Why I Run

I’ve been running for 12 years.  And it’s been hugely important to me.  And because it’s just part of my routine now, I forget what a profound effect it’s had on my life.

At school I was about as unsporty as you can get – chubby, physically unconfident and clumsy, I was never picked for teams.  I was vaguely good at defending in hockey, but catching balls? Forget it!

Fast forward to my late twenties, not a brilliant period of my life.  In debt, a bit overweight, a smoker and not really living the life I wanted to.  I miraculously and thankfully discovered running.

My friend Regina wanted to run a Nike 10k race in Hyde Park. I wasn’t in any way fit, but I liked the idea of a challenge.  We started training on Saturday mornings in the local park.  We’d usually both rock up hungover, and I’d often have a fag on the way.  A significant part of our training was actually ‘speed walking’ round the park and gossiping, and then reluctantly running a lap.  However we committed to the process and gradually improved.

On the day of the 10k, I absolutely loved the buzz of the event and the thrill of finishing a 10k.  It felt like a huge acheivement, especially at a time in my life when not a lot was going in my favour.

Next up was a half marathon, we’d enjoyed the 10k, so why not double the distance? And 5 months later we found ourselves running the Reading Half Marathon.  What strikes me as hilarious now is the stuff I used to run in.  I literally wore the thickest track suit trousers and just a normal cotton t-shirt to run the half marathon.  I just hadn’t got my head around how hot I would get running 13 miles. But I did it!

Regina and I were now hooked on this running thing.  So a year later we signed up to the London Marathon and another friend joined our running crew. I became nicknamed the ‘running Nazi’ because despite my extra pounds, fag habit and tendency to enjoy a bit too much booze, I was actually very diligent in following a strict running programme.  My favourite memory is one Sunday when we planned to do our final long run before the Marathon. We were aiming to get to 16 miles.  I arrived at Regina’s place to discover that she and our other pal had been clubbing for most of the night, but were in their running gear and ready to go.  Miraculously, we completed the run (with a mid-run stop off at KFC).

The day of the Marathon arrived, and despite being bored out of my mind and wanting to give up for many miles of the running, it really was a glorious day.  The crowd support was like nothing I’d ever experienced in my life, I had loads of friends who came down to watch and the sense of achievement was just immense.

Ten years on from that Marathon, running is just a habitual part of my life.  It’s keeps me trim, sane and happy. I may not love every run I do, sometimes it’s sheer endurance getting out there in the the cold and the rain, but it’s always worth it.  I view it a bit like putting money in a bank, it’s not always loads of fun, but I’m investing in me.  And I think the journey from chubby, unsporty, not doing very well in life Katya, to slimmer, fitter and generally happier and more confident me, is all entwined with my running journey.  The running made me feel good about myself and more confident in my life, and as I became more confident in life, I became even more confident about running.  A virtous circle.

If you fancy getting into running, my top tips would be – find a running buddy at a similar level of fitness, get a pair of running trainers and a good running bra, try the coach to 5k app and when you feel ready do a local 5k park run – there’ll be one near you and they are free.


Brain Food: my Favourite Podcasts

In June this year I discovered podcasts.  And five months in, I am a confirmed addict.  So fervent is my commitment that in the past two months I’ve smashed up my phone screen twice in podcast related incidents.  Not because I threw the phone on the floor in a dramatic reaction to what I was listening to, it was actually because I was so enthralled listening to my podcast that I didn’t pay attention to what I was doing with my phone and dropped it.  Then did the same thing a month later. It’s been an expensive time at the phone shop.

Here are eight of my favourite listens:

S Town from the same creators of Serial. For those who haven’t heard of Serial – it’s an American true crime podcast that has been ridiculously popular on iTunes.  And S Town is another cracker.  Prepare to become completely anti-social as you binge listen to this.  I must have polished off the entire series in about a week.  It’s a true story, about a guy called John who despises his Alabama town and asks a reporter to investigate a murder of a local young man.  John believes the police are corrupt and have swept the case under the carpet. But the story that unravels is about so much more.

Dirty John After finishing S Town, I needed something to fill the void. The series begins with an autopsy report of a body that has 13 stab wounds. Before we learn whose body it is, we are told a staggering tale of manipulation, deceit and abuse. This has been a great excuse for me to go for lots of walks this past week.  Dirty John has been good for my fitness.

Desert Island Discs I’m sure you know the drill, each well known guest gets eight tracks, a book and a luxury to take to a desert island, which provides the prompts for each celebrity to talk about their lives. It’s deep, sad, enlightening and joyful.  Some of my favourite listens were Noel Gallagher, Sue Perkins, Stella McCartney, Ed Sheeran and Keith Richards.

