A love letter to my stretch marks

Dear stretch marks,

Firstly, I’m sorry. For as long as I can remember you’ve been in my life and for most of that time I’ve hated you. You used to remind me of how much weight I put on going through puberty and how uncomfortable I was in my own body. I used to slather on cocoa butter and starve myself to try and get rid of you but nothing worked.

I always thought that if I lost loads of weight and turned myself into one of those willowy girls then you would disappear and I would look like a model. That’s how warped my brain was back then. Think about it: my brain was telling me that if I lost weight then I would magically have a body shape that was so far away from what I naturally might have. And then I would be happy. Um… really?

Continue Reading…

The danger of low-calorie diets

Hands up who has been on a low-calorie diet
to lose weight?

Yep me too.

And who has lost weight pretty quickly
while on it and then put it all on again afterwards?

And again, me too.

Having been through every fad diet out
there I’m now preaching the benefits of doing a bit more research and learning
what your body needs before you start depriving it of anything. Continue Reading…

Review of ClassPass London

My name is Sophie and I’m a ClassPass addict. 

Rewind back a month to the launch of ClassPass in London and I was a bit ambivalent to what they were offering. For a monthly fee you can go to unlimited classes at nearly 200 studios around London. The only limitation that I could see was that you’re restricted to 3 visits per studio each month (visits to different locations of the same studio, like Boom Cycle,all count as one studio). It sounded alright and I thought at best it would be worth a try for a month.

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And now here I am at the end of the month and I’ve loved it. Here’s why:

– I get bored if I take the same classes every week so variety helps me to stay motivated

– I enjoy group classes for the social aspect and they push me more than I might if I was working out by myself

– Even though I’m a Personal Trainer I still sometimes like to let someone else do the thinking for me and put together a workout

– I work from home 2 days each week so I can squeeze in lunchtime classes on those days which widens the choices of classes

– I’ve tried new studios and classes that I wouldn’t go to before because the price put me off

– It’s ridiculous value…

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Putting the work in at Moreno Boxing, Dalston

To put it into numbers:

Number of classes I did: 14

Cost of classes if I’d paid individually for each one: £176*

Cost for 1 month of ClassPass: £89/month

Cost for 3 months of ClassPass: £69/month

Cost for 6 months of ClassPass: £59/month

*This is the worst-case scenario i.e. not taking into account membership discounts at the studios (which I don’t have anyway) or introductory offers

So if you sign up for the 6 month ClassPass membership you’re effectively getting over 30% off every class if you use it very regularly.

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The torture chamber Pilates studio at Tempo Pilates, Netil house

There are a couple of things that would improve ClassPass in my opinion:

– More early-morning classes that aren’t yoga

– A wider geographical spread of studios because as an East London-ite there aren’t a huge choice of places out in Hackney

– Not being limited to 3 classes per studio each month (although I understand why they’ve done this)

– Not having to pay for all 6 months up front when you choose this option, it’s a lot of money to stump up all at once

– Being able to choose spin bikes when booking a class – I have to spin without my glasses on and if I’m not in the first couple of rows then I can’t really see the instructor! 

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This was the sweaty pain at the end of a boxing class, i’m loving it really.

I’m planning on signing up for the full 6 months because I can see the value in it and I really enjoy the classes that are on offer. Who’s signing up with me? 

I was given a month’s free trial of ClassPass but all views are my own

Keeping The Family Balance

This year the Jewish festival of Pesach (Passover) and Easter fell on the same weekend meaning that there was even more emphasis on eating over the long weekend. For the first 2 nights of Pesach (it lasts 8 days) we have a big meal with lots of family and friends and I can safely say that I’ve eaten enough to last me a week… 

Now that I’m sitting on the sofa the day after in a bit of a food coma I’ve been  thinking about some rules to maintain the balance when you have family functions, religious days or celebrations. 

3 generations of women in red

Rule 1) Someone will have spent days preparing all of the food you’re about to eat so unless you’re REALLY allergic, be respectful and polite. One bite of something that’s made with love isn’t going to ruin your progress

Rule 2) Don’t get preachy about your approach to nutrition or exercise unless someone specifically asks you about it. It’s not a ‘look how strong my quads are looking’ party, it’s a time for family

Rule 3) Prepare your body so that you can make the most of all of the food that’s about to come your way. An interval cardio session followed by some heavy work on your legs will mean that your body will use some of what you’re eating to repair muscles and replenish energy stores

Rule 4) Don’t starve yourself the following day to ‘make up’ for eating a lot. Just go back to your normal schedule for eating and exercise, chances are your body won’t even register the big meal and it won’t have an effect on your progress

Rule 5) Don’t feel guilty because food is something to be enjoyed, not to regret, especially if you’re making special memories with friends or family

Now, where’s that last remaining Easter egg… 

Things Personal Trainers say

So you’ve taken the big step and got a
personal trainer. Congratulations! You’ve booked in your first session, you’ve
told everyone how hot you’re going to be in approximately 2.5 weeks time and
you bought a load of expensive lycra that will DEFINITELY mean you can bench
press like 100lbs.

