CW // body dysmorphia. Please note, this blog contains information you may find triggering.
Meet Sydney Cassidy… aka @sydgrows.
Having gone through a period of low mood and depression, Sydney pursued fitness as her personal means of escapism. Now, just 15 months later, Sydney is empowering women all over the world to find their strength and embrace their right to occupy every corner of the fitness industry.
“Fitness is more about how it makes me feel than what I get from it, physically.”
For the AYBL athlete, it’s been a long journey, but suffice to say, she’s grown in stature and strength. Sydney Cassidy has become a figure of growth.
HEY SYD! TAKE US BACK TO THE START OF YOUR FITNESS JOURNEY. WHERE DID IT ALL BEGIN?
I was in a really low place.
I was basically in this big transition phase - I’d finished uni, I’d just come out of a long-term relationship and I’d moved back home, so I was really looking for something to pull me out of the darkness and give me something to pour my energy into.
I wasn’t in touch with exercising at all. I was always active as a child, but I hadn’t worked out for years. I wanted to reconnect with those positive feelings I experienced as a child, and work towards feeling better in myself. It was roughly November 2021 when I started my fitness journey, then, I just got the bug and the rest is history.
Upon reflection, I would say that prior to my fitness journey, I was actually quite depressed. My mood was really low and I didn’t really have many friends. It’s funny because people see me now and, I’m very aware that even in the space of a little more than a year, I’m a very different person to who I was.
I’ve definitely become so much more resilient. I used to compare myself so much to my friends, most of whom were living in big cities and working graduate jobs. Eventually, I realised that wasn’t the sort of person I wanted to be. The start of my fitness journey was really me just trying to move towards a more authentic version of myself.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MAIN INSPIRATION THROUGHOUT YOUR FITNESS JOURNEY?
There’s definitely a lot of people on social media who inspire me, and not all of them are necessarily big influencers. But for me, becoming a true, authentic version of myself by refocusing my goals and my priorities has been a big driving force.
Now, my motivation is myself and my community. If I do fall off track, I’ve got people to bring me back.
I also feel, the further you get into your fitness journey and the longer you’ve stuck at it, the easier it is to continue with it. Fitness is now just a way of life for me and I couldn’t imagine it not being a part of my everyday.
HOW DOES FITNESS MAKE YOU FEEL?
Working out makes me feel great. I don’t think anyone can deny the impact the boost of endorphins has on your wellbeing. It literally has the ability to pull you out of a slump.
But there’s actually a lot more to it than that. The fitness community as a whole has a way of making you feel included, worthy and deserving. You develop this sense of belonging and unity.
My relationship with fitness has definitely become more positive. As a child, I was always really sporty and then, I lost my way when I was at uni, partying a lot and generally just not taking great care of myself.
I definitely wasn’t aware of the gym community before I became a part of it. I think there’s a lot of misconceptions about gym people being really pretentious, when it actually couldn’t be further from the truth. The gym community is actually really lovely.
There’s so much rubbish going on in the world and, as an adult, you really don’t find yourself in many situations where you get to experience an abundance of positivity and people rallying behind you, shouting ‘you’ve got this!’ I really thrive off of all of that positivity and encouragement. Those kinds of experiences at the gym definitely start to make a difference in your everyday life and it’s something I really wish more people would realise.
WHAT OBSTACLES HAVE YOU FACED AND HOW HAVE YOU OVERCOME THEM?
To begin with it was the motivation to get up and go. But it definitely does get easier the more you get into it and, especially, when you finally discover something you enjoy and exercising no longer feels like a chore, but something you spend the day looking forward to doing.
I would say the main thing I deal with now is body dysmorphia [a mental health condition, where someone spends a lot of time worrying about 'flaws' in their appearance]. Initially, I didn’t start my fitness journey for aesthetic reasons and now it’s got to a point, especially with me doing it as my job, where there'll be times when I worry about my appearance.
When I do have those days, I’ll throw some joggers on and tell myself to stop looking in the mirror. There’s no point in sitting there, picking yourself apart. For me, it’s not really about how I’m looking that day, it’s actually about how I feel, and being able to recognise that really helps me overcome those negative thoughts about myself.
