Meet Your New Favourite Workout–Pole Dancing.

Just a short ride away from Kingston’s Penrhyn Road campus is what could be the city’s newest fitness hotspot. Every week, dancers from all walks of life gather at The Pole Studio in Surbiton with the common goal of getting in shape, looking good and having a great time.

Located above a chip shop on Portsmouth Road, the dance studio is unassuming and cosy. Dancers leave their shoes by the door, hurry up the carpeted stairs, and are greeted with silver practice poles dotted around the small—yet comfortable—space.

While pole fitness used to be a taboo sport, in recent years it has gained popularity among both men and women. A combination of strength training, conditioning and acrobatics, this is a workout that encourages cardiovascular health while simultaneously working the arms, legs and core muscles.

The result is a full-body workout that anyone can do, either in a group setting or 1-on-1 with an instructor.

It was this all-in-one workout that helped draw 31-year-old Siobhan Parish to The Pole Studio. Lessons are held once a week and run for approximately one hour—long enough to work up a sweat, but not long enough to exhaust participants.

As a working mother, this 60-minute pole fitness model offers her both a convenient workout and an opportunity to de-stress from the workweek.

“You can see yourself develop, unlike at the gym, and you get better in a number of ways,” Parish said. “(Pole) makes me feel stronger—I like the way after, a few weeks, quite a few weeks, things start to get a bit tighter and it just makes me feel good.”

Jaime Rangeley, an instructor at the Surbiton location, has been practicing both dance and pole for years. An expat from California, she found pole fitness to be a helpful way to meet people when she moved to England, and has continued dancing ever since.

“Everybody’s super nice and welcoming, and (pole fitness is) just a really great way to make friends,” Rangeley said.

At The Pole Studio, Rangeley has taught dancers of all sizes, ages and genders, and feels that the environment that pole fitness creates is a more wholesome one than can be found at the average gym—a sentiment that Parish supports, having just finished her first set of beginner classes.

“Everyone I’ve ever had teach me or I’ve practiced with have been very lovely people,” Parish said.

For potential dancers who are afraid to take the leap into pole fitness, Rangeley encourages them to take a one-off class or sign up for a beginner’s course.

“You’ll see that as you get to know everybody, nobody cares when you start to wear the shorter shorts and stuff like that, you feel totally comfortable,” Rangeley said. “You’re never forced to wear anything you don’t want to or to do anything you’re uncomfortable with, and you’ll find that you’ll actually have a laugh, and the workout is like an added bonus.”

The Pole Studio has locations across London and Surrey, with lessons for all levels of fitness—they even offer yoga classes, for the less adventurous among us. Prices start at £10 a class, with the beginner courses running for six weeks.

To find the perfect class for you, check out their main website for times, locations and individual pricing.

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Zero waste living for students: dream or possibility?

By now, everyone knows about the climate change issues that our planet is dealing with. And while some people choose to ignore the signs, there are others trying hard to protect the environment and reduce the threats to Mother Nature. From reducing the amount of water and energy used in our households for general living, to becoming vegan, everyone has their own method, and one in particular is starting to pick up: zero waste living.

We’ve all seen the bloggers who praise this lifestyle and show off their tiny amount of trash made in a year or more in a cute Mason jar. Buzzfeed even has videos on how to make zero waste meals. It’s an appealing idealistic way of living for anyone who cares about the environment. But is this lifestyle suitable for a student?

At a first glance, not so much. The number of farmers markets and zero waste shops where you can buy products in bulk using your own packaging, is relatively small compared to regular stores, even in London. In addition to that, it might seem cheaper to buy pre-packaged produce and items than the more eco-friendly alternative.

However, Ilmira Murni, a student at the University College London, claims the zero waste student life is easier than we think.

“I would argue that it is cheaper! There are a lot of eateries and cafes that offer discounts when you bring your own cups/Tupperware,” she says. “I also do not participate in fast fashion and only buy clothes second hand when I absolutely need to. I save a lot of money caring for the environment.”

A zero waste lifestyle advocate herself, she decided to follow this way in order to join the fight against wasting resources and trying to protect the environment.

While she does agree that it is easier to follow this lifestyle in London than in other areas—as it is easier to find zero waste free shops around the capital— she strongly believes that every student is capable of living like this without any major difficulties.

“It doesn’t take more than just shopping at different places, or supporting local farmers more. There is very little you need to invest into financial when you adopt this lifestyle, just use what you already have,” she says.

