and nourishing postures for an extended period of time and is great for stress relief).

See – aren’t you feeling more chilled already?

@Brogan_Driscoll

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Amber Griffin

Dear 12-year-old Alice,

Hey, how are you?

I know that you’ve just started year 8, so the anxiety you’re feeling about how seating plans will affect your position in the class’s social hierarchy is being slightly eased by the fact that you’re no longer the lamest kids in the school.

What you won’t realise, yet, is that your successors are bolshy little tykes who will continue to challenge your authority until sixth form, when they take over the upper sixth sofas within seconds. Deal with it. By the time you’re my age (27 – I use the word “tykes” now), you’ll be actively hanging out with people three years younger than you and enjoying it, too.

I’m not here to tell you about your future or what homework you can totally get away with not doing (most of it, but you won’t properly take advantage of your nerdy reputation for at least a decade, soz).

Instead, I am travelling through time to tell you that, even though you hate PE, games, physical exertion, the social kudos that come with being good at hockey and the fact you just aren’t very good at sport, you will come to love it in 10 years. I know. Unbelievable, yet true.

This is because when you do exercise properly, your body releases endorphins. They’re a chemical substance released by your pituitary gland (that’s the same one in control of your hormones, which I know are giving you hell right now) that primarily exist to stop pain and induce euphoria – “a state of intense excitement and happiness”. Sounds pretty great right?

We both know that no PE class or hockey game has resulted in an endorphin rush. This is because 25 minutes of half-arsed jogging around with a stick barely raises your heart rate. Add in the fact that the changing rooms remain a hornet’s nest of underwear and boob-growth inspection (this is one of the many weird school things that never happens in adult life, promise), and you’re unlikely to ever experience a ‘runner’s high’.

But there’s a reason why all the cool girls love hockey and netball so much, and it’s not just because they’re really good at it. If you keep active enough for more than 20 minutes, that horrible ‘wall of pain’ your teacher keeps telling you about actually does disappear and instead you’re filled with the gleeful satisfaction of using your body properly.

Do you remember when you were younger and used to cycle around the cul-de-sac we lived on, really fast? Or roller skated to the end of the village? Or made up vigorous dance routines to Hey! Mickey and practiced them every afternoon for a week? They were doubly fun because of endorphins, because you got puffed out enough to encourage your body to release euphoric chemicals.

I know you will struggle to understand this, but I actively pay money to do an hour of exercise twice a week at lunchtime these days. I’ve been doing that for five years. I cycle several miles every day, too, even though there’s a 10-minute train I could take instead.

You know, even when I went on holiday with my friends (one of them is Anna Morris – yeah! From 8S! You become really good mates, hang out with her more) we actively did yoga for fun, in 36 degree heat. This is because exercise makes grown-up me feel happy and strong, rather than pathetic and miserable, which is how you feel after Games.

Please realise that you shouldn’t write off doing exercise because you’re not the best in the class at netball. You’re actually fiendishly competitive so it’s probably for the best that team sports aren’t your thing. Yoga hadn’t really hit the Home Counties by 2001 so you can’t do much with that, but get out on your bike more – I promise you will feel less angry and less scared after cycling properly for an hour.

It will be difficult at first. You’ll get out of breath and your mouth might taste like metal, but don’t give up.

Just slow down, maybe eat a Kitkat (exercising isn’t about losing weight or getting in shape, by the way – you, like all the girls in your year, look far more wonderful than you realise and don’t need to change, even though you will be made to feel like you should) and take a little break. Keep going. Push your bike up that hill if you fancy, one day you’ll cycle up there (I still push my bike up hills, I’m not trying to prove anything), and then you get to ride down really fast and it’s terrifying and fun all at once.

Dance. You’re not bad at it, and it is so much fun. Find music to dance to – check out David Bowie and those Kiss compilations you think you’re too cool to listen to, and throw your body around until you’re exhausted. It feels amazing. I still do it now.

Learn to listen to your body. I know it sounds as confusing and uncomfortable as progressive jazz music right now, but if you use it to do physical things that you find fun, you will feel it growing stronger. You will understand how to make your body work at a time when it feels like it is doing everything to conspire against you.

