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Varley Co-founder Lara Mead Says Walking Is Wellness

Lara is all things goals. Thoughtful and grounded, with a calm demeanor that makes being in her presence an absolute dream. Oh, plus this total powerhouse and London native also happens to be our co-founder.

Active always, she and her husband slash co-founder, Ben, turned their sights toward the fitness industry after an inspiring trip to LA. Fast forward a handful of years, plus one LA move and one London move home, two kids, endless hard work, and their vision of VARLEY has become a reality.

Surprised and inspired by the creativity that’s emerged from Covid-19, our Creative Director talks navigating today’s landscape as a founder, mother, and wife, plus the lessons she's learned (and what she'll carry forward), the importance of pushing boundaries, why walking is wellness and her hope for the future. Read on.

How are you adjusting to life in quarantine, from fitness to business?

I feel like we're headed in a positive direction. Now that schools are reopening and the numbers are down, everything seems to be improving, and I’m so relieved. However (dare I say), as we gradually reopen, I hope to hold onto parts of lockdown. I initially panicked when Covid-19 escalated in March, and our prime minister, Boris Johnson, addressed the nation, followed by the Queen's speech. Never have I ever experienced something like that. I remember it like it was yesterday; I had a complete anxiety attack and didn't sleep a wink. I was beyond worried about what would happen to the county, our kids, and the business. After my total meltdown, I got up the next morning, resolved to make the most of this time of stillness, worry about what I could control, and take it one day at a time.

Plus, Ben and I feel incredibly lucky to be near our family through this experience; even though we weren't seeing them, we felt close to them. This time last year, we were living in LA and had only just moved back to London. I feel fortunate to be here, settled, and safe. In general, I’ve noticed a lot of people have gone home, to wherever that is. There's a desire to invest in our roots and be near family that's dominated the experience.

What have been some happy takeaways during self-isolation?

After the initial shock wore off, we got into a groove and did our best to make every day as enjoyable as possible within the restrictions.

Before we had children, Ben and I used to walk for hours and talk. Then life got busy, between the kids and the business, and we fell out of the habit of having that special time together. So, Ben and I started to walk together every morning during the lockdown. It was something we could do, just the two of us, outside, in nature, and away from the kids. We would take the dog and go for two hours, talking about the kids, strategy, and the future. Having this quality time together made a world of difference; it created hope, inspired dreams, and plans within me; it gave me something to look forward to every day.

Plus, I was deeply inspired by our family, business, and friends' creativity during this time. When we couldn't go anywhere, finding new ways to connect and socialize with friends and family became a game, forcing us to be imaginative. Every Saturday, we did family and friend quizzes on Zoom wherein everyone would jump on at 8 pm, take turns being the Quizmaster, and asking the Zoom room questions. We would never have done something like this had it not been for the restrictions.

Same for the business. Suddenly, when I couldn’t travel to Paris for the shows, or LA to sell, and NYC to see our buyers, we had to think outside of the box. We designed extensive digital lookbooks with impressive video elements and pushed the boundaries in ways we had never done before; it was brilliant! The buyers all loved the content and videos we created and genuinely seemed to prefer buying this way over regular appointments. Many positives came from our time in lockdown, both as a family and a business.

What are your new normal daily routines and rituals?

The day always begins with our walk (rain or shine), then home to the kids for breakfast before diving into work. Deep in quarantine, mimicking a morning commute with fresh air was mentally healthy and created a separation between home and work time - a ritual we are continuing. At lunchtime, I make a healthy salad and eat with the kids; this is new. While simple, it feels like a total luxury to spend an hour in the middle of the day with them talking and laughing.

What change would you like to carry forward from this experience?

Here in the UK, we’re a little ahead of the US in terms of reopening. Many companies are slowly heading back into the offices, and life has started to pick up momentum. To stay grounded, I'm actively reminding myself to stop, tune in, take a deep breath, engage, be present, put the devices away, have lunch with my kids, and digest.

The same goes for work. Moving forward we will continue to innovate and think progressively about how we tell our story. We're creating a ton of video and presenting to the best of our ability without buyers and customers seeing the product in-person.

Do you have a new perspective on wellness?

While I didn't change much in terms of treatments, lotions, and potions during quarantine, wellness took an entirely new meaning. It used to mean racing to a workout class and eating quick-to-grab "healthy food" between meetings or in front of my computer. Now it means so much more, or less perhaps (depending on how you look at it). True wellness for me, at this time, means slowing down, being mindful, clearing my mind, taking the time to cook and enjoying meals together as a family (without our phones), and taking long walks (of course).

