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A Letter from a Cheerleader

5 May 2016


For the past couple of years I have been heavily involved in the sport of cheerleading, as a member of the university competitive team for both seasons 2014-15 and 2015-16. It is a sport that I have fallen head over heels for and as I competed for the last time a couple of months ago, I was genuinely upset to be leaving it behind, as my time at university comes to an end.  However, throughout my time, I have been exposed to the negative connotations and associations of the sport; most recently I was involved in a dispute with a woman via Facebook (I know, really?) who had decided to voice her opinions and disgust over our university team. After much deliberation, I have decided to write this, for anybody to read: cheerleader or not, to give a real insight into our sport and to explain just why exactly it's time that the stereotypical "cheerleader" image needs to be put to bed.

Over my 2 years in the sport, I have learned the true definition of a "team". I've learned to apply patience, strength and focus in ways that other sports have never asked me to. I've learned to be brave, have faith in my team, all whilst having the greatest of times with some of the best people that I've ever met. We are cheerleaders. We are not girls standing on the sidelines waving pom poms at boys, aiming to please - we're anything but. We stunt. we jump, we tumble. We train harder and then even harder again. We take the fall, we take the hits. Broken bones? Concussions? We've been there and we've seen it all before. Not what you thought? That's the thing; the hyper-sexualised portrayal of cheerleading couldn't be further from the truth.

A couple of weeks ago, the World Cheerleading Championships took place, showcasing the best of the best from countries across the world. However, unless you're directly involved in the sport, it's very unlikely that you'd even heard of it before. It might seem like I'm preaching to a deaf crowd but hear me out - cheerleading deserves recognition. It's a sport that involves a serious amount of dedication and hard work, there's no ifs or buts about it; throwing multiple stunts several feet it the air   followed by a few tumble passes doesn't come easy. Throw a couple of jump sequences into the mix and a couple more stunts? Well you get the idea.

Cheerleaders are the underdogs of the athletic world - we aren't taken seriously but we've still got some of the strongest, most flexible and fittest players in the game. With cheerleading currently under consideration for status as an olympic sport, it's time that it is truly recognised for what it is. If you're still unsure or unconvinced altogether, please watch this video of just one of this year's winning teams and believe me when I say that while they make everything look easy, it most certainly isn't.

Cheerleading has become one of my all time favourite sports. It's a sport that has taught me a lot and has allowed me to meet some incredible people. Whilst I could probably write another thousand words to try and show you everything that the sport means to me, I hope that this post has given you a small insight into just what it is that we do and the reasons why cheerleading is a sport that needs to be recognised. I know I can never address everything and that trying to shift the negative connotations and hyper-sexualised image of cheerleaders and cheerleading itself isn't a one man job,
but with every bit of recognition, it gets that little bit easier.

Until next time,

xo



A Month of Finals

1 April 2016


Another month has come and gone and whilst March has never been known to be of much significance, oh boy, did things get significant this time around. I entered the month of March in a state of calm, with few expectations and very little knowledge that March was about to become "the month of finals".

Dubbed as "the month of finals", March saw me hand in my last ever piece of university coursework (if you ever want to know how humans would evolve to live on Mars, hit me up - I'm an expert now), my last ever lecture at university, my last ever class meeting and of course, my last ever cheer training and performance with the university team. You can take it as a given that I wasn't exactly devastated about the first half of 'final ever's' in that list - I mean, there were only so many more 3 hour lectures that I could take. Don't even get me started on the coursework. The second half of that list though? Not so much.

When I first started university 4 years ago, the prospect of my last ever lecture or my last ever piece of coursework seemed a lifetime away - a lifetime in which I would have my life together and would know exactly which direction I wanted to head in; whoops, my bad. I guess you could say I have mixed emotions about the whole thing but hey, I won't bore you to tears - that's what lectures/work/coursework is for! All in all March, you've been an interesting one, here's to April!

Until next time,

xo

Stationery Steals

27 March 2016
I love stationery, there is no denying it. Notebooks, pens, pencils, the lot - I'm like a magnet for stationary. So when I walked into TK Maxx the other day and spotted these little beauties, I knew that they needed to be mine.




































Both are hardback notebooks, with a soft leather-like cover - dreamy. I picked them up for £4.99 each, but for the quality and all round appearance of the pair, I feel that they were more than worth it. If you're in the market for some new notebooks (especially seeing as it's exam season) then I would definitely suggest a visit to TK Maxx, they have every type of notebook under the sun, from low end school jotters, right through to leather bound notebooks - most of which are unique and the only ones in the shop, like the ones above. I honestly couldn't be more pleased - I'm tragic, I know. All in all, a stationery lovers dream.