“Think about what you throw away everyday and swap that out for a reusable option. That’s the easiest way to start and probably where you will make most impact. If you drink coffee everyday, thats 300 cups at least a year going to landfill. So identify high impact changes first: menstrual options, bottles and coffee cups, cutlery and others,” Ilmira adds.

Would you ever try living zero waste? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

 

3 Fun Day Trips for Under £3

Want to get out this weekend, but your wallet’s pretty empty and you don’t want to top up your Oyster card?

Don’t mope around your dorm—just check out these fun day trips close to both Kingston and Surbiton that you can take for under £3!

  1. Visit Bushy Park

Located near Hampton Court Palace, Bushy Park is a short bus ride away from either Surbiton or Kingston. Perfect for your Instagram story, the park is filled with roughly 320 wild red and fallow deer that roam as they please. Pack a lunch and bring a good friend, and enjoy a day lounging around this lovely park.

If you want an easy day trip that’s not too far from home, get in touch with nature here—just be sure to stay at least 50m away from the deer, since they are still wild, and we don’t want another goring incident.

Cost: £1.50 each way (1 bus connection)

  1. Check out Guildford Castle

Take a leisurely ride on the 465 bus and the 715 bus to the historic Guildford Castle, built back in the 1000’s and located in—wait for it—Guildford. The moat has been converted into a beautiful flower garden, and while the castle is in a state of ruin, the top of the Great Tower is still open to the public for a panoramic view of the city.

Be sure to check out the memorial to author Lewis Carroll and the Guildford Museum by the old gatehouse while you’re there, and wear walking shoes. The path that goes around the keep is a nice stroll for a sunny day!

Cost: £1.50 each way (1 bus connection)

  1. Visit Eel Pie Island

Just hop on the 281 towards Hounslow Bus Station from either Kingston or Surbiton, and ride it all the way to Twickenham—Eel Pie Island will be waiting for you. An island in the middle of the Thames, this place is a music lover’s dream. Filled with musical history and kooky artwork, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to another time.

Musical phenomenons like David Bowie, Black Sabbath, Genesis and The Rolling Stones performed on the island at the now-burned down island hotel, before it was taken over by a cult in the 70s. Whether you believe in mystics, magic or just want to stretch your legs, Eel Pie Island is a fun afternoon jaunt.

Cost: £1.50 each way (no changes)

Where’s your favourite place to escape to on the weekends? Let us know!

Is There a Place for Politics in Fashion?

It is often said that fashion and politics should never mix.

But in the current political climate, people are beginning to question if this statement is still valid. Indeed, the conversation surrounding politics’ hand in fashion is beginning to shift.

These days, a brand’s political views can have a direct effect on their overall success as a company. What a company decides to say—or not say—can change consumer opinions of the brand as a whole.

An August 2018 Hollywood Reporter article discussed how Kanye West’s political views had a direct effect on the success of his clothing line, Yeezy.

West has been known to be quite outspoken in his right wing support of President Donald Trump, often being photographed at events with Trump, making frequent visits to the White House, and regularly sporting his Make America Great Again hat.

The article reads, “The rap star turned Yeezy fashion mogul has been on a Twitter tear, pledging his support on the social media platform for President Donald Trump, something that has gotten many brands in hot water in a time when consumers vote with their dollars.

“But for Kanye and his brand, it will affect sales among liberal elites.”

For the first time this year, his Yeezy sneakers failed to sell out in 24 hours, and spectateurs believe it could be as a result of his conservative political beliefs and active support of Trump.

Indeed, it appears that West’s political views have been putting a bad taste in the mouths of consumers, and are beginning to affect overall company sales. Twitter users joke that every time West tweets his support for Trump, the price of Yeezys decreases more and more.

While his political beliefs seem inherently tied to his fashion line, other companies are vehemently opposed to linking their brand to any political ideals whatsoever.

For example, Victoria’s Secret has never been a political company and has typically remained silent in the wake of political news.

However, in 2018, just hours before the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, Vogue published an article in which chief marketing officer Ed Razek was asked about his views on transgender and plus size models.

Razek said, “Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special. That’s what it is.

“We attempted to do a television special for plus-sizes [in 2000]. No one had any interest in it, still don’t.”

For these reasons and many more, it seems that Victoria’s Secret sales are dropping more than ever. According to Forbes, they have “reported a 1% decline in comparable sales in the five weeks ended July 7… Worse yet, when stripping out online and other direct sales, store-only comparable sales fell 6%.”

Therefore, it appears that companies that turn a blind eye to political and social issues are actually doing more harm to their company than good.

That is why companies such as Rihanna’s brands, Savage X Fenty and Fenty Beauty, are particularly unique. Rather than turning away from the political, she has actively leaned into it. And with her new position as Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Barbados, she couldn’t turn away from the political even if she tried.