Have fun. Don’t be scared. Trust that making yourself properly sweaty feels so good that you won’t care how you look or smell (both fine). Buy some better trainers. Try running, but know that we will probably always hate it. Try team sport but know that Vincents are genetically programmed to not understand them. Do yoga. Breathe.

Don’t worry: you’re going to be just fine.

Love,

Alice

@alice_emily

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Image: Laura Callaghan 

Ahh ‘running’. It’s a word that might strike fear into the hearts of some of you because it reminds you of cross country, muddy knees and so much sweating. We’ve all been there.

But maybe for others it gives you a short, sharp blast of excitement at the thought of getting outside and getting moving? Maybe?

During school hours, exercise was always the first one for me. A pain in the neck. A way to send my face a shocking shade of tomato red. A necessary evil I had to endure to make it to art class after.

But outside of school, I found my secret exercising superpower: running. It helped me to feel more positive, get my body moving, stay fit and give me some time to think. Just me, the beach or the road, my music, my battered old trainers. And nothing else.

Sure you might never get into running — some of my best friends much prefer swimming and even skating — but today we’ve collected together five key things to think about to get you started. Who knows, you might find running makes you feel like a superhero too!

So, my little runner bean, here’s how to go from feeling “URGhhhh” to “AHHHH!” about running in no time.

1. Get some decent kit to keep your feet and your boobs happy

Anyone can start running right now. You can run in bare feet (this is a thing), you can run in battered old trainers (sometimes I still do) and some people can even run quite successfully in heels (although we wouldn’t recommend it).

But you’ll feel better if you have some proper kit. We’re not telling you to spend a bomb in the Nike shop or get your parents to shell out a fortune to have you looking like an Olympian. There are just a few key things you actually need. Then you can add to your kit over time.

The first one is running shoes. You can go to a special running store and have shoes fitted professionally. Oo-er, fancy pants! But if you’re just getting started, find some trainers in a sports shop that are created with running in mind. Look out for words like, obviously, ‘running’ and ‘support’ and ‘cushioned’.

If you start to get really good and run all the time, you can upgrade your shoes. But as a starter pair something that ticks at least one of those boxes above will be good. (Just ask the shop assistant if you need help.)

And it’s not just shoes that are important, but a good sports bra too. As your body is developing you want to take good care of the skin around your boobs. And yes, this is just as important if you’re an A cup or an E cup. If not, it’ll feel painful and could cause muscle ache over time.

2. Work to simple goals and challenges

Sometimes it’s easier to do something if you set yourself a goal. But the key when you’re getting started with running is to keep it small.

Some of our favourites are: Run 3 times a week. Run to the end of the street and back. Run for a whole song. Then, as you get better, you can increase these goals. If running to the end of the street and back gets easy, run around your whole neighbourhood once. If you can happily run for a whole song, try running for two. Then three, then even four!

The key to setting good goals and challenges is to keep it simple. You don’t have to be aiming for marathons. You’re not Paula Radcliffe (well, not yet).

There’s a saying, and we have no idea who said it first, that goes like this: “No matter how slow you go, you’re lapping everyone on the couch.” What this means is, even by getting out and trying, you’re doing better than the lazy version of you who didn’t even try and is still watching Netflix. So don’t obsess about being the best, the fastest or the strongest. As Nike always tells us: just do it.

3. Treat yo’self: Warm up, stretch and cool down

Even if you can only run for one minute right now, you need to make sure you treat your body nicely before and after you move it. This means warming it up before you run, so you don’t injure your legs. A warm up can be as simple as 30 star jumps and a few stretches.

Afterwards, you’ll want to do the same thing, but in reverse. Do a few more jumping jacks then have a good ol’ stretch.

Once you get more and more into running, stretching will become your new BFF. It’ll stop your limbs from feeling like jelly or like rocks the next day. It’ll make you feel more nimble and you’ll be able to go faster and further next week if you’ve been good about your stretches all of this week.

If you don’t know where to get started with stretching, there are some great apps that’ll help you out. We love Sworkit’s stretching option. Just tell the app how long you’ve got and the kind of stretch you’re after and it’ll show you exactly what to do, step-by-step.