@sydgrows rumour has it you lift heavier when your fit matches 🤫✨ #gymtok #gymgirl #gymfit #gymoutfit #girlswholift #matchinggymfit ♬ Super Freaky Girl - Nicki Minaj
HAVE YOU EVER FELT LIKE QUITTING? HOW DID YOU GET THROUGH THAT?
No, I’ve not felt like that, but I think that’s because I’ve really managed to connect with my fitness journey.
What I would say for people who do feel like that is to try to find something that you really connect with - something that brings you light and makes you feel happy. It applies to anything, but it’s really hard to maintain something that you don’t enjoy or have a passion for.
It’s all about mindset, that’s why on those days when I have little motivation, I remind myself that it’s not about ‘having’ to train, but ‘wanting’ to and having that privilege and ability to move your body. It's also wanting your body to be in the best possible shape it can be, mentally as well as physically, because you deserve that!
READ MORE: Move Your Body
WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN TERMS OF YOUR FITNESS JOURNEY?
The proudest thing for me, undoubtedly, has to be my personal growth.
It’s only really been a short period of time, but I definitely think, in terms of my career, friendships and self-confidence, none of it would have been possible without fitness. So much of my growth is a result of being in that environment, pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and having opportunities to meet new people.
I’d also say a proud moment for me is sharing my journey and the fact that I’ve had such a profound impact on so many people. The messages I get on a daily basis are so touching and I think I feel a sense of pride that my personal journey is inspiring people and getting more women involved with fitness and working out. A lot of people tell me ‘I’ve gone to the gym for the first time’ or ‘I’ve got my first gym membership’ and I think that’s a really big thing and I’m really proud of that.
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO SHARE YOUR FITNESS JOURNEY ONLINE?
I’m naturally a creator. I went to art school, I’m trained as a fashion designer and I’ve always just been a creative person. When I stepped away from that, I basically had this ‘creative itch I wanted to scratch’.
I started my account in March 2022 when TikTok was still gaining popularity. I’d started watching gym content and I thought I’d just make some gym videos, but there was no specific intention.
I’ve really become a better person through social media and my fitness journey. Social media and content creation gets a lot of hate, but it genuinely has made me a better person. The person I was when I first started sharing content definitely wouldn’t have been able to think in the ways I do now or feel capable of inspiring others. That part has just evolved naturally and I think she’d be so proud of how far we’ve come!
HOW HAS FITNESS CHANGED OTHER ASPECTS OF YOUR LIFE?
Fitness has had a massive influence on my self-confidence and my ability to tackle everyday life with the same confidence as I would in the gym. I’ve definitely come on leaps and bounds since joining the gym and pushing myself out of my comfort zone.
I’d also say the friendships I’ve found through fitness. Before, I really struggled to find ‘my kind of people’, but finding people who actually want the best for you, aren’t in competition with you and who just want to build you up has had a profound impact on my life.
WHAT’S NEXT ON YOUR AGENDA?
Honestly, this year, I would really just like to spend some time travelling. I feel like it would be really good for my self-growth journey and for pushing myself out of my comfort zone.
But, primarily, I want to continue with what I’ve been doing. I only made my fitness account a year ago and I want to continue with the journey and see where it takes me.
HOW DO YOU HOPE TO HAVE AN IMPACT ON THE FITNESS SPACE?
My mission is to make a lot of women feel that they are welcome and deserving of occupying spaces in gyms and those spaces that are predominantly dominated by men.
I also really want to highlight the relationship between self-worth and exercising and to inspire more confidence in women.
Fitness really is a community where everyone belongs, and everyone matters. Where surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals who have similar aspirations to you inspires you to realise what it is you're capable of achieving.
With a goal of inspiring others and bringing a sense of authenticity to the influencer industry, Sydney says: “I’ve really tried to be transparent with my account, as I think people need transparency. I think the only reason my content has grown in the way it has is because I’ve been authentic in everything I do and that’s translated through my content. I’ve only ever shown up as myself - why would I do anything else?”
Your 5-Minute Mental Health Check Up
Hey there! How are you feeling?
That’s a question we don’t ask ourselves enough.
It’s quite normal for us to schedule an appointment with the dentist or doctor to check our oral and physical health, so why is it less common to check on our mental health?
So many factors are closely related to our mental health, which is why it’s important to address the small changes and approaches we can take to prioritise and care for our mental wellbeing.