Until next time,

xo

My Skincare Saviour

20 March 2016
I digress, this post is something a little different from me, you've probably already guessed that from the title alone but hey, not all change is bad.  Anyhow, let me tell you a little story about my seemingly never ending battle with my skin and the saviour that came to me in the form of Liz Earle.



Through the entirety of my adolescent years at school, I had not one problem with my skin - it was as smooth and clear as a baby's. This is no word of a lie. I would always get asked just how I had managed such a feat? How was my skin always that clear? What is your secret? The answer was that I had absolutely no idea myself if I'm being perfectly honest, I just took it as a given and carried on. BIG mistake. Come my final few months of school and subsequently the next 3 years of university, my face closely resembled a dot to dot puzzle - truly humiliating. I had done a complete 360 overnight and trust me, I was not thrilled. Throw my ridiculously sensitive skin into the mix and things just got a whole lot worse from there.

Believe me, I tried everything that I could to get my skin sorted, I was willing to do just about anything that might help and trust me, there are some weird, old remedies out there on the internet. The matter of my sensitive skin, paired with the fact that it now resembled one of those old school, pop art comics was becoming a problem. Things were getting desperate. Sure, I'd read the beauty blogs and seen the videos of each and every beauty blogger praising the Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish, sure. However, somewhere in the near 4 years of skin struggle, it didn't occur to me to actually try it. What a mistake that was.

Push came to shove and I made an impulse buy of the Original Cleanse and Polish one day whilst I was in town. I was expecting the usual outcome: red, dry, irritated skin and a couple more spots to add to my ever growing collection. I am praising all of the skin gods out there, because this was not the case. I'll get to the point. If you, like me are in need of a skincare saviour then look no further. Within a couple of days, my skin was looking a whole lot better - 2 weeks later and it had completely cleared up. For real, I couldn't make this stuff up. What about if you have sensitive skin like me? No problem! I've never had any problems with Cleanse & Polish whatsoever and it leaves your skin soft and smooth, which is all a girl can ask for. After discovering this miracle cleanser, I've repurchased it at least 6 times which is always a good sign. I have nothing but praise for Cleanse & Polish and can only praise Liz Earle and all those beautiful people on the Isle of Wight for making me look more human again. Honestly, if you're looking for a new cleanser, this one could be just what you're after.

Handy Things You Might Want to Know:

  • You can purchase Cleanse and Polish online from the Liz Earle website, or it's also available in many Boots and John Lewis' in the UK
  • Ranging in sizes from mini tester tubes, through to 100ml pumps, Cleanse and Polish is priced between £6 and £15.50, depending on the size you go for (prices as of March 2016) but there are always special offers popping up on the website every now and again
  • Cleanse & Polish has won countless beauty awards, just in case you needed conformation that it is in fact that good!
  • It's a hot cloth cleanser: you apply onto a dry face and then gently remove with a hot muslin cloth (which handily you can buy with the cleanser!)
  • Personally, I use the cleanser twice a day as recommended - morning and night, and find that the standard size pump lasts around 1 month before I need to repurchase. If you're keen, there is even the option of buying a 12 month subscription!
  • Lots of other FAQs are listed here for any other queries that you may have!
In all honesty, this cleanser has well and truly saved my skin and I can see it being my go to skin product for quite some time!

Until next time, 

xo




The Fitness Fad

16 March 2016
Fitness. You either love it, or you hate it. There can be no denying though that there is no escaping it - be it that perfectly Instagrammed avocado on toast gracing your feed on a daily basis, or the trainers and sports leggings that everyone and their dog seem to be wearing nowadays. Fitness is in and boy is it big.




Now it's no lie that I love health and fitness. Since I could walk I was involved in every sport going and even now, my degree reminds me on a daily basis the importance of diet and health. Rewind back to January of last year: out of nowhere all my social media feeds seemed to blow up with fitness related EVERYTHING. The world seemed to become obsessed with sportswear and trainers, fitness bloggers took front and centre stage in the blogging world and Instagram became a coconut sipping, avocado filled, exercise loving paradise. It seemed like a fad; something that would die off after the summer, when demand for a "bikini body" tailed off and the sun disappeared. Spoiler alert: it didn't. The fitness fad was resilient.