4. Stay safe – you’re in superhero training but you’re not Supergirl just yet

When you get into running, it can be tempting to go on big, running adventures. We’re not stopping you – exploring new places is one of the best bits about running. But always stay wary about where you are.

Avoid going to really isolated places, like maybe a secluded beach or a forest, on your own. And always tell your friends and family when and where you’re going for a run, just in case.

The same goes for roads. When you’re running along, feeling like Beyonce, it can be easy to slip into a state of excitement or get lost in a world of motivational images. You taking over the world! You running the 800m at the next Olympics! But you need to be careful when it comes to cars, bikes and other pedestrians. Always stay alert and don’t play music too loud, or you’ll never hear anything coming.

5. Have fun

If running stops feeling fun, get some better kit, try a different route, listen to more motivating music, stretch more. Try mixing things up before giving things up.

But if you still don’t like it, don’t sweat it! Literally! Try something else. Skating, trampolining and swimming are some of our firm faves for when running feels like too much hard work.

Bottom line: if it’s not fun, don’t do it. In fact, we could apply that to everything.

@BeccaCaddy

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Image: Getty

At first glance you wouldn’t think that professional hula hooper Marawa Ibrahim had any body insecurities – after all, she does twirl around in a leotard in front of an audience for her day job – but this hasn’t always been the case.

She was once told she was “too chubby” to be a performer and was made to feel self-conscious about her body as she reached puberty and “grew huge boobs overnight”. But since graduating circus school in 2004, the 31-year-old has spent her time travelling around the world as a professional hula hooper and has broken eight world records (and counting), including most hoops spun by an individual and fastest 100m in high-heeled skates. Talk about #lifegoals.

Now, she’s written a new book for girls about puberty and body image, to help them feel comfortable in their own skin. The Girl Guide shares 50 lessons that all girls should know when learning to love their changing bodies – covering everything from spots to sweat, periods to thrush.

Marawa draws from her own cringe-tastic experiences (and is backed up by expert Dr Janice K Hillman and fun illustrations by Sinem Erkas) to answer the questions you’ve always wanted to ask. Honest, funny and ultimately reassuring, think of her like an older sister you might not have – someone who’s been there, done that and got the embarrassing story printed on her t-shirt.

So Marawa – why did you want to write the book?

When I was younger and started going through puberty, I had no idea what was happening to my body. This was before the internet and all I had was a few books that were dated or irrelevant – a serious medical book about pain or a pink wishy-washy book that brushed over topics. I had so many questions and no answers. Now, anyone can type a question into the internet and have uncertified and false answers that come up. You will either think you’re dying or get wrong advice about things.

I felt like I was the only one. But growing up I realised that everyone had been going through the same experience, we just didn’t talk about it. I spent so much time worrying on my own about things that were completely normal.

As I got older I realised that someone needs to write a book for young girls growing up. Not a boring book about babies, but something that really got in there and covered all things that change. So, I started to make a list: skin, thrush, how the menstrual cycle works, how it feels when you have your first period, stretch marks. I kept writing and writing the list and eventually we ended up with 50 things.

It’s based on your own experience and is very, very honest. Was it important to write it in this style?

I wanted to show that I’ve been there and completely understand what girls are going through. I want to share that experience in a way that doesn’t feel too far removed – like a big sister.

There are some pretty gross stories too, but it’s important to include them so people can relate… We’ve created a safe space and addressed the elephant in the room, to say: yes, periods leak in public and it’s embarrassing but here’s how you deal with it.

What was your body image like growing up?

I went through a very short phase of poor body image when I was about 14. My body changed and people would comment. I grew huge boobs overnight and started wearing triple XXXL jumpers trying to hide every curve and shape on me.

When you suddenly grow boobs and people treat you differently – people you’ve known for years, family friends, people from school – it’s strange, unfamiliar and makes you feel uncomfortable.

But apart from that period of my life, I think I’ve been lucky. I won’t buy into it. If anyone wants to make a comment about my body, they’ll know about it!

How did you overcome those insecurities growing up?