That’s why, for Mental Health Awareness Week, we’ve created a quick and easy five-minute mental health check you can do every day, anywhere.
WHAT IS MENTAL HEALTH?
Mental health is how you feel in your mind and your mood. Just like your physical health, it depends on many factors, including your genetics, your environment, your circumstances, what you do to maintain it, and underlying physical or mental health conditions you may suffer from, and how they are treated.
This Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from Monday 15th May to Sunday 21st May, addresses anxiety. Anxiety is an emotion we all experience, but sometimes it can get out of control and cause issues for our mental health.
In a survey of 3,000 adults, 34% said they experienced anxiety.
HOW TO LOOK AFTER YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
Here are just a few things you can ask yourself or do to ensure you’re doing what you can to protect your emotional wellness.
HAVE I DRANK ENOUGH WATER?
Keeping hydrated is key for both your physical and mental health. When you don’t drink enough water and start to become dehydrated, your body triggers warning signals that you’re in a ‘life-threatening’ situation and starts kicking up stress hormones, particularly cortisol. An increase in cortisol is connected to anxiety, depression and mood disorders.
Carry a bottle of water with you to keep your hydration levels topped up. If you’re someone who likes more structure, you can use alarms or trackers to remind you that drinking water is part of your self-care.
HAVE I EATEN THE RIGHT FOODS TO FUEL MY BODY?
Diet and lifestyle can have a profound effect on our mood and research reveals there’s a direct link between what we eat and how we feel.
There are plenty of foods and nutrients that can put a smile on your face and make you feel awesome. When we’re stressed, it’s tempting to reach for comfort foods like pizza and sugary snacks that give us a temporary ‘high’. However, these foods can soon leave you feeling exhausted, jittery or sluggish.
Food high in fibre, as well as fruit, veg, nuts and seeds are more beneficial to your mental health. Discover our very own nutritious mood-boosting recipes here.
DID I GET ENOUGH SLEEP?
Anyone who has struggled with sleep will know what a difference it makes to our bodies, minds and ability to function.
For many people, sleep is often the first thing that suffers when they’re struggling with their mental health. The CDC recommends adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep a day.
If you’re struggling with your sleep, there are a few simple changes you can make, including:
- Establish a bedtime routine;
- Avoid tech and caffeine before you go to sleep;
- Practice meditation/relaxation.
READ MORE: How To Fix Your Sleep Schedule
Humans are hardwired to need time in nature, as we evolved to prefer environments where we had fresh water, sunlight, and nature because those provided us with the resources we needed to survive. But, nowadays, nature doesn’t just allow us to survive, it helps us to thrive.
Spending even small bursts of time outdoors can greatly benefit your mental wellbeing. A 2019 study found that spending just 20 minutes outside significantly lowered stress hormone levels.
MOVE YOUR BODY
Okay, so this one is our thing for sure. Keeping active has so many benefits, mentally and physically - from lifting weights to flowing yoga.
Regular movement throughout the day can boost your mood, reduce stress and refocus your mind.
Partner some fresh air with your movement to elevate the benefits - and kill two birds with one stone.
Explore our guided workouts and fitness tips here.
REACH OUT TO FRIENDS
Human connections actually boost feel-good neurotransmitters in your brain. The key is not how many friends you have, but to surround yourself with those whom you can be your most authentic self.
Be honest with yourself about how much time you need to spend with your friends to feel fulfilled, refreshed and empowered, and then make it happen - even if it’s just a catch-up dinner once a month, it makes a difference.
Meeting new people can be equally beneficial to your mental wellbeing, as studies have shown that connecting with strangers can help us feel happier and more connected with our communities.
WHAT AM I DOING TODAY THAT I CAN LOOK FORWARD TO?
Planning things to look forward to or that you enjoy doing can help us cope with difficult situations by increasing our sense of hope.
Whether it’s something as small as binge-watching your favourite TV series or something more extravagant like a weekend away with friends, factoring in time to do what you love will help you adopt a more positive outlook each day.
A huge part of prioritising your mental wellbeing is learning to understand and manage your feelings.
When we’re upset, we don’t always know why we’re feeling that way. It often helps to acknowledge our feelings without any judgement or telling ourselves we’re ‘weak’ for feeling the way we do.
