Talking self-care and staying fit in lockdown - with Victoria Park Vixens

By Nikki Michelsen

Oct 7, 2022

Talking self-care and staying fit in lockdown - with Victoria Park Vixens
Victoria Park Vixens is an all-female football club based in Hackney, London. We grabbed a couple of team members, Liv and Nat, for a (socially-distanced, ofc) chat about periods and sport, self-care snacks, and lockdown workouts.
Liv is a content and engagement coordinator for a legal publisher, which involves writing regular content for aspiring lawyers. She plays centre back/in defense for Victoria Park Vixens.
I was inspired to join a football club after the Women’s World Cup
It was a Tuesday morning in 2019 – the year of the Women’s Football World Cup – and I was weaving in and out of commuters, past Leadenhall Market and towards London Bridge, reading that week’s Time Out magazine. There was a spread about women’s football and Vixens were featured, with several other women’s teams. I had just moved to London from university, which was quite daunting. I’m a village girl at heart; I went to a tiny village primary school with 11 people in my year, so moving to London was weird for me. After seeing Vixens in Time Out, I went along to their summer welcome session. Ultimately, I joined Vixens to make friends (plus the football team I played for when I was younger was called Blisworth Vixens - it was written in the stars!)
I’ve had to shake up my workout routines in lockdown
Working out is a huge part of my self-care routine. If I haven’t exercised in around two days, I start to get all agitated and grumpy, so I’ll often just take myself out for a run. It’s been strange not having the gym to go to in lockdown. That said, I have really enjoyed adapting my routine to suit the restrictions in place. I’ve always loved to run so instead of running once every week, I now run a few times a week and race myself each time to give myself a new goal – this really helps with my motivation.
I’ve also been doing lots of Joe Wicks workouts with my housemates and the girls on the team recently joined an online training session. We also have a Vixens Strava group – which anyone is free to join and come running with us virtually! The Super 5 League have set up a competition on the NIKE Running App to see which team can run the furthest in a week.
Working out is crucial to support my general wellbeing – it definitely acts as an escape for me and is really just about how good it makes me feel once I have finished.
PMS is rough - but you have to learn how to work with your body rather than against it
My mood swings are definitely the biggest PMS symptom I’ve worked to conquer - and I’m definitely still working on it. I always get super emotional a couple of days before my period and then I’m up and down when I’m bleeding. It’s always such trivial things that upset me too, like stubbing my toe, not being able to decide what to wear, or running out of oats. Obviously, stubbing your toe hurts, but it definitely does not warrant the onslaught of tears that follow in my case!
I would say my period impacts my social life more than my productivity levels in terms of work and exercise. I can get very self-critical during my period, so I’m learning to protect myself from those thoughts with an increased self-care routine. If I’m on my period and you offer me the choice between going out for dinner and drinks with friends or going home and watching Queer Eye with a giant bowl of pasta and some Cadburys’ fruit and nut, I’m going to do the latter! I try to increase my selfcare when I’m on because I know that my body needs it more.
I started my period really young, so we know each other pretty well by now!
I don’t track my menstrual cycle because I’ve always had fairly regular periods. Sometimes it will come late if I’m particularly stressed, but over the years I’ve become quite attuned to these patterns and know what to expect. I started my period when I was only 10, so it’s been with me for a long time now.
As weird as it might sound, I have befriended my period to a certain extent because it makes me feel like my body is working as it should be.
I love to get creative as a form of self-care
Outside of work, you can almost always find me working out, eating, reading, or writing. I love to write my own poetry and short stories, and I’m also an avid reader. My favourite book of all time is Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief and I’m currently reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah – I’m only 35 pages in and it’s brilliant so far!
I love watching Queer Eye, particularly any scene with Jonathan Van Ness. I’m not normally one for watching TV because I just don’t have a lot of time on an average day. Given the current circumstances, however, if I’m feeling tired or just a little anxious with the global crisis, instead of grabbing my book as I would normally, I have been watching Queer Eye for all the feel-good vibes that I need during this crazy time.
Other must-haves for my self-care? Pasta, chocolate and gin – individually, of course, though maybe they’d be good as a combination, who knows?!
Nat is a beauty editor who plays offensive midfield on the right for Victoria Park Vixens.
Football is the perfect sport for me
I fell in love with football almost immediately after I first kicked a ball! I find running quite difficult to do on my own as I can never quite connect to it, but with football you're always actively working on achieving something with your teammates, so it takes my mind off the fact that I'm running non-stop! I also love the adrenaline rush you get from playing an intensive sport and whether you're scoring, defending, or passing, it's hugely rewarding and definitely helps to keep my mind focused.
When we train, we tend to follow the same style for consistency and often play games against each other, and other times we'll change it up to focus more on developing our passing, shooting and defending skills.
We’re open to talking about periods on the team
As a team, it's really important for us to communicate with each other. It definitely helps that we're all good friends because we can have open discussions on how we're feeling. We all know what it's like to go through a menstrual cycle, so we're all very respectful of each other, and adapt drills when needed.
My period mainly drains me of energy
For me, I find that my period does have a slight interference with my ability to work. My period mainly affects my energy I spend a lot of my time at work writing or being in meetings, so it's hard to keep up momentum because my low energy levels makes me work slower than my usual pace. My stomach also becomes more sensitive during my period, so when I'm hanging out with friends, I try to be a bit more mindful about what I eat. Although I love spicy food and coffee, I tend to steer away from them when I'm on my period because they can aggravate my stomach.
On lighter days of my menstrual cycle, I'll feel energetic and strong, whereas on other days, I'll feel sluggish and tired. I've definitely learnt that the best method is to see what feels best for me, therefore, I try mainly to stick to my typical workout routine and adjust and listen intuitively to what my body wants. Sometimes I'll want to push through and lift heavy weights, or I'll decide to take a step back from my usual routine and focus on mobility and flexibility.
My day-to-day life is very different from being on the pitch!
I'm a fashion and beauty editor so outside of Victoria Park Vixens, my life is very different! At work, I spend most of my time writing articles, interviewing different experts and reviewing beauty products. I love the creativity in my job and it's what I've always dreamed about doing, so I feel very fortunate to have this career.
Other than football, weight training is a big part of my life and I've been lifting for a while now. Getting stronger has always been a focus of mine, and I love how empowering it feels to lift heavy weights!
My favourite thing about being a Vixen is the community
I love how being part of a football team allows you to become part of a community full of women who share the same passion as you. Having a strong sense of community gives you a connection to a sport and being part of such an amazing team is so inspiring. From the highs to the lows, we share so many memories together and it's those little moments that make football so special to me.
All images courtesy of Victoria Park Vixens. Check out the club (and keep an eye out for team openings!) right here.