Here we are, March 2016 and I still can't go a full day without seeing an avocado in some capacity and I'm certainly not complaining. As much as I love to eat all the food (and I mean all of it), that daily reminder acts as motivation to maybe not eat the entire contents of the fridge - I have no shame. I think that in today's world, anything that we can use to encourage and inspire a healthy, balanced lifestyle can only be a good thing. Long live the fitness fad.

Until next time,

xo

Girl Power

9 March 2016
It was International Women's Day this week - 8th March to be precise but hey, you probably already knew that. It was a day in which girls and women from all over the globe came together to promote gender equality and celebrate all that women have achieved. There was even a snapchat filter - that's when you know it's legitimate.




Now I'm not one to usually speak out on such matters and I'm trying to keep this fairly brief, but watching and recognising the achievements of women and girls from across the arts, sciences, sporting and pretty much any other field that you can think of, was pretty cool.

However, gender inequality still exists. I have been lucky enough to grow up in an environment where I have been taught that I can achieve anything and become anything that I want, so long as I work hard enough for it. I have been taught that my possibilities are endless - I'm lucky. We must think of those around the world without these opportunities: the girls who can't get an education because of their gender, the girls forced into marriage at a stupidly young age, even those facing gender equality on a daily basis - be it at work, out and about, or even at home. Unfortunately, it is likely that 99% of women and girls have been the subject of some form of gender inequality at some point in their lives, either on a small scale, or a wider one - myself included.

With a multitude of campaigns and endorsements from women like Emma Watson, Tanya Burr and even Kim K (who gave a rather insightful and personal take on the whole matter), it is lovely to see women come together and support one another, in a bid to achieve awareness and combat such a wide scale and serious problem. It is so refreshing to see women come together and empower one another; a stark contrast from the image that the media so often portrays, pitting women against each other for flashy headlines and page views. It's no lie that it'll be a long time before gender inequality will be well and truly banished but each day, we're that little bit closer.

In short: kudos to all the girls and women who are constantly smashing stereotypes and to those achieving what people told them that they couldn't. And to you - you keep doing you, because I'm sure you're killing it in your own way.

Until next time,

xo

The Girl on the Train: Review

18 January 2016
Remember back in the post here how I aimed to read 5 books this year? Turns out that things are going pretty well and a couple of weeks ago I finished book number one - 'The Girl on the Train' by Paula Hawkins. You've probably heard of it, it was last years 'Gone Girl' and was subject to a lot of hype; it's now being made into a film as well for those of you who aren't really into books.



I was expecting this book to be on par with 'Gone Girl', a book that I absolutely couldn't put down, however, I found 'The Girl on the Train' to be slightly lacking. Where I was expecting to be completely drawn into the book, barely able to put it down, I was in fact let down. In short, I don't think it lived up to the hype.

The book follows Rachel, an unemployed, alcoholic and her daily commute on the train into London. She sees the same people, the same places, day in, day out, until one particular commute in which something she sees changes the course of the book. Whilst this book is particularly good at drawing you in to begin with, I found myself getting a little bored as the book went on, reading just for the sake of getting to the end.

The concept of the story itself is a good one, however as I mentioned, I found it to be a bit lacking in places. Its major downfall for me was the ending. It seems that the storyline comes to a climax in the last few chapters, in which some of the storyline becomes wildly unbelievable and no longer realistic. I found myself more angry than shocked and upon reading the final line of the book, felt dissatisfied to say the least. However, this is all of course, a question of personal taste. Whilst I usually love thrillers, I found this one to be a little too unrealistic for my liking.

I'll give credit where it is due though - for a debut novel, this is pretty good and is well written. If you enjoyed the likes of 'Gone Girl' I suggest you give it a shot - with an average of 4 stars on amazon, near enough 7000 people can't be wrong.

Until next time,

xo

5 Ways to Switch Off

7 January 2016
Life can be overwhelming, we all have days where everything is just too much and nothing sounds better than going back home and curling up into bed for the rest of the day - armed with a tub of ice cream and Netflix (or whatever takes your fancy). Fortunately for us, it's pretty easy to switch off, even just for a couple of hours.




So here goes, 5 of my favourite ways to switch off for a couple of hours (particularly now with a looming dissertation deadline - SOS).

1. Go for a walk - a no brainer if the weather holds out. It gets you out in the fresh air, even for a little while which can do you the world of good.

2. Bake - anything, from cookies, to a full on Bake-Off worthy cake. The more you bake, the more you'll have to eat, which of course is a bonus.