It’s time for that first session and your
trainer is about to send lots and lots of buzzwords and jargon your way. The
problem is how do you know
you’ve found a good trainer? Well, I’m glad you asked.

Things PTs will/should never say:

–      
‘Yes, it’s a really good idea
to do a juice cleanse and then come for a session. A little bit of dizziness is
fine’

–      
‘No problem we can take it easy
today and have 5 minute rests between each rep because you’re a bit tired’

–      
‘Just do everything as fast as
you can it doesn’t matter that your form is all over the place’

–      
‘Oh well if it’s tough we
better stop, let’s just do things that are easy and won’t make you sweat’

–      
‘I can make you lose 10lbs in a
week. Easy’

–      
‘It’s totally true, just by
signing up to the gym you’ll get fitter, you don’t ever actually have to go’

–      
‘Oh you’ve got a cold? That’s
ok, come for your session anyway and spread your germs all over the equipment’

–      
‘I love your new Nike Air Max,
they’re perfect for running and lifting’

–      
‘Definitely go for an
extra-large stuffed crust with double pepperoni after your session, you’ve
deserved it’

–      
‘Our 1 hour each week will
make all the difference. Eat whatever you want and sit around for the rest of
the week, we’ll have you bikini-body ready in no time at all’

–      
‘The 15 minutes that we spend
chatting at the beginning of every session counts towards getting those abs’

Can I suggest that if you hear your trainer
say any of these you get the hell out of there and find a professional?

HIIT vs LISS cardio

You might have seen a previous post that I did about the benefits of cardiovascular training which is a great place to start because anything that raises your heart rate is going to be beneficial to your cardiovascular system. 

There’s so much more to cardiovascular training however and I’m going to discuss the biggest 2 right here for you, you lucky people. 

You might have heard people talking about HIIT (high intensity interval training) but have you heard about LISS (low intensity steady state)? 

Chances are you might not have heard about it but you’ve more than likely done it before. When you’ve decided that the 3 doughnuts you’ve eaten today were a bit much and you’re going to go to the gym and jog on a treadmill? LISS. When you dare to bare your pale skin for a gentle session at the pool for the first time this year? LISS. When you decide that you’re going to be healthy and go for a long walk ending up in a not-so-healthy pub lunch? LISS. Basically, if you can hold a conversation whilst training, you’re doing LISS.

The benefits of this kind of training is that because you’re normally working at 60-80% of your maximum heart rate, you’re comfortably within the ‘fat-burning zone’ which means that you’re burning a higher percentage of fat within the energy that you’re using. 

Think of it like a cake. At this stage, the energy that you’re burning is the size of a cupcake (stick with me, don’t get distracted by the thought of cupcakes) and a majority of that is fat. 

LISS is therefore good for:

– Unfit or elderly people who want to lose weight but need a low-impact form of exercise to protect their bodies

– People who have the time to go out walking for a couple of hours or jog for an hour, it’s pretty time-consuming!

– Endurance athletes (marathon runners, triathletes etc.) who need to get their bodies used to working at low-intesity for long periods of time

– Anyone who wants to unplug for a while, force themselves to not look at a screen and enjoy the great outdoors

There’s one big flaw with LISS though. Whatever your goals are your body will need to keep adapting otherwise your progress will plateau. If you just do LISS you will reach that plateau quite quickly as the body finds it easy to adapt to and then gets very comfortable. 

Have you heard that story about the person who went to the gym 3 times a week, did the same workout each time including a 20 minute run on the treadmill and 15 minutes on the stationary bike? Do you remember when they stopped going after a few months because they stopped losing weight? They should have done some HIIT. 

Which bring us to HIIT (funnily enough). HIIT covers any kind of cardio exercise that combines periods of near-maximum work with periods of recovery. It can be applied to most forms of cardio including running, cycling, swimming, skipping, boxing etc. and includes things like tabata and circuit training. For example, you could warm up, then sprint for 30 seconds followed by a recovery period at a jog for 1 minute and then you could repeat that as many times as you like before you cool down/pass out.

