"You can't understand the joy of a Robie unless you've stood shivering on the beach with numb toes and fingers wishing your towel was a bit thicker and the wind would let off. It's a game-changer, and I won't go to the beach or lido without mine now."
Robie ambassador Ally is happiest when outside and exercising. She spoke to us about the shift in people's attitudes towards sport over lockdown, plus her own relationship with nature and working in sustainability.
Hey Ally, can you introduce yourself to the Robie audience?
My name’s Ally Head and I’m the Health and Sustainability editor at Marie Claire UK. Day-to-day, I cover fitness, wellness, and eco content for the site, and host a series of IG Lives with industry professionals, too.
I’m also a keen runner - I’ve done six marathons, one 37-mile Ultramarathon, and more halves than I care to count. Last year, I ran the London Marathon in a Boston Qualifying time of 3 hours 26 minutes.
We’re really interested in your take on exercise and wellbeing during and post-pandemic. Through your involvement in the running scene have you noticed a boom in the activity over the past few years?
Oh, without a doubt. And it’s not just people who call themselves “runners”, either - everyone seems to be lacing up and reaping the rewards, which it’s so great to see.
I reckon this is because the lockdowns gave people the time to really tune in to what made them feel good, both physically and mentally. While running isn’t a replacement for therapy or help from a medical professional, it’s such an easy way to clear your head. I think that’s why it became an escape for so many - it was an easy way to boost your mood after what seemed like countless lockdowns and rounds of not being able to hug your Grandma!
Did you find solace in sport during lockdown?
Definitely. I trained for an Ultra *literally* because we had nothing else to do at the weekend (I trained from November 2020 to January 2021, when there was a series of lockdowns in the UK and Christmas was cancelled for many).
I look back on those times with a kind of bemused fondness - I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that it still doesn’t quite feel real. There’s no way I’d be able to fit in all of that training now, but I’m glad that I had that time to invest in myself and my health, even if I’d have rather been with friends and family at the time.
It brought my partner and me closer together, too - we’d run to a different part of London every weekend to get the training miles in. Epping Forest, Bushy Park, Richmon Park - you name it, we trained there!
Did your relationship with nature change over the course of the pandemic?
I think everyone’s did. There was a period of about six months where I was set on moving to the seaside - I’d daydream about the ocean every day, but I think everyone experienced that need to be near nature and away from reality. Everyone was craving escapism and nature brought that, along with the added bonus of being soothing, grounding, and calming during an incredibly turbulent and emotional time.
Do you think there’s been a direct correlation between people’s mindfulness towards sustainability and spending more time exercising in nature?
Yes, I do. Think about it - if you run near woodland and see the plastic pollution happening firsthand every day, you’re going to feel more passionate as you’re actually seeing and living with the reality of the crisis.
That’s where I hope our content on Marie Claire UK encourages people to get out, enjoy nature, and do their bit to protect it, too - we only get one planet, after all.
How has your training and involvement in sport changed since coming out of the pandemic?
I’ve loved being able to see running friends again and get some training miles in with them. Races returning was a big moment, too, although they’ve changed shape in many ways and I’m not sure if they’ll ever fully return to normal.
While the pandemic certainly isn’t over yet, I’m loving Parkrun being back and being able to run with friends in real life again.
Through your work, have you noticed a cultural shift in people’s views on health and sustainability post-pandemic?
Definitely. There’s more of an appetite for health and sustainability content and the kinds of small changes you can make in your day-to-day to improve both your physical and mental health, and protect the planet, too.
It’s great to see. I hope people don’t lose interest as they don’t see the same instant results as, say, a fad diet. Investing in your health and a more sustainable way of living is a long-term commitment and lifestyle shift, after all, but one that can be so rewarding.
Do you ever seek out blue health alternatives to running, for example wild swimming or visiting lido’s?
I love visiting my local lido and I’ll never miss an opportunity for a dip in the sea, either. My boyfriend and I spent the weekend in Eastbourne in January (check out Port Hotel, if you ever go - an independent boutique hotel on the seafront with vinyl players in the room and delicious food) and I was straight in the ocean after my run along the seafront, while he stood in a hat, gloves and wooly scarf on the beach! I love the calm that cold water can bring once you get over the initial shock of the temperature. It’s incredibly soothing.
To find out more about Ally, click here to visit her website.