Courage and Spice by Sas Petherick – the podcast for humans with self doubt.  What a lovely idea.  Self doubt holds all of us back in some, or many areas of our lives.  Sas interviews various people on the subject and looks at how to tackle it.  Sas is fun, warm, down to earth and full of incredible wisdom on this topic. Listening to this podcast is like having a lovely, empowering hug.

Hashtag Authentic by Sara Tasker.  I’m a big fan of Sara’s – she’s well known in the Instagram world for her gorgeous @me_and-orla account.  Hashtag Authentic is a great listen for anyone running their own online/social media business.  Sara interviews all sorts of people figuring their business journey out, including many big names on the Instagram scene.  It’s not only an incredibly practical podcast, but it provides emotional support too.  Sara herself is willing to be very vulnerable and shares the ups and downs of running her own business, as do her guests.  I always come away with a load of ideas and tips, but it’s also a creative, beautiful and life enhancing listen.

CTRL ALT DELETE by Emma Gannon. I saw Emma speak at Blogtacular in June. Emma is responsible for my podcast addiction.  She spoke so enthusiastically about podcasts at the conference I became convinced I needed to enter this exciting audio world.  Emma was also an all round inspiration and very passionate about empowering women to build brilliant careers. In her podcast she interviews high profile guests about how the Internet and social media have changed our lives forever – and the lessons they’ve learned along the way.  Guests include Liz Gilbert, Lena Dunham, Zoella, Tanya Burr, Will Young, Gillian Anderson.

What She Said by Lucy Sheref.  As a keen blogger and Instagrammer, this is the perfect listen for me.  Lucy chats with interesting women in blogging and the online world.  Lucy has a lovely open and honest style that makes for a really pleasant listen and I always learn a lot.  She also always has her baby with her while doing her podcasts – the cute gurgling noises throughout are very soothing.

The High Low this is a weekly pop-culture / news podcast by Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes. They are extremely posh journalists in their late twenties, and whilst I was initially a bit put off by their poshness, they are just brilliant.  Inspiring, open, really switched on and really willing to fight the corner for women.  An energising, fun and thought-provoking listen.

Let me know how you get on with these – I’d love to hear what you think.  And if you have any recommendations for me – I need them now!

Umezushi Tasting Menu

I’d heard so many amazing things about Umezushi, I just thought it would be nice to pop in and have a light lunch on a Saturday.  However, Jamie got giddy and decided we should get the tasting menu.  I wasn’t going to argue.

This was the tasting menu:

Miso Soup



Grilled dish

Simmered dish


Served with Japanese wine or sake.

We passed a lovely couple of hours munching our way through this lot.  I had the Japanese white wine, which was light and appley and very nice. And all the sashimi and nigiri was sublime, really fresh and beautifully presented.  The grilled fish was mackerel and again was just exquisite. And our final savoury dish was the ‘steamed fish’ which was another soup, this time with sea snail in! Very delicious.  Pudding was sake infused pineapple with a dollop of ice-cream.

The whole thing was a really relaxing, intriguing experience.  And I really liked the vibe in Umezushi – a tiny wooden interior that seats about 20 people, under a railway arch near Victoria – it felt quirky and cool.  And I loved that the toilet has a Japanese cityscape wallpapered all over the walls.  Oh yes, and the staff were very attentive and sweet too.

umezushi miso soup
Miso soup
Umezushi sashimi
Umezushi nigiri
Umezushi grilled mackerel
Grilled mackerel
Umezushi sea snail soup
Sea snail soup
Umezushi Sake infused pineapple and ice-cream
Sake infused pineapple and ice-cream


My Very Long And Windy Road to Confidence

In my recent blog post Laying Ghosts to Rest I described having had my confidence ripped away at school and being left feeling stupid and not good enough. This lack of self belief had terrible consequences in my life. I thought it was just my story, but I’ve been inundated with messages from women I went to school with who’d suffered throughout their lives with very similar confidence issues. I was horrified.  It just didn’t seem right.

