Claire through the looking glass

As Ben and I wandered around Southampton last weekend, I spent our time pointing out where I used to train, where I went the day I first decided to go vegan towards the end of my second year (The Art House, if you’re asking; I went to ask about vegan groups and societies, having been vegan before and given up from lack of support – I ended up having a chat with a bunch of strangers there over a free slice of cake, and left feeling excited and positive about the world), obviously where I went to uni, recalling my hurried walk after classes from the campus to the gym whilst shoving a peanut butter sandwich down my neck, where I lived, where I shopped, where I (very occasionally) went out… So many more memories than I knew I had!

“If I can’t kick it or punch it, I’m not interested”

Unfortunately I can’t take credit for the above quote – that was my kickboxing instructor Jermaine at our club’s Christmas party. I exclusively practiced striking sports for four years before moving gradually on to grappling. I, myself, forget that I was once president of the kickboxing club, in my second year, and that I went to several competitions with the club. It wasn’t until my third year that I started Thai boxing, but I fell so completely in love with the sport that it overshadowed everything I had done before. I love grappling now, but I still can’t seem to find that same passion I had when I first started Thai boxing, and I certainly haven’t found such a good collection of people in one place since I trained at the Ocean Gym.


Many people even now regard me as a kickboxer or Thai boxer before a grappler. I always correct them as I’m pretty sure I’d get battered if I put the boxing gloves back on, but I can’t deny that striking sports have been a big part of my life.

Consume with moderation

This blog is full of encouragement to indulge, and derision of “clean” eating, but the truth is I lived the complete opposite lifestyle in my second year of university. I went pretty much an entire year without ever eating out, I think I only ate chocolate fairly rarely, and most of my snacks consisted of miso soup from a sachet or a couple of Ryvitas. Packed lunches for my part-time job were, if I recall correctly, one pitta stuffed with hummus and iceberg lettuce – and I think that may have been it. Every time I went shopping I walked past the Swedish Glace ice cream in Waitrose, and not once did I buy it. My diet couldn’t really be much more different unless I started living off fried chicken.

Guts of steel

Speaking of diet, the way I used to eat in uni, and even in the first year or so that I lived in London, is unthinkable to me now – and not in the way that most people mean it when they talk about their life of debauchery and questionable 3am kebabs. I’m talking eating entire meals whilst walking to work or training – eating huge quantities of bread or porridge within an hour of starting exercise – getting home from training at 10pm to eat an entire bowl of chickpeas (with tahini and other seasonings) for dinner – in my first year, and before I was vegan, eating an entire box of fruit&fibre cereal in bed, stopping only when I was too full to stay awake (I am as yet undecided whether first or second year was the most eating-disordered year of my life).

Gym phobia

Yes, ladies and gents, I didn’t actually enter the university gym until late in my first year, or possibly in my second. I attended aerobics classes, “body conditioning” classes, “flex and stretch” classes, and occasionally circuits, as well as kickboxing – but I was too scared to go to the gym without a training buddy to show me what to do. When I finally met my would-be housemate and friend Tommy, I started going to the gym with him and following his routines until I finally spread my wings.

Instant champions – just add water

This was the slogan for the university swim team. Which I tried out for. I kid you not. Honestly! Obviously, I was way too slow to even consider putting myself through that (physical and emotional) torture again, but it was mainly the fact that the changing rooms were so excessively cold and wet that led me to the realisation that I just couldn’t face dealing with them on a regular basis. I wish I was joking.

Ticking the boxes

Well, I am still a creature of habit, but I took it to a whole other level during uni. Certain foods were consumed at certain times on certain days depending on which activity would take place, was taking place, or had taken place. No exceptions. Certain gym routines were performed on certain days, Thai boxing had its set days. even grocery shopping normally took place on the same day each week. Oh and I always bought the same things; broccoli, spinach, peppers, mushrooms, chopped tomatoes, rye bread, hummus, unsweetened soy milk, plain soy yoghurt, bananas, apples, kiwis. And green tea and peppermint tea. Of course, I still buy most of those on a regular basis, but not quite as regular!

More is more

If I could do more exercise a couple of years ago, I would; gym in the morning and kickboxing in the evening, double classes, a morning run and evening Thai boxing… More was more. I’m not certain I was any fitter then, but I was certainly not as strong as I am now – and I certainly didn’t do much else with my life! For a while I didn’t even have a proper rest day – but having said that, some of my busy non-gym days now are more tiring and strenuous than some of my lighter training days back then.

I think that pretty much sums it all up – a quicker way to say all this would have been that pretty much everything I do now is virtually the exact opposite to how I used to live! I’d like to think all the changes are just more mature changes – I approach everything with a little more moderation, having tried a few things out and settled somewhere in between (I’m tempted to make a Goldilocks reference here, but I’ll spare you). I’m so curious as to what I’ll be doing in another couple of years or so… And whether changes will come suddenly or gradually… I guess the only thing left to do is to keep on keeping on!