When it comes to her makeup brand, Fenty Beauty, she has been commended for offering more foundation skin shades than virtually any other makeup brand – a whopping 40 shades.

Rihanna decided to do this as a way to represent a wide range of skin shades, which is especially important when so many makeup brands simply don’t offer enough shades, especially for darker skin tones.

Not only is her makeup political in its attempts to be inclusive in its depiction of underrepresented skin tones, but her clothing brand, Savage X Benty, seeks to offer options for all different kinds of body types.

Rihanna’s fashion and beauty ranges have seen a huge amount of success. In just one month, the company reported $72 million in sales and marketing.

According to influencer marketplace Octoloy, “Because Fenty Beauty has changed the diversity standard, beauty brands are starting to diversify their campaigns by adding more women of colour to their PR lists, social media pages, in their ads and so forth.”

Therefore, while a company’s political views may not be something that every consumer considers, there is certainly no question that it can have an incredibly significant effect on the overall success of a fashion brand.

Do you agree? Is there a place for politics in fashion, and does a brand’s political values effect your decision to buy their products? Let us know!

Queer Christianity: Finding Acceptance in a Conservative America

I am an American. I am a lifelong, believing Christian. And this September, I came out as pansexual.

The three of these identifiers do not often mix well, and I find myself often facing crossroads—do I stay in the closet around my Christian friends? Do I hide my religious identity around my queer friends?

More often than not, I just stay quiet—which is pretty sad, truth be told. But, in the current political climate of America, who wants to out themselves?

When I finally came to terms with my sexuality, I was at “the world’s largest Christian university” in Virginia. I was surrounded by southern, conservative peers who would sneer that the “homosexuals” are going to hell.

That’s when the panic set in. How do you justify your sexuality with your religion, if everyone says your religion hates queer people? I knew I was still a Christian, and I could never stop believing in God and Jesus, but I felt lost.

“If God hates queer people”, I wondered, “why would He make me like this? God doesn’t make mistakes, does He?”

This fear and confusion is, unfortunately, not unique to my experience. Alex Burchnell, who runs the Twitter @AlexChrisQCFV (Queer Christian Family Values) with his husband, Chris, in the American south, has experienced similar feelings in his Christian walk.

“I never questioned my identity in Christ until I came out in my first year of college,” Alex said. “I saw how the church turned on those in the LGBTQ community and started questioning if I would believe in a God who would allow this.”

Like Alex, I was also angry and confused. I had a hard time separating the behaviour of Christians from the God they worshipped.

“It wasn’t until I met other Christians who showed me that there were people who weren’t bigoted and still believed strongly in Christ,” Alex said. “I started reading more about the life of Jesus and learning for myself rather than relying on what others told me.”

This was an important step in my own reconciliation of sexuality—inputting Bible verses into different translations, crying on the shoulders of my Christian friends who embraced me wholeheartedly, and remembering what it was about God that made me love Him in the first place.

When I came out to friends, I had a mostly positive reaction (after all, I chose good friends) but my family found themselves angry and hurt. When the reactions aren’t as positive as a queer Christian would hope for, Chris has advice for them.

“It doesn’t matter what you do or who you are attracted to, God is love, and His love is infinite,”  said Chris. “Even if you have to hide it for a while, there is no reason you can’t be a queer Christian. There are others out there, so you’re not alone. God isn’t the issue, it’s the people who claim to follow Him. God is acceptance. People are conditional.”

Ultimately, your religion can go hand-in-hand with your sexuality. There is no way to “pray away” your feelings (trust me, most of us have tried). No amount of hellfire-and-brimstone sermons will spook your queerness out of your soul.

God loves us. We are fearfully and wonderfully made in His image, and He doesn’t make mistakes.

If you’re a queer Christian looking for support, I recommend the #FaithfullyLGBT tag on Twitter to link up with queer theologians, pastors and believers who can share their advice.

5 Ways to Stay Warm in Student Halls

Winter is coming, and while it’s not as cold as North of the Wall in Game of Thrones, it’s still chilly enough to make you shiver all day, especially when studying all day in a cold bedroom.

We know student halls can be a bit of an igloo-like place during winter time, so we’ve got some great tips on how to stay warm in your student dorm room!

1. Buy a hot water bottle

A hot water bottle is a great way to stay nice and toasty while you’re studying at your desk or just bundled up in your bed watching Netflix. You can carry it with you and will act as a mini heater to keep the cold at bay!

