Here at shinyshiny I get the opportunity to speak to inspiring people from the worlds of tech, design and fitness on a daily basis. But the interview today holds a very special place in my heart because it’s with a blogger I’ve followed, admired and learned a hell of a lot from over the past few years, meet Bangs.
Bangs is a writer and speaker with a passion for running and fitness, a desire to challenge herself in all areas of her life and coach others in the process and a strong, positive attitude that’s truly infectious.
She runs two websites, Bangs & a Bun, which is a mix of lifestyle content, motivational pep talks, advice and fitspiration, as well as Spikes & Heels, a fitness blog that wants to appeal to ‘badass women’ and push them further than ever with their personal goals, but also encourages them to be ‘pretty on rest days’. She’s worked with a multitude of brands and publications, she’s published her own eBook and she’s taken part in more competitive races than most of us have had hot dinners.
So as you can imagine I was delighted to chat to her and find out about her fitness motivation, what she thinks of wearable tech, why mentoring is so important to her and what the future holds for the Bangs media and fitness empire…
Hello! I’ve been a big fan for a while and have followed your journey from Bangs & a Bun to Spikes & Heels. So to start with, what would you say your job title was if you had to squeeze it into one of those annoying boxes on a form?
Ahh, this is always a tough one for me. I’d say: writer, speaker, general lover of life – most of what I do falls under those three things.
Tell us a bit about the different projects and jobs you’re working on at the moment. I’ve noticed you’ve been writing a lot about your role as a mentor recently. What is it about mentoring that motivates you?
What I’m doing at the moment: constantly working on my two websites and working on improving them, running the social media for a company called Heartcore, teaching spin five times a week, liaising with various brands and organisations about partnerships or speaking opportunities. Trying to squeeze sleep in there where I can too.
Yes, of everything I do, mentoring young women probably means the most to me, because if you’re not giving back somehow, what are we really doing all this for, you know? I just remember being in my early 20s and completely flying by the seat of my pants, trying out everything, with no guidance. All I really wanted at that point was to write for magazines and the attitude from people already in those positions was very much that you should pull yourself up by your bootstraps and learn your own way – they didn’t have any help, so why should you? And frankly, I think that attitude is bollocks really and pretty mean. My experience with young people is mainly that they don’t feel heard, so I just want to be someone they can come to, ask advice and help guide them. I’m lucky to have carved a career out for myself, learned a lot of lessons and met some super awesome, well connected people among the way. If I can’t pass that along to someone who needs it, my life wouldn’t really make sense.
Before you began smashing marathons and working on Spikes & Heels I remember you weren’t a runner. What pushed you to go out for the first time?
The only way I can really describe it is that I was feeling ‘blah’. I was constantly lethargic, had no energy or enthusiasm for anything really. I just knew I needed a hobby, I needed to get moving, do something. I started boxing initially, as I’ve always been a boxing fan and I heard it was great for your fitness. I fell in love with it during my first session. I came out of there with the most incredible feeling. Boxing became like a religion to me. I was there week in and week out. It was an appointment I would never cancel. I was getting fitter, sure, but it was doing something much more for me, on an emotional level.
I’d been tweeting about boxing a lot and a PR person noticed that and asked if I’d like to run a half marathon and blog about it. At that point, I was feeling a little cocky about my fitness level, what with my three months of boxing training, so I (rather stupidly) agreed to this challenge. I hadn’t run since an egg and spoon race at primary school (I wish that was a joke). My first run (a 5K Parkrun) was disastrous – I was overtaken by a pensioner – but it made me realise that I need to get my act together, get fitter and take care of my body. And so, the running journey commenced.
And what was it that made you start taking running seriously? Did you find it tough to stay motivated?
Well, being overtaken by a pensioner on a run is quite the blow to the ego. I kid, I kid. After that first run was a disaster, I went back for the second one with a new mindset: I simply would not stop running til I finished that 5K. No matter how much it hurt, no matter how much I wanted to and those voices in my head told me I had to, I would absolutely not stop til I crossed the finish line. And that’s exactly what I did. That was a huge ‘A-ha!’ moment for me. I decided then and there to approach everything in my life the way I’d approached that 5K run. Because sometimes we walk in life when we know we would really keep running, you know? (This interview will be laced with cheesy running-as-a-metaphor-for-life quotes – I apologies in advance). So that was enough for me. With each run, I got a little more confident, I noticed myself getting stronger, being able to run further and that attitude was spreading into every area of my life. That’s what kept (and still keeps) me motivated.
What’s your must-have piece of running kit? Do you tend to take much out with you when you run?
I don’t like to be weighed down when I run. I run with as little as possible. I take my phone, keys, Oyster card and bank card. I use an arm band called the Y-Fumble which is by far the best running accessory I’ve ever used (I should have shares in this company by now, the amount of times I’ve recommended this product!). It fits snug to the arm, no pockets, zips, flaps, velcro – just slides right on and whatever you put in there, it doesn’t jiggle around. It’s perfect. I use it on every run.*
*I should mention here that after Bangs recommended this product a good year or so ago I went and bought one myself, and she’s not lying about it being the best running accessory!