3. Read a book - a personal favourite.

4. Start a new TV series - Netflix has just added a whole host of new TV series that are just sitting in my list waiting to be watched - the perfect way to switch off.
UPDATE: I have just started watching 'How to Make a Murderer', just like the rest of the world - 2 episodes in and I'm hooked, it's worth a watch.

5. Tidy - boring as hell, I know but I find it strangely therapeutic. Plus, you can get a head start on your spring cleaning and feel 100% better. An added bonus is that your space will look fresh as a daisy, which is equally as great as fresh bedsheets.

I'd love to hear any more of your favourite ways to switch off - let me know in the comments!

Until next time,

xo

Survival Guide: The Gym

4 January 2016
The gym. Those two words alone are enough to fill your average person with dread. Don't get me wrong, the gym can be a scary place, especially if you don't know where to start. You've got all your gym stereotypes coming to life in from of you, all under the one roof, but hey, social media has taught you all about them already, who am I to judge? It's an intimidating place - even after 2 years as a gym regular, there are occasions where I am filled with dread the moment I walk through the doors. But it doesn't have to.




Find a Gym Buddy
Find anybody, and I mean anybody, willing to go with you - your mum, dad, sister, brother, friend, colleague, ANYBODY with a pair of trainers and the desire to get rid of the Christmas chub (me). Not only does having somebody to train with give you the motivation to go to the gym in the first place but it also gives you a distraction from the ongoing sense that you may perhaps be dying in an effort to get fit after eating one to many mince pie (again, me).

Buy Some New Workout Clothes
This step is probably the easiest of the lot. Aside from the big brands, near enough every clothes retailer sells some form of gym gear these days, whose price won't bring a tear to your eye. Plus, there's nothing better than a new outfit; particularly when that new outfit acts not only as gym wear, but the perfect, lazy day attire as well.

Get Yourself a Programme
Sounds fancy huh? It's anything but and it's a super easy way to keep motivated to go back to the gym - when you have a guide to follow, everything becomes 110% easier. If the thought for asking for help from one of the staff makes you feel slightly nauseous (I totally feel you), there are 101 sites out there that will get you up and running with a programme in no time, whatever your needs may be.  As of just now, I along with the rest of the world can't get enough of Australian personal trainer Kayla Itsines, whose BBG workouts are phenomenal for getting yourself into gear, with quick and easy to understand circuits. She has a 7 day free trial of her workout guide, which you can download straight to your phone here.

Lift Weights
Scary? Trust me, I know, but I can say from experience that it is one of the most rewarding aspects of the gym. Not only will you progress quickly and see noticeable differences but the health benefits are enormous. And trust me ladies, you will not become some sort of 'She-man'.

Be safe out there, January is a scary time to be hitting the gym, what with it being permanently busy after the festive period. Stick with it for a few weeks and things will be a whole lot easier and you'll feel 110% better - physically and mentally.

Until next time, 

xo

"New Year, New Me"

2 January 2016


We've all heard it right? In the run up to the final few days of the year, after spending days on end surviving off of chocolate and mince pies, the thought of a new year and all that it might bring spurs on people to better themselves - fair play to them. I've never been one to make new years resolutions, partly because I've learned that it is near impossible for me to keep to them after a few weeks but hey, a girl can try.

However, this year (oh hey there 2016, where did you come from?!) I've decided that it's about time to set myself some realistic goals. We'll see how I get on this time round but no promises - please don't hold it against me.

TRAVEL
I want to travel the world. Unfortunately, the reality of being a student with only a part time retail job contributing to the bank account makes this one a wash out. However, I would like to travel, be it anywhere, I just want to see more of the world that we live in this year - so fingers crossed that this one works out.

FITNESS
I'm no self proclaimed gym junkie, but it is likely that you will find me in the gym at some point on any given day. This is pretty much due to the fact that as part of the university cheerleading team, fitness is crucial and gives me a reason to maintain my level of fitness on a daily basis, purely so I don't die of embarrassment as I pass out during the warm up alone. All I ask of myself this year in regards to my fitness is to keep hitting the gym after graduation. Not too much to ask, right? Haha, right...

WRITING
I love to write, I always have. For some reason though, this girl decided a science degree was the way to go - doh. I want 2016 to be the year that I expand on my writing, writing where and what I can (apart from the 124868285 assignments that hit me during term time). Reading would be nice too, in all honesty, I would be content if I managed to finish 5 books this year (11 year old Caitlin reading her 5 books a month would hate me right now). We'll see how this one goes.

I hope that you've all head a fabulous festive period and that 2016 is kind to you.

Until next time,

xo