In the words of Elle Woods (yes we may be quoting Legally Blonde right now...), exercise gives you endorphins and endorphins make you happy! Lol but seriously, we know that the New Year can be both exciting and daunting in terms of your fitness goals - and the pressure we put on ourselves can actually make us stall in our tracks. So we sought some relatable and actionable advice from Matilda Egere-Cooper, founder of the Fly Girl Collective. Bonus - she gives us some great tips on how she cares for her 4C hair while maintaining her physical fitness.
Tell us about yourself?
My name is Matilda Egere-Cooper, a senior digital content editor by day, and an avid long distance runner by night (and weekends!). I'm also the founder of Fly Girl Collective, a fitness community for BAME women.
When/Why did you start The Fly Girl Collective?
I officially launched Fly Girl Collective in March 2018 after years of not seeing many black women participating in the running and wellness scene – or being represented in how health and fitness is marketed in the mainstream. I wanted to create a safe space where women like me could see themselves, but also explore ways to develop a fitness lifestyle.
In your view, why is sisterhood important when embracing a fitness lifestyle?
I believe humans were put on this planet to exist in communities - it's how we support and look out for each other, and our health and fitness is no exception. With Fly Girl Collective, sisterhood also gives us accountability and encouragement when we need it the most.
What does exercise / fitness mean to you?
Next to my faith, health and fitness is integral to how I can do life well for myself and for others (friends, family, my boss, the collective, my nephew, my future husband, etc). I also ran a feature on our blog a few months ago on the 'definition of a fly girl', and this pretty much sums up what fitness means to me and the collective.
Have you always loved sports?
I was always into running as a kid growing up in Texas, and a talented sprinter (if I say so myself!). I only got into long distance running when I moved to London for university and needed a cheap way to keep fit. Running literally came to the rescue.
How do you motivate yourself?
I always make sure I have a goal to work towards, as well as running and training with others. I've been a member of urban running community Run Dem Crew since 2011 and goal-wise, I usually sign up for two or three races a year. In 2019, I'll be running The Big Half in March and The London Marathon in April. I'm also hoping I'll get a spot in the New York Marathon in November. Races usually require me to train for 3-4 months at a time, so that's all the motivation I need to get moving as I like to finish races strong, injury-free.
What tips would you give someone looking to embrace this lifestyle change?
Take baby steps. People usually dive in and go H.A.M where fitness is concerned, but truth is, that's not sustainable. To change your lifestyle, you've got to approach it like a marathon – not a sprint – so it can become a natural part of how you do life. A baby step could be taking dancing lessons, joining a running group or a netball team. Gyms are good if you have a specific goal in mind or you're big on classes, but whatever do you, just make sure you enjoy it.
How do you care for your hair when exercising?
I have thick 4c hair and it can be tricky having it out in all its glory. So if I'm running, I usually moisturise it beforehand (using the LOC method), put it in two flat twists, cover it with one of those do-rag skull caps, then put on a baseball cap (or a woolly cap if it's cold). That way my hair stays protected from the elements. If I'm swimming or going to the gym, I'll just have it in two flat twists - but for swimming, I like to wet it and put a little oil around my edges before I wear my swimming cap. It keeps my hair safe from chlorine.