As for exercise, I, like everyone, couldn’t go to the gym or my regular classes, so I turned to online classes. To my surprise, I loved them and will continue this way even though they've recently started to reopen gyms. While I've been to a few classes to support, truth be told, I'm much happier streaming; it suits my life better with young kids at home. Plus, I've found I can maintain how I look with the apps and walks.

How are you keeping it cute these days?

Initially, I was living in our Maceo and Alice knit set on repeat. Then one day, about three weeks into quarantine, I woke up and thought, 'I need to change it up and make an effort!' So, I put on a pair of smart pants and felt super proud of myself. But, honestly, they were off within an hour, and I was back in the track pants. Ugh. Oh, well.

While the UK has typically been a little dressier than LA, not anymore. It's become acceptable in this new post-Covid world to wear your gym gear out or to the office (who would have ever thought!). Truth be told, I'm on that bandwagon, and while I've struggled to get back to wearing smart clothes, I've found innovative ways to dress-up my activewear with layers of gold costume jewelry from Dorsey. Plus, I make an effort to do my hair and makeup, so I feel good about myself and ready for work.

What are you reading and listening to as of late?

I would love to say I've been devouring books, but it's simply not so. Every time I pick up a book, or even look at one, my kids sense it and suddenly need me for something or want to talk. I've acquiesced. The fact is, I’m in a phase of my life with young kids where I struggle to be able to read. Hopefully, this won't always be the case, but in the meantime, it is what it is, and I'm letting it be.

Podcasts, on the other hand, I love and prefer them over watching TV. I can multitask with a podcast, be it tidying my bedroom, doing my beauty routine in the bathroom, or folding the laundry. Right now I'm all over The Skinny Confidential. They interview great people, and they've introduced me to excellent resources like Melissa Wood Health and P.volve. Plus, I like the Goop Podcast and the Ben Greenfield Podcast.

How have you been staying fit?

For years, I've been doing P.volve (even before Covid) and have all of the equipment. I enjoy it and feel comfortable with the moves, plus they frequently update with new workouts and offer a range of 10-minute quickie sessions to 60-minute classes for flexibility. Much to my chagrin, we got a Peloton bike at the start of Covid, and it turns out I'm obsessed (who knew!) as it's been a God-send to get in my cardio. What can I say? I was quite skeptical and thought it would never compare to Soul Cycle or an in person spin class, but actually, if you dim the lights and turn up the music, it's easy to get into! As a bonus, I can be home with my kids and don’t have to go anywhere, which is brilliant!

Additionally, my trainer Lee Mullins did a fair amount of online and streaming classes during the lockdown, which I did a lot. 

And, at times, I would go rogue and dance around the living room to loud music. The beauty of lockdown: every care went out of the window and I figured, why not have fun, because who cares, literally no one is watching.

What is your hope for the future?

I hope that we go forward with kindness and compassion. When we first went into lockdown, our neighborhood formed an emergency response Whatsapp group, and for the first time in my life, I felt part of a real community where people looked out for one another, shopped for the elderly, and shared resources. We were supportive, cheerful, and uplifting. It was powerful, and there was a deep sense of comradery and kindness that I hope we carry forward. I wish my children will cultivate this in their lives as they make their way in the world.

What are some things you can’t live without?

Ben, for starters.
I always knew this, but it became clearer how much Ben means to me and how much he does for our family. In short, he and the kids are my everything.

Also, good health.
Easy to take for granted until it's too late, but you can't live without it.

Podcasts!
Keep me inspired.

My iPhone, more than ever (never thought I'd say that).
Being able to stay connected and communicate through Zoom and FaceTime has been paramount. Also, for my kids. While traditionally, I would never have encouraged screen time, it became their connection to the outside world and their friends.

Any advice you can leave us with?

Depending on where you live and the politics surrounding, I'm mindful that we're all in such different recovery phases, as each country was unique in managing and handling the crisis. Centralized in the UK, I can only speak to my perspective from here. Therefore, my general advice is not to overthink the negative or dwell on the news too much. Take every day as it comes. One of our investors once said to me, “How do you eat an elephant? One mouthful at a time.” At the time, it seemed like such a silly thing to say, but now I find myself thinking about this often. When everything feels overwhelming, and there is so much going on in the world, we have to focus on one step (one mouthful) at a time, and eventually, we'll get there.

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