HIIT will bring your heart rate up into the moderate/intense training zone meaning that you’ll be improving your aerobic fitness and overall performance. In these zones you’ll be burning a higher proportion of carbohydrates than fat but don’t be fooled, you’re still burning plenty of fat. 

Let’s go back to the cake idea (focus now…). With HIIT the cake is now Bruce Bogtrotter-sized (if you don’t get this reference then shame on you, go and read Matilda right now).

The amount of calories from burning carbohydrates and fat is much higher than what you’ll burn through LISS meaning that you’ll probably burn more fat overall. It’s a smaller percentage of the cake but the cake is so much bigger with HIIT. Makes sense? 

Here are some of the benefits of HIIT:

– Great for time-poor people, you can squeeze a brilliant workout into whatever time you have available, even as little as 7 minutes if necessary, and keep your heart rate up

– It keeps the body adapting because your heart rate is going up and down with periods of work and recovery and your body doesn’t know what’s coming next

– The ‘after burn’ effect or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) from HIIT keeps your metabolism high after exercise meaning that you continue to burn calories when you’re lying in your post-gym bubble bath. Result

– HIIT allows you to keep any muscle mass (within reason) as it uses muscles to their maximum capacity, keeping them working. Think about a sprinter’s physique vs a marathon runner

– The explosive nature of HIIT will help you to increase the strength in your muscles which in turn could improve your endurance performance – a good point to remind endurance athletes of the importance of cross-training

It might seem like I’m leaning towards HIIT as the preferable form of cardio but actually, I believe that both LISS and HIIT have their roles in fitness depending on the individual and their goal. Ideally, a combination of both would help to improve overall cardiovascular fitness and health and to reach personal goals. 

Try including a few sprints next time you go running and reap the benefits! 

Boxing in Base Layers

Base layers for me have always been something that you see athletes wearing (or my brother when it’s really cold outside and he’s playing football…) so I’ve never really given them much thought. 

Until now…

I was invited along to a special boxing session at my new favourite place, Moreno Boxing, to try out some new compression base layers from the guys at Glenmuir. 

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First impressions were that they were really soft and silky, very light to wear and totally not restrictive which I always thought base layers would be. Although they are clearly designed to be worn underneath other workout gear because OMG VPL. 

The session started with some skipping, dynamic stretches and then we got stuck into some technique practice with footwork, boxing stance and punching. 

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Then in partners we practiced responding to other people’s movements by played some tag, trying to tap the other person on the shoulder which is a pretty tough cardio workout as well as testing out our footwork. At this stage the sweat started to appear and I was impressed with how comfortable the base layers were as they kept me dry. 

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We finished up by throwing some combinations in pairs, practicing all of the moves that we’d learned in the session. My only complaint was that at this point the top started to ride up slightly and because I had boxing gloves on I couldn’t pull it down! 

The part of compression base layers I’m really interested in is how they can help with recovery by increasing blood flow to the area through an increase in pressure on the skin. They can also help with decreasing DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) and to be honest, anything that can get me out of bed the day after a workout without wincing is good with me! 

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Watch this space as I’ll be testing the clothing in my triathlon training to see how it helps with recovery in tired muscles… 

Disclaimer: I was given the Glenmuir base layers by the very lovely people at Trace Publicity but all of these views are my own

My Life’s Happiness as told through the medium of denim

I’ve read lots of posts recently about health, happiness, fitness, love and peace. But I don’t want to talk about any of those things, I want to talk about jeans. Yes, of the denim variety and no, that wasn’t a spelling mistake for ‘genes’.

I put on a great new pair of jeans this morning and it got me thinking, there’s so many points in my life that have been punctuated by jeans. Denim as a material is pretty unforgiving, it doesn’t pretend that it fits and it will always let you know if it’s too tight or loose. 

When I was a kid I wanted to spend every day in jeans, the older the better. Rips, soft denim, never-washed, shorts or full-length, they were the best, perfect for climbing trees, riding bikes and digging holes in the garden. 

Good god, so much 90′s sass in one so young… 

The problem came when puberty hit and I no longer fitted into boys’ clothes which I loved to wear. Jeans suddenly became restrictive and something to highlight parts of my body that were growing in all kinds of wrong directions. 

