The Hyphen: Embracing Exercise In A New Way

Hi friends—

Hope all is well,

Firstly, thank you so much for the warm welcome back last week, I absolutely love writing this newsletter, and it’s so nice to hear from people out there reading it. It’s my favourite place to hang out on the Internet right now, as the social media world continues to be totally wild. (Also is it me or is everyone leaving social media at the mo? A topic for another newsletter.) I’m in the midst of brewing a few different things at the moment, and you guys will always be the first know about it. Thanks for being here!


Like many others I'm sure, my relationship with exercise has changed during lockdown. If anything, it made me reflect on why I’ve spent so many years rebelling against it. It’s complicated, I suppose — the reasons why we run away from things. In my early 20s, I would exercise excessively purely because I thought my self-worth was synonymous with my body. Now in my 30s, I have been reintroducing myself to exercise as someone who likes themselves, and no longer wants to use exercise as a form of punishment. Plot twist: my new grown-up relationship with exercise has turned out to be one of my favourite forms of self-care.

Years ago, when I worked at Glamour magazine, I was sent to review a new exercise class in London. I wanted to get back into exercise and thought this would be a good opportunity. I can’t remember the name of the class but it was something like ‘disco spinning’. A tiny woman with a long blonde ponytail who looked like Polly Pocket was at the front leading the class, next to a man in camouflage who literally looked like an action man figurine. They smiled like creepy dolls, and clapped their hands together when they spoke.

Suddenly, a red light shone down on us, and techno music started playing. We started pedalling. When the lights changed to green, in time with the ‘disco beats’, it meant you had to stand up on your bikes and spin faster, pretending you were about to win the Tour de France or something. Polly Pocket woman said: “Keep spinning guys! Remember, if you fail in this class, you’ll fail in the real world! Don’t be a failure!” I understand the essence of this pep talk, but I was the most unfit person in the class, and shortly after I had to stop. I’d failed.

Polly Pocket came over to me, looking concerned, and said: “Come on sister! Don’t give up on yourself!” I found it all so patronising, and I went home feeling like exercise hated me, just as must as I hated it. Experiences like this weren’t helping. I carried on feeling the cult of exercise wasn’t for me. The expensive workout clothes, the pep talks, the smugness of it all.

However, being confined to our own four walls during lockdown gave exercise a very different meaning. There was no performance to it. It suddenly became absolutely necessary — mental as much as physical — mainly because it became the only time we could be alone, or feel remotely free. It was an opportunity for me to realise that I was self-sabotaging myself by clinging onto my 20-year-old’s relationship with exercise. It was my thoughts around it that was causing an issue, not the thing itself. This year I’ve fallen back in love with it. The music, the adrenaline, the sweating. I danced like a maniac in my bedroom with air-pods in. I am into HIIT training. Who would have thought my most-played playlist on Spotify this year would be called ‘Sprints, Runs, Surges’? I realised how much I’d missed the release.

In a recent Project Love podcast the hosts discuss re-framing the word ‘exercise’ (which still reminds me of that musty dried sweat gym smell) and instead try calling it “moving your body”. This takes the pressure off for me. I can’t wait to continue moving my body. I think I’m becoming someone who loves exercise. And it’s got nothing to do with ‘firm glutes'.

Hope you enjoy today’s newsletter. Keep in touch,

Feel free to drop me a line with what you’d like to see more of in this newsletter at

Emma xo


What’s New on Ctrl Alt Delete Podcast?

This week's podcast is with the brilliant Seyi Akiwowo: brilliant activist and entrepreneur, the Founder of Glitch, a young not-for-profit organisation determined to end online abuse.

In this episode, we discuss the rise of online abuse, gender based abuse, the difference between cancellation and criticism, and how to be a good online ally online and offline.

Listen wherever you get your podcasts.


Things I’ve Consumed This Week:


I wanted to give a shout-out to Leapers, “the team for people without a team.” With mental health and loneliness affecting the self-employed and freelancers (and now even more people due to the pandemic), their mission is to make modern work more supportive and sustainable for workers. They are a community of support, offering tangible things to help. Check it out here:

I really enjoyed this episode of Is This Working? podcast all about burnout. The hosts Anna and Tiffany go into detail around their own burnout, the signs and how to spot it. It’s a really informative episode. Listen here.

A new thing that I’m loving: if I am feeling blocked creatively or with writing I am now leaving myself voice-notes that transcribe themselves to text as I speak! I then email them to myself. It's changed everything. The Gmail app via my Google Pixel has a little mic button that picks up pretty every word perfectly even if I speak quickly. I even voice-noted some of this newsletter. For those who have a different phone, Otter is meant to be good too.

My NEW non-fiction book SABOTAGE hits the shelves on the 24th September. THIS MONTH!

🌱 Do you have a loud inner critic?

🌱 Do you start to worry when things are going well?

🌱 Do you clam up over self-promotion?

🌱 Do you have a creative project you feel stuck on?

You can pre-order yours now!


FYI: an event!

  • I am very excited to be taking part in Cheltenham Literature Festival this year, IN REAL LIFE, on 7th October, tickets and more info here (where you can also alternatively sign up for the livestream!)


Click here to join 50,000+ students by signing up to my Skillshare class! "5 Exercises To Build Creative Confidence"


Love books? Come & join The Hyphen Book Club! Book recs every week & monthly book picks! Join the Instagram page here.


Thanks for subscribing! I'm Emma, the person behind this newsletter. I am the bestselling author of The Multi-Hyphen Method, SABOTAGE, and my debut novel OLIVE, and creator of the hit podcast series Ctrl Alt Delete. You can also follow me on Instagram here, and Twitter here.

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