I was really lucky my mum was just normal about the whole thing. “You’re going through puberty, you’re going to put on some weight, you’re gonna lose it or you might not. It won’t matter either way,” she told me.

I don’t know how I would have coped without her, she was my lifeline. Other girls I went to school with felt shame in their bodies and pressure from friends and family – some girls I knew had mums who put them on diets. It makes me so angry. Girls are having enough trying to adapt and adjust to what’s going on with their bodies.

I put on weight and I lost it again, my body has been many different sizes and my bras have been many different sizes over the years but we all deserve [to] and should feel comfortable in our bodies.

If you had once piece of advice for girls going through puberty today what would it be?

Don’t trust the internet. A lot of the images you see of people online are airbrushed or filtered – they are not real life. Also, there is a a lot of false information and bad medical advice out there. So make sure you can trust the source; try a recommended source like the NHS.

There are a lot of embarrassing stories in the book, which readers will love. What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you while performing?

I once fell over on stage while I was wearing a cape. As I stood up I pierced my heel in the cape, and it got caught around my neck and I fell down again. That was embarrassing.

I always get worried that I’m going to fart, but I haven’t. I always hold it just in case.

Tell us the story of your first period…

I wasn’t at home. It was awful. I felt like I was wetting my pants, but I wasn’t wetting my pants. I knew what was happening and I was horrified. I went in the toilet and I just stayed there because I didn’t have any sanitary products and I didn’t want to tell anyone. But you have to tell someone. There was so much blood. I just put loads of toilet paper in my knickers and waddled out to my mum and was like: “Help!”

I remember her telling me to put two pads on when I went to sleep, in case I rolled over and leaked. So I went to bed in this kind of giant nappy and I couldn’t sleep. I wish it was a positive story but it was awful and I hated it. But, it got easier.

How do you deal with your period while performing?

I have a combination of things: generally I use tampons, most of the girls I work with use mooncups, but I also use period-absorbing knickers called Thinx. They’re perfect for me: high-waisted and fit under anything.

If you could tell your 14-year-old self one thing, what would it be?

Don’t worry, it gets easier. You find all these body changes hard and feel out of control of your body right now – [maybe] your boobs grew huge overnight and your period is irregular (it just starts sometimes for no reason) – but you will get used to your changing body and learn how to deal with it. It gets easier.

The Girl Guide, written by Marawa Ibrahim in consultation with Doctor Janice K Hillman and illustrated by Sinem Erkas, is out now. Buy your copy here.

@Brogan_Driscoll

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In every ad for exercise gear, everyone looks so impossibly beautiful. Sure, sometimes they’re ‘sweating’, but somehow that only makes them look even more striking and perfectly put together. There’s not a blotchy red face or camel toe in sight, just slightly damp people wearing loads of lycra. If someone tried to put a camera in my face after I went for a run, I would smash the camera to pieces and eat the shards of it just for good measure.

We all know exercise is good for you. It makes you healthy and fit, it’s great for your brain too, and exercise can even be fun – especially when you reflect on how wonderful it is that exercise gets people dancing, bouncing, skating or actually meeting in parks to play Quidditch, despite the fact that, well, erm… they can’t fly.

But exercise only becomes fun once you get over the fact that it’s also sometimes awkward and embarrassing, and occasionally gross. So in the spirit of sharing, here are some of those lol-worthy times.

“My mum once gave herself concussion by sitting on a stomach cruncher – she had no idea you were supposed to lie down to use it!!”

“Two weeks ago my best friend decided she’d give yoga a go and within minutes of doing a pose she farted. She apologised and we all tried to ignore it, only for her to then fart again within 30 seconds! The session turned into ‘laughter yoga’ at that point.”

“Not so long ago I had fallen asleep on a train, and was dreaming I was at the gym doing power presses (I wonder about myself sometimes). I awoke as I pushed both arms into the air in true weightlifting fashion. Everyone was looking at me. God knows what I was doing before I woke up. Then had to sit there sheepishly for the rest of the journey – half an hour has never felt so long…”

“There I was in the gym, many years ago, doing a very unflattering move where I lay on my back and opened and closed my legs repeatedly. I heard someone say hello, looked through the gap in my spread legs and there was the lad I had a monster crush on from school. Grinning at me. Excellent.”