We all have good days and bad days, and that’s okay. However, by asking ourselves the questions in this article and adopting these simple habits, we can work toward feeling like our best selves once again. Remember, rest is a basic human need.
Inside The New AYBL HQ
A world-class team deserves a world-class home - and after months of hard work, dedication and long days, the time has finally come.
Introducing the new AYBL HQ.
Measuring an impressive 56,000 sq feet, our global home is a place like no other. Featuring modern design throughout and a wealth of creative working spaces, our office is a place where people come to innovate and be their best.
Want to discover more? Join us as we step foot inside our creative hub.
Building on our high standards, our office is a hub of creativity and collaboration. From top to bottom, the stylistic space is kitted out with all the necessary tools and resources to optimise productivity and inspire our talented teams to push boundaries.
Its ultra modern design allows for plenty of natural light, open spaces and greenery to accommodate different work styles and preferences.
As a community-first brand, we wanted to create an environment that would not only enhance creativity and productivity, but a better sense of community and belonging for our people.
1. THOUGHTFUL DESIGN
Designed to maximise natural light, flow and functionality, our new home offers a modern and sleek look that reflects our brand and values.
2. COMFORT THROUGH & THROUGH
On every level, the office is equipped with comfortable furniture, ergonomic workstations and state-of-the-art equipment. There are also spaces for relaxation, where you can unwind, recharge and take time for you.
4. CUTTING-EDGE TECHNOLOGY
When you’re the UK’s fastest-growing company, you need technology that can keep up and deliver. From video conferencing tools and virtual whiteboards to our very own photo studio equipped with high-class cameras, our new HQ is home to the latest technology to support collaboration, communication and productivity.
This place truly has everything. That goes for hot water taps on every floor, too. Brew anyone?
Influential, inspirational and innovative. We had to make sure our team had the space to thrive and build the best ideas.
Designed to accommodate different working styles, our office offers a range of spaces for focused work, collaborative work and socialising, as well as options for remote work and flexible schedules.
AYBL is on an ever-evolving journey to ensure the brand promotes and supports sustainability wherever possible.
With that in mind, we have incorporated a range of eco-friendly features into our office design, including energy-efficient lighting and appliances and recycling programmes.
We understand that there is still plenty of work to be done, but right now, it’s about progress not perfection.
We’re incredibly proud to be working in such an amazing office space that not only supports us to be the best in our field, but supports our health, happiness and the environment. Here, we can work together to pave the way for the boldest and bravest ideas whilst feeling like we’re part of something special.
This is truly where the magic will happen.
How To Start Running
The hardest part of running? Getting out the door.
Running is a great way to get fit and feel better, but sometimes, a lack of motivation - or even know-how - can catch you short.
Starting a new running habit needn’t be difficult - all you need is a good pair of running shoes and the willingness to move a little or a lot, all at your own pace.
To help put you one stride ahead, we’ve pulled together the very best running tips for beginners, so you can get off to a safe start and enjoy hitting the tarmac (or treadmill).
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM OUR BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO RUNNING
THE BENEFITS OF RUNNING
If enjoyment alone isn’t enough to get you increasing your stride, perhaps the proven health benefits of running will?
Running is one of the most effective ways to increase daily activity, cardiovascular fitness and mental health. It also is widely accessible, as you don’t need any fancy equipment, it’s relatively inexpensive and you can do it just about anywhere.
Here are some of the other key health benefits of running:
- Promotes muscle development;
- Can help aid weight loss;
- Helps to relieve stress levels;
- Boosts the release of endorphins, sometimes called a ‘runner’s high’;
- Increases bone strength and joint health;
- Promotes better sleep;
- Increases lung capacity, metabolism and energy levels;
- Reduces cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease.
Whether you’re new to running or getting back to it after a long break, it’s really important to ease yourself in and gradually build up to avoid injury. Here are some top tips to get your started on the right foot.
Now, we’re not saying you need to go out and buy a wardrobe full of expensive new running kit, but what we are saying is that staying equipped for the environment and surface you’ll be running on is non-negotiable.
Start by investing in a suitable pair of running shoes that fit comfortably and offer extra support, cushioning and grip for your runs.
When it comes to the clothing, well, that’s where we step in. Fusing form and functionality, our Pace Collection is designed for practicality - with soft, lightweight and breathable details - so you can run with ease and without distraction.