Amazon has a whole bunch of hot water bottles you can choose from (prices start from £4 with Amazon Prime delivery), varying from simple, yet cosy 2 litre ones to novelty hot water bottles with animal covers. One of these cuties will not only keep you warm, but it will also be a nice decoration for your room!

2. Invest in a good duvet

We all know that nights are especially cold during this time of year, so it is crucial to have a good, thick duvet to protect you from the chilly drafts coming from your window; the higher the rating, the better! That way, you’re sure to get a good night’s sleep without waking up a shivering mess all the time!

We recommend the Wilko Super Soft 13.5 Tog Duvet (£10); it’s silky and fluffy, just perfect to cuddle up in bed and relax, all while keeping the cold at bay.

3. Pile on the throw blankets

Sure, for bedtime, duvets are the best option out there. But what about when you’re studying during the day? That’s what blankets are for! Just have one or two (or pile them on if you’re perpetually cold or just love them to bits) throw blankets in your room all the time to wrap yourself and stay warm during your study sessions.

Not to mention, they can bring a lovely pop of colour and style to your student hall room. Bonus tip: if you want some extra warmth, pop your blankets into the dryer for a few minutes; it will feel like a hug from a teddy bear!

4. Get your fluffy socks out

Do you have some funky looking fluffy socks lying around in your wardrobe? Well, get them out, because it’s their time to shine! There’s nothing better than putting a pair of your favourite soft socks on during winter time, especially if your feet are perpetually cold.

If you don’t have a carpet in your room, floors can get quite chilly, so walking around barefoot is the prime occasion for a cold to sneak up on you and make things worse. So if you don’t have a few pairs already, what are you waiting for? Get yourself down to a store and buy some fluffy socks and say bye-bye to frosty toes.

5. Splurge on a mini heater

If you’re one of the unfortunate souls who has a busted heater in your room and your uni safe haven is starting to feel like penguins could live in it, it’s time to get out the big guns.

Spending money on a mini heater might seem like a splurge, but it will definitely be worth it in the long run, especially as the temperatures will continue to drop in December and January.

You can find good deals on Amazon, or you can buy one from well-known stores, like Clas Ohlson or Argos. Before you buy a mini heater though, check with your student halls administrators to check which types are allowed in your room.

Have you got any secrets to keep the cold at bay or does the cold never bother you anyway? Leave a comment down below telling us what you think the best way to stay warm this winter is!

How to Successfully Celebrate Chrismukkah

Are you a big fan of The O.C.? Do you come from a half Jewish, half Christian background? Or are you just a fan of unusual holidays?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, this guide to celebrating Chrismukkah (Christmas + Hanukkah) is perfect for you.

Chrismukkah was introduced to the world in December 2003 by popular TV series The O.C., in which Seth Cohen created the holiday to celebrate his father’s Jewish faith and his mother’s Christian faith. Or because he was spoiled and wanted more presents, feel free to interpret it as you wish to.

It’s not a real holiday, but it somehow became quite big in America. It’s time to bring it to Kingston.

So here’s how it works: eight days of presents, followed by one day of many presents. Unfortunately, this year’s Hanukkah dates don’t coincide with Christmas, as it’s actually already happening, so you’re gonna have to improvise. It’s not a real holiday after all, no harm done.

Do you love holiday decorations? It’s time to go wild! You get to decorate your house with a Menorah, as well as Christmas lights, stockings, bells and whatnot. The more decorations, the stronger the Chrismukkah feeling.

Don’t forget to make yourself (and all your guests) a yamaclaus… Yes, it’s a thing. If you’re confused, just imagine what a Jewish Santa Claus would wear on his head. Still confused? There is a genuine website that sells them, so you can see what they look like. It also lets you create a paper one if you’re lazy or running out of time!

Remember to get as many people as possible involved. Sure, baby Seth only had his family to celebrate with, but more people joined the Chrismukkah celebrations over time. And more people just means more food and more presents, so you better text all your group chats right now.

On Christmas Day (the day of many presents) you eat Chinese food at home and watch a movie on TV.

If you want the full Seth Cohen experience you can also invite both your girlfriends, listen to Death Cab For Cutie, or play some video games. Real fans can also get Captain Oats involved.

Alternatively, you can just watch The O.C. and call it a day.

The Chrismukkah episodes for each seasons are: ‘The Best Chrismukkah Ever’ (season 1, episode 13), ‘The Chrismukkah That Almost Wasn’t’ (season 2, episode 6), ‘The Chrismukkah Bar-Mitzvahkkah’ (season 3, episode 10) and ‘The Chrismukk-huh?’ (season 4, episode 7). Enjoy!