So I wanted to share some of the lessons I’ve learned on my long and windy road to confidence. I’ve gone from being a tortured fragile soul to actually a (largely) really happy, bouncy version of myself. I’ve had a lot of help with therapy, counselling and coaching, which I used to be embarrassed about, but the truth is, it’s been the making of me.  Here’s what I’ve learnt:

  1. To be kind to myself and to forgive myself. We all make mistakes or bad decisions in life – that’s just normal human behaviour.  But learning to forgive ourselves for those mishaps is so important.  The weight of guilt and shame I’ve carried for getting into horrendous debt in my twenties nearly derailed my entire life. But as I’ve got older (with the help of therapy) I’ve become a lot kinder to myself about that situation. I’ve learnt to reframe it.  My mum died when I was 23 and I’ve always had a difficult relationship with my dad, so I felt very alone when she died.  Money became my friend and my escape route.  Money replaced the love that I’d lost. I spent much of my 30s utterly ashamed about the mess I’d got myself into financially (which fortunately I’ve sorted out).  But in recent years, with the help of coaching and therapy, I’m actually quite proud of the stuff I did when I racked up debt.  I spent money on counselling in my 20s which was a life saver for me, I travelled the world for a  year, I went on many fascinating courses.  And I lived my life.  I wanted to meet people and go to parties and experience things, and I did. My mum’s death made me ultra aware of wanting to live life to the full.
  2. There are different ways of being intelligent. From my school days I’d been fixated on what kind of intelligent I wasn’t. I wasn’t academic, I wasn’t scientific, I wasn’t a natural at languages, I didn’t have a photographic memory, I didn’t know much about current affairs.  I often wouldn’t utter a word in meetings in my last job, deeming everyone else to be more intelligent than me. During coaching and therapy, we examined what kind of clever I was. I can do logistics, creativity, communication, I’m resourceful, practical, I think outside of the box, I have vision.  It’s a long list of skills and talents that I’ve started to celebrate.
  3. To allow myself to be vulnerable. I used to be the master of never asking for help. Perhaps my mum dying when I was so young made me super self sufficient. But in honesty trying to live my life so robotically really wasn’t working. When I got divorced a few years ago, I put my stiff upper lip on, didn’t complain and just cracked on with things. I’m not sure how I did it. It was a really lonely time. However what was brilliant was that I went into therapy.  And my therapist identified that I was completely out of touch with my feelings and effectively isolating myself by trying to be so independent and strong. She was very clever at prodding me and questioning me and making me understand that I needed to express myself and let people in in order to be happier.
  4. To recognise when a situation isn’t working for me anymore.  My job at 5 live at the BBC was an amazing experience for me – I was there eight years and worked with some great people and really came into my own.  But in the end I felt stuck, and couldn’t develop my career or my confidence any further there.  I left in May 2016 and haven’t looked back.  I catapulted myself out of my comfort zone – last year was all about being creative and having some time out and this year I started my business. It’s still scary and I don’t entirely know what I’m doing, but I’ve learnt a lot, met loads of interesting people and had a pretty amazing time.
  5. To embrace new opportunities.  One of my favourite quotes is ‘old ways won’t open new doors’. I think as we get older it’s so easy to become very rigid in our routines. Personally if I don’t have cake and Netflix in the evenings after dinner, I feel very hard done by. However despite some of my cumudgeonly, cosy habits, I have been pretty good at throwing myself into new situations in the last few years. It started when I was getting divorced when I just thought, I can either stay home and be lonely or really make something of my life now.  I was feeling a bit socially rusty, but I joined a fell running group, ran a couple of supper clubs at my house, joined a ramblers club, booked a holiday to Morocco and New York,  went out dating and met my lovely boyfriend, and turned things around.

This is just a little snapshot into how I’ve overcome some of my confidence issues.  I think nearly everyone has their own struggles with believing in themselves and getting what they really want out of life. I’d love to hear your lessons in confidence if you’d like to share them.

5 Tips to up Your Instagram Game

I’ve spent a good couple of years obsessing over Instagram – it’s absolutely my favourite platform.  I enjoy ogling people’s beautiful photos of food, latte art and travel destinations.  I also love the friendly, nurturing, community vibe on Instagram.  People are more likely to say nice things to you than on Twitter, which feels like a rowdier, more argumentative place.

Having been on a few courses and done a load of experimenting on Instagram, here’s some top tips for you:

  1. Learn to take good photos.  This may sound a bit obvious, but Instagram is the most visual social platform and your photos need to stand out to get noticed.  Here’s a brilliant article on how to take better photos with your smart phone – I found it super helpful.
  2. Write good captions.  Yes, it is primarily a visual platform, but you’ll pack more of a punch if you’ve written something interesting alongside your picture.  A lot of people use it almost as a journal, to share little stories from their day, while others use bantery fun captions – the range of writing styles is huge, so pick an approach that’s right for you.  I’ve got most inspiration from scouring accounts like Orla and Me, Old Fashioned Sus, Allison Sadler as they express themselves brilliantly and authentically.
  3. Get some Insta role models. As I mentioned above, I have a ton of these.  I don’t just seek inspiration from them in terms of how they write their posts, but I look for ideas for how they compose photos, how often they post, who they are following, what hashtags they use and how they use Instagram stories.  I want to the learn from the best.  Other accounts I love are Alison Perry, Father of DaughtersPhillipa Stanton
  4. Use the photo editing phone app called VSCO.  It’s free, but it’s not that good unless you pay for some filters.  Instagram itself offers filters and editing tools, but they are a bit clunky and uninspiring.  VSCO is more subtle and the filters are great. Because I largely stick to the same filters it gives my feed a more cohesive, consistent look.
  5. Use a planning app.  I use Mosiaco (which I paid about £5 for), but I know that there are free apps others like Planoly and Preview.  Mosiaco allows me to test out what my photos are going to look like with the rest of my Instagram pictures before I post them.  Again, so I can try and aspire to the Insta dream of having a gallery that is well thought out and is following a deliberate colour palette.

I hope these are helpful and if you have any tips for me – do comment below.

I also offer one to one Instagram training, if that’s something you’d find useful, whether that’s for your personal account or for business please get in touch.  And here’s my Instagram feed, if you want to check it out.

Laying Ghosts To Rest

I left Kendrick, my all girls grammar school, 23 years ago when I was 18 and I hadn’t been back since.  I left with rubbish A levels results and broken confidence.  This started a trajectory of just not doing very well in life in my late teens and throughout my twenties (although things are good now), a lot of which I can trace back to the belief I developed at school that I was stupid and not good enough. And let’s not even go into how going to an all girls school impacted me with men.  I can laugh about it now, but it brutally affected my ability to even talk to the opposite sex as an adult, let alone have relationships.

So why on earth would I go to Kendrick’s 140th birthday party when I had such unpleasant associations with my experience? Because I wanted to make peace with it all and find out if my perspective would be different after seeing the school and some of the teachers in the flesh.  A couple of my best friends from Kendrick wanted to go along too – they hadn’t had the best time there either, but we thought we needed to do it and that we would have fun.

We arrived at the school on Sunday at 1.30pm and discovered ourselves to be nervous wrecks.  I hadn’t realised it would affect me this much.  I was shaking.   We walked into register and I could barely write my name on my name badge because my hands were shaking so much. Very quickly the memories came flooding back, looking at the shabby buildings and the tennis courts that hadn’t changed much at all. But what really struck me, was that the memories popping into my head were good and funny. I always had a lot of friends at Kendrick, most of whom I’m in touch with and still really like.  Yes, the school was suffocatingly dull and old fashioned, the teachers weren’t particularly inspiring, but we were kids with energy and imagination (and a lot of hormones) and we had fun.

school My friend Katie and I when we wre about 15
My friend Katie and I at school when we were about 15
Walking through the dreary classrooms, I remembered how bored I was in classes. I’ve no idea how I got through 7 years of them. At primary school I had been a confident kid, specialising in writing wacky stories and making crazy artwork and doing bits of drama.  I wasn’t a brilliant high achiever, but I knew I was clever and that I was really good at my creative things.  Suddenly at this new school, from the age of eleven you needed to be a self disciplined exam machine, ready to nerdily crack on with hours of homework every night. And there was no patience, no curiousity and no warmth from the teachers if you couldn’t deliver.  Your sense of worth came from scoring the highest test results, not from writing the coolest story about super hero pigs.

I am still bitter that I was a nice, bright child and that I was cast aside for being lazy because I wasn’t a nerd.   It just seems a terrible shame that in my teen years when I should have absorbed learning like a sponge, I was camatosed with boredom and labelled a trouble maker for being disengaged rather than disobedient.

However, I took my chip on my shoulder back to the school on Sunday and discovered that despite everything, I am grateful for my time at school.  I had been in a protective environment full of high achieving girls – it wasn’t the right place for me, but it planted the seed of ambition in me to strive for the best and push myself.  I didn’t excel, but school was a safe, consistent home to me for all those years, and I may not have fitted in academically, but socially I was confident and had lots of laughs.  And even though my A level results were crap, I made it to university.  And when I compare all those happy outcomes of my school years to a lot of other people’s teenage experiences, well actually, I know I’m lucky.

The opening photo is of myself and my friends from school, posing in our old biology lab at Kendrick’s 140th birthday celebration.