Do you take any tech, apps and tracking devices out with you on a run? Which have you tried?
When I’m in training mode, prepping for a race, I use the Nike Sportswatch – I like the Nike+ community element, I find that pretty motivational. I don’t tend to use any apps. I’m not overly concerned about my race times and all that jazz anymore, so have a bit more of a relaxed approach to training.
We write a lot about wearable tech and tracking devices here at shinyshiny, but we’re often torn as to whether we should really be tracking every step or enjoying things in the moment a little more. What do you think about tracking devices and activity gadgets?
I think they can be a great source of motivation and keeping yourself accountable. A few months ago, I started using the Misfit Shine and absolutely love it. I forget I’m wearing it most of the time, which is great, because I’m so active, I don’t want anything clunky that gets in the way. The app that goes with it is great and gives me a really clear read of where I stand activity-wise at any point in the day. I like to see how far I’ve walked every day, how many points I can clock up and this one measures your sleep too, which is one of the main things I love about it. For me, it motivates me to keep moving. I don’t like those days when I haven’t clocked up a certain number of points or hit a certain number of miles – makes me feel like a slacker, and I can’t have that!
Do you ever feel like you don’t want to run? What do you do to keep fit when you’re not in the mood or you’re feeling a bit drained?
Oh of course! I once interviewed Paula Radcliffe who told me even she has days where she’s just not that into it, which of course, I use as validation every time I can’t be arsed. But in all seriousness, it’s natural to have ups and downs with it. Sometimes it ebbs, sometimes it flows. You may go through a period where you’re just on fire with your training, then the next month, you just lose your mojo altogether. For me, I just know that being active makes me feel better. I wish I could walk around all the time wearing a sandwich board that says ‘move more! You’ll feel great!’ because it’s so, so true. People don’t tend to link how crappy they feel with how sedentary they are.
As I teach spin five times a week, I don’t really get the chance to just ‘not be that into it’ all that often. I’m lucky in that environment, I get to entertain the crowd and feed off their energy, which really helps. But when I have a day off, even if I don’t want to run or workout at all, I make a point of walking, taking my dog out and getting some fresh air. People tend to think walking doesn’t count as a form of exercise. Nonsense, I say! At this point, basically anything that gets us off our collective asses, I am a big fan of. If you’re feeling drained and like you don’t wanna do a killer workout, call a mate and just get out and go for a walk. At least then you did SOMETHING.
Do you have a policy for dealing with online trolls and haters? If so, what advice do you have for someone who doesn’t have a thick skin?
My policy is to ignore them. Not to get all hippy about things, but I’m big on the universe and the flow of energy. I refuse to give my energy to that and channel into that negativity. I’m lucky that I’m very comfortable with who I am. I have flaws, I’m aware of them, I work on being the best me I can be every day. So much power comes from acknowledging and accepting the fact that not everyone will like you and you don’t need to know why. Hell, sometimes I really annoy myself – so I can totally get why I might piss other people off! And that’s allowed. People can feel the way they want to feel about me. If they want to be negative, that’s on them. I shall continue marching down a path paved with glitter and happiness – that’s just how I am.
As well as blogging about fitness, being a running role model and teaching me a thing or two about how to be a better blogger, you’ve always imparted loads of great advice to me and the rest of your readers over the years. What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve ever learned?
My father once said to me ‘assume nothing, ever’ and that always comes to mind whenever I’m letting my mind race or I’m getting ahead of myself thinking about the potential ups or downs of any situation. I think especially in the social media age, everyone can read way more into things than were intended. I’ve found the ‘assume nothing, ever’ mantra makes me much more direct. Sometimes it makes for an uncomfortable conversation, but I’d rather have that than get lost in this weird no man’s land of nobody actually communicating ‘cause we’re all just assuming certain things about a situation. That applies to work, life, friendships, relationships, whatever.
I’ve just been telling the team here at shinyshiny about you and why I’m keen to chat to you and they can’t quite believe how much you’ve been up to! What’s next for Bangs & a Bun? What are your goals for the future?
Bangs & a Bun has been going seven years now and I feel like that seven years was just a warm up. I’m about to kick it into high gear. I’ve learned so much in that time and now I just want to push myself to take this thing as far as I can take it. I’m in a great place physically, emotionally and motivationally and am ready to challenge myself to reach all the goals I’ve previously thought were too lofty. In a nutshell, my goals are basically for Bangs & a Bun/Spikes & Heels to be bigger and better, to be the starting point for an empire that consolidates all my passions. And ultimately, just to be content with the life I live, to be good to others, to spread positive vibes – that’s all I really want.
You can follow Bangs on Twitter @bangsandabun.
All images via the Spikes & Heels and Bangs & a Bun Facebook pages.