Take measured steps to keep your body safe and free from injury. Warming-up is an essential part of any workout, especially running. We recommend walking or doing an easy jog for five to 10 minutes before increasing your intensity. You may also benefit from warm-up exercises, such as dynamic stretches.
Be mindful of other safety advice, such as running against the flow of traffic and carrying your mobile with you at all times.
Nothing can get you lost in the moment quite like blasting your beats as you pound the pavement.
We all have our own taste in music, which makes it all the more important to pick a playlist that’ll motivate you to power through, even when times get tough, with the wind against you and the heavens pouring.
If you need a little inspo, we’ve got plenty of tracks to keep you moving. Check out our Spotify here.
OUR TOP SIX RUNNING TIPS FOR BEGINNERS
Now that we’ve established the basics, you’re probably wondering exactly how to start running?
If you’re totally new to running, chances are your motivation levels are pretty high. That being said, it’s as important as ever to pace yourself. This includes your running speed, intensity and training frequency.
Don’t be afraid to start off with a few fast paced walks each week to build up confidence, condition your muscles and create a positive habit you can stick to. Pacing yourself will allow you to continue progressing and reduce your risk of injury.
The likelihood of strains, repetitive stress and foot pain tends to be greater during your first few weeks of running as a beginner, or if you’re returning to running after a long break.
The Run-Walk Method is a great way for new runners to get started, helping to build endurance with less joint stress and is a manageable intensity level.
The method combines running with intervals of walking. Start by alternating one minute intervals of running with one minute of walking, and then gradually try to increase the time spent running. As you become more comfortable, reduce the time spent walking.
Check out our beginner’s running plan further down this page.
Never underestimate the power of rest.
It’s completely natural for your muscles to feel a little sorer than usual, but if you’re experiencing genuine pain or discomfort, it’s crucial you allow it time to rest and recover.
If you’re suffering from sore muscles, more likely than not, it’s DOMS - AKA delayed onset muscle soreness. This is the aching or stiffness you experience as a result of intense training, however, this should subside within 48 hours.
Avoiding exercise altogether can actually prolong DOMS, so consider lower intensity exercise, such as walking, mobility and slow jogging to increase blood flow and relieve your muscle fatigue.
Chances are, you already knew this, but if not, you’ll soon learn that eating well and staying hydrated can significantly influence your runs.
You lose water through sweat, whether cold or hot, so you need to drink before, during, and after your runs. You ideally want to drink 120 ml to 180 ml of water every 20 minutes, but pay attention to your thirst level and drink when you feel thirsty. During longer workouts (90 minutes or more), some of your fluid intake should include a sports drink to replace sodium and other minerals (electrolytes).
In terms of nutrition, it’s best to eat something light and high in carbohydrates but low in fat, protein and fibre. Aim to finish eating 90 to 120 minutes before you start running.
If you’re running for longer than 90 minutes, you’ll need to replace some of the energy you’re burning. A general rule of thumb is to consume 100 calories after an hour and another 100 calories every 45 minutes.
It’s easy to neglect other aspects of your fitness and strength when starting your running journey. Balancing your running sessions with other forms of resistance training and exercise will help to build muscular resilience, reducing your risk of injury and boosting performance.
Repeatedly hitting the road without building strength in the gym can not only lead to injury, but a performance plateau too. Be sure to balance out your training with strength-based exercises to work on muscular endurance, speed, power and potential imbalances - all of which will help with your running in the long run.
Running is a natural movement, but that doesn’t mean you can’t improve aspects of your running form to improve your experience and efficiency.
First things first, keep your posture upright. Keep your head lifted, your back long and tall and shoulders level but relaxed. Maintain a neutral pelvis and ensure you’re not leaning forward or back at your waist.
Likewise, it’s important to monitor your footstrike - this is the way your foot hits the pavement. You might land on your heel, in the middle of your foot, or on your toes or forefoot. It’s recommended that you should try to land in the middle of your foot, and then roll through to the front of your toes. However, if you’re naturally a toe runner (land on your toes) or heel striker, it may be best not to change your stride.
RUNNING PLAN FOR BEGINNERS
Without a clear idea of what you’re trying to achieve, and the steps you need to take to get there, you’re making the challenge much tougher than it needs to be.
That’s why we’ve put together the ultimate running plan for beginners.