I tried to ignore the course of nature by buying baggy mens’ jeans, trying to hide all of the bits that I didn’t like. Top tip: baggy clothes will just make you look bigger. Sorry 14 year-old self… 

It’s worth nothing that it wasn’t like I was blossoming into some curvaceous beauty, I just had puppy fat which always made me feel big and rather lumbering. Just great when you’re growing up. 

It was only when I hit about 17 that I realised that perhaps all wasn’t lost.

Throughout university I took great delight in those times when my jeans were hanging off me, only serving to reinforce my unhealthy habits and disordered eating. Equally there were times when I couldn’t get my jeans up over my thighs which created a vicious circle of bad habits. 

Continuing the trend of jeans being a barometer of my feelings towards my body I wore particular pairs into holes when they fitted and felt comfortable because I thought they made me look skinny and cool. Note to self – skinny does not = cool…

About 3 years later, in the midst of a job that I hated and a particular obsession with McFlurrys, I stopped wearing jeans altogether. They didn’t fit, they reminded me of how much weight I’d put on and everyone else looked better in them than me. 

And then I discovered leggings. All-forgiving comfortable leggings. I wore them every single day for about 2 years, in denial about how unhappy I was with my body shape. I refused to believe that I’d gone up 2 or 3 dress sizes so I just ignored the problem. 

And then suddenly, enough was enough. I started to get fit and over the last 18 months that’s what I’ve been doing. 

Ever so slowly jeans have started to reappear in my wardrobe, cautiously and subtly. The first day that I went out in a pair of jeans again was a big step, one that was so surprising that I celebrated it in my head. 

And finally, today, I put on a new pair of jeans that I never thought would work, a pair of dark denim, super skinny, HIGH-WAISTED jeans. And they look good. I think. And as I strutted to work I realised how crazy it is how influential jeans have been throughout my life in how I see myself and my body image. 

Excuse the lack of face but today was not a good hair day… 

Surely it’s about more than this but I still can’t help myself from feeling all of these feels today. Strange but there we go. 

Review of Moreno Boxing Lunchtime Classes

I’ve been interested in boxing since the lovely Kate of Form Fitness introduced me to it in her weekly classes. Even back then I always felt better after sweating and punching for an hour, it does wonders for the brain!

Fast forward 18 months and I’ve started going to weekly sessions with Carlos Moreno from Moreno Boxing. His new studio is conveniently opposite my office meaning that there’s no excuse to get down there during a lunch break.

I mean, it’s literally about 50 yards from my desk….

Carlos is an internationally competitive boxer and currently holds the Portuguese national champion title as well as numerous others. What more could you want from a trainer?

Each class starts with a warm up consisting of skipping (which I can confirm that I’m getting better at luckily), shadow boxing, lunging, footwork and some dynamic stretching.

Then onto the boxing. Firstly, technique, which is something that I need to work on as although my offensive movements aren’t too bad, I have no defence at all, as Carlos showed me by pointing out exactly where he could punch me. Not that he did but lesson learned anyway.

We then did some 3 minute rounds (I have no idea how many, I got into the zone and lost track) of sparring, mixing up punching and defensive manoeuvres which equated to a serious cardio workout. The sweat was real.

Trying to concentrate on lots of new things all at the same time can be a bit daunting but it’s brilliant for clearing your head of all other worries as you focus 100% on where the next punch might be coming from and where there might be a chink in the armour that you can take advantage of.

Then followed 3 minute rounds on the punchbags, alternating ‘freestyle’ minutes with all-out 1-2s to keep the heart rate up.

My face says it all…

Each session is then ended with taking the gloves off and getting stuck into something a bit different, whether it’s TRX, circuits or something else to mix it up. Yesterday we did a circuit of heavy deadlifts, battle ropes and sit ups with a ball to isolate the core. With 45 seconds of work and 15 seconds of rest this circuit was a killer.

To finish everything off you can look forward to a series of planks, just in case you haven’t had enough.

This is exactly the kind of class that I love because it’s tough, works you hard but also dedicates some time to technique. There’s nothing as satisfying as that thwack when your glove connects with a pad correctly. You also know that you’ve worked hard because the next day everything is that right amount of sore.

Details

What? Moreno Boxing Lunchtime Sessions

Where? 1 Bailey Place, Dalston, London, N16 8BA

When? Check out the timetable here

How much? Classes are normally £12 but you can get your first class for just £6. Or for those on ClassPass, they’re included in your monthly fee! If you’re interested, sign up here for £50 off a month’s membership, total bargain!

The Benefits of Cardio Training

Welcome to the 2nd in my series of demystifying exercise posts. This time I’m focusing on cardio, mostly because people say ‘I’ve eