FOOD & LYCRA
Words by Danielle Pender
I’m not a hugely active person I will easily find hundreds of other things to do with my time rather than exercise but then I met Rachel Tran last summer and she changed my mind. Listening to her talk about how she ran Food & Lycra with her friends Kim and Laura - a platform that combines fun workouts and a lot of food - I was really captivated by how different she made it sound. It wasn’t a grind, it wasn’t goals orientated. It was about hanging out with friends, getting active and experimenting with different food that they all loved.
She made me think about the inherent power we all have in our bodies and the beauty of harnessing that power to look after our mental and physical health. She completely changed my mindset about fitness, so much so I actually joined a gym and have been working out regularly ever since. The three friends chatted to us about Food & Lycra, their approach to fitness and why balance isn’t boring.
You’ve all been friends for a while, where did you meet?
Rachel: It’s been a hot minute, and a real journey! I met Laura about 8 years ago when we worked/slashed messed around in a Nike retail store. We met Kim through a mutual friend when we all decided to travel around Mexico and Belize as a big group. There’s about 7 of us and we’ve been the best of mates ever since, we still try to go on these big group holiday where possible.
Food & Lycra is such a great platform of combining fun workouts with a smart way to think about food. How did it all come about?
Rachel: Laura used to do these crazy outdoor workouts every Friday evening with Spartan Fam, and run every Tuesday with Run Dem Crew. After a while Kim and I started going with her just to try it out and basically socialize. We started to really enjoy this new venture into fitness, and saw how much fun it was doing it with friends.
During these times, Kim and Laura also started posting food on social media. Alot of people were asking for recipes but they had no platform to share this on so we decided we wanted to start a blog dedicated to our recipes, our newfound love for fitness and also share our training journey.
You put on amazing events that incorporate a real community, fun vibe and amazing workouts. Do you think there’s too much of an emphasis on exercise for results rather than for the fun and mental health benefits it can bring?
Laura: Definitely. There’s often a pressure to get results and real physical changes right here, right now. I have been though that phase myself, I’ve just had a baby and after 4 months my belly is still there but I’m starting to accept it. Having fun while working out puts you in such a great state of mind, you feel better inside and out and more positive. When you start feeling better, you start looking better and loving what you see in the mirror.
Kim: Yes! Unfortunately, ripped and lean bodies are the current trend and sadly it sells. From a marketing perspective it’s super easy for these companies to use pictures of super lean models to sell people supplements, weight loss plans and back-to-back workout classes. There's a huge misconception that an individual with a ripped six-pack is healthy. A lot of the time this isn't the case! Some of these people prep for photo shoots with strict diets and workout plans to get their fat percentage down super low before they get to the photo shoot, this in itself is so unhealthy. It messes with your metabolism and sends your hormones out of whack. I think it's time we make more room to talk about working out being fun and good for our brains.
Some of your events focus intensely on one area or workout, what’s the thinking behind that?
Rachel: Education. Kim is a qualified personal trainer so is the all-knowledgeable one in this area! As F&L we host events that are slower and more focused on specific moves and workouts. There are so many studios and gyms in London with 1000s of classes to choose from. A lot of these classes are all around chasing sweat and speed and the instructors do not have time or space to teach 30+ people about good form. If you are new to fitness and jump straight into a class without proper guidance you could end up injuring yourself. In our “Just Doin’ It: Pull Up & Push Up Workshop”, we spend 90 minutes going through each move step by step, with a solid amount of time to practice and check on form.
Kim ensures she goes around correcting and advising every single person in the class. We ask guests to bring a pen and paper to take notes and partner up to film each other so you can look back. This is not something you’d get from a normal class. Good form is important not only for injury prevention but also for progress.
How do you motivate yourself if you’re really not feeling up for working out?
Kim: If I'm not feeling up for working out it's generally because I've had a stressful few days or I'm feeling run down. I don't stress about it I just skip the workout and that is perfectly OK, resting is good for us too. I'm pretty active so I come from the other end of the scale where I probably need more rest than others.
Laura: If I don’t do it today I will regret it tomorrow, plus I know I always feel great after a workout. If I’m with the girls we get food so it would be a shame to miss out on that. Who doesn’t like a good meal with friends?!
There are so many fad diets and guides to “clean eating” or detoxing to lose weight or feel healthier. How do you approach food in your own lives?
Kim: I've tried diets before and they have never lasted for more than 24 hours. I love food way too much to limit myself. Coming from a Vietnamese household the dinner table always had some protein, carbs and vegetables followed by fruit for dessert so I’ve grown up with quite a balanced outlook on food. My family would all sit at the table together with their own bowl of rice then you'd pick from the plates of meat and veg. I remember watching my parents eat their veg and meat first, and then fill their bowl with rice and finish that with some more veg and meat.
It is a great way to fill up on nutritious food before you make a start on the carb heavy food. I've got wise to this now, I used to have two full bowls of rice, one piece of veg and meat as a kid- I’ve totally changed that now! We don't limit anything we eat, as soon as we cut something out guaranteed we'll binge on it a couple days. Everything in moderation! Checking in with how food makes you feel is a good shout too. No one feels good after 5 chocolate bars and family sized bag of crisps!
Laura: I don’ diet. I can’t commit to too many restrictions. I eat everything I want in moderation. It’s all about balance. I’m a pastry chef so you can imagine that going on a diet will be a real challenge for me. I’m surrounded by amazing food every day. I make sure I drink at least 2L of water a day...Kim is always checking my daily water intake haha!
If you only have 30 mins what’s your go to workout routine?
Rachel: Honestly this is not a plug but I go to the @Foodandlycra’s Instagram and find one of the full bodyweight workouts to do! We wouldn’t make this type of content if we didn’t use it ourselves. Most of the workouts we film can be used anywhere, and we try and focus on bodyweight training just so it is accessible for everyone!
Kim: If I only have 30 minutes I like to either go for a run or do a strength based workout. I don't need to spend too long doing pull-ups and press-ups before I'm tired and my muscles are ready to say goodnight!
What are your top five places for food if the Food & Lycra crew is eating out?
Laura: Taro. It has been my go to place since in moved to London 10 years ago. It’s very sentimental for me. Also, The Modern Pantry, again very sentimental - this is where I used to work so feels like home to me.
Rachel: For breakfast, Dishoom – their bacon and egg naans are just sooo good! Lunch will have to be Dim Sum at Royal China or Yi-Ban and dinner has to be Monohon in Old Street for their incredible soup-less ramen!
Kim: Yi-Ban for Dim Sum, Dishoom and Roti King
Where would you like to take Food & Lycra?
Laura: Worldwide!!! We have the #foodandlycraworldwide ready ;-)
Rachel: That would be dreamy, to have an F&L world tour! One day eh? We have lots of ideas, that constantly keep us excited and on our toes! So long as we continue to have integrity and stay true to who we are I am sure we can take F&L anywhere we want!