“I regularly swum at my women-only gym, and after a two week holiday, I was keen to get in the water. So I went to the gym, got changed into my cossie and left the changing room. I flung open the door to the pool… and stepped into a weights room filled with muscly men grunting away. They all stopped what they were doing to look at me – I was horrified and hastily retreated back into the changing room. I went to the front desk to demand what had happened to the pool – I’d only been gone for two weeks!!! – only to be told: “It kept leaking so we filled it in and made it a weights room. Oh and by the way the the gym is co-ed now, so you might see some guys wandering around.” Really?? You tell me now??!!”

“I went to an Advanced Step class by mistake when I’m very much a beginner, and couldn’t keep up with the moves as it moved so fast. I did an embarrassed moonwalk out of the studio. It was not a pretty sight, all gangly and uncoordinated. It felt like a scene from Miranda.”

“When I was 12, I took up ballet. This was a terrible idea. I cannot fully emphasise to you the extent to which this was an awful idea. Remember when Lady Gaga wore a dress made of literal meat to the Met Gala? This idea was worse than that. I am clumsy and awkward and I struggle to follow even simple instructions, three things that are quite crucial to ballet. Once we had to do this weird jumpy exercise that everyone aside from me knew, I ended up crashing into three people and falling on the floor. I was always put in the back corner after that…”

“I once went to a Zumba class after eating a pretty huge burrito for lunch. “It’s fine, I’ll work it off!” I thought. Fast forward an hour and I’ve had to run out of the class in front of everybody to throw up. The lesson? Salsa and salsa don’t mix.”

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Image: Amber Griffin

Ever struggled to find exercise that felt more like, well, fun? More like a night out? We have the solution. Dance classes are a great way to fit exercise and fun into the same 45 minute window. No more of this pounding the pavement nonsense or dribbling those basketballs hullabaloo. As wise woman Lady Gaga once said: just dance! Gonna be ok, dada doo doo. Just dance.

We hear you, Lady G. Inspired by shape-throwing mecca Move It 2017, here are the dance trends we’re most jazzed about trying this year.

Gyrotonic

Gyrotonic addicted #slightwave #gyrotonic #fitmom #fitnessmotivation #body @10ila

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You know this one’s legit because it was created by professional dancer, Juliu Horvath. It combines spiral movements and breathing to improve balance, strength and flexibility, but all without jarring your joints. Don’t be put off by the intense-looking machines, though – while Gyrotonic was originally dubbed ‘Yoga for Dancers’, it turns out you don’t have to know how to do a perfect pas de bourrée to enjoy the class.

Dance Cardio

Hate exercise classes with tyrannical teachers and competitive classmates? We hear you. But Dance Cardio is different from other classes, this one is actually designed to be fun. It feels less like a dance class and more like you’re busting a move on the dancefloor with your mates. Plus, with this class your life can look like one of those films where you and your besties all happen to pull out the same dance routine, as if by magic. Thriller, anyone?

Barre

Barre, or Barrecore, worked its way into some of our hearts (and feet) last year, but this year it’s really going to EXPLODE. Figuratively, of course. Barre’s a graceful blend of ballet with pilates and yoga that helps tone muscles, improve your flexibility and make you strong af. Tutus optional.

Pop pilates

If you’d rather do your workouts in your living room than perform to imaginary crowds, there’s still a dance workout for you. Pop pilates was developed by YouTube fitness guru Cassey Ho and is a delicious cocktail of pilates, dance and awesome tunes. The channel, Blogilates, features hours of free exercise videos as well as really useful nutritional advice, so it’s not surprising it already has over 3.5 million subscribers.

Aerobics

The 80s called and they want their leg warmers back. Aerobics is making a comeback, but apparently high cut leotards and sweatbands are no longer required. More high-intensity than other dance classes, aerobics improves coordination and agility and gets you super fit, super fast. Plus you get to listen to greats like Michael Jackson and Madonna while you’re at it.

Image: Getty

We hope you feel inspired by this feature created in collaboration with our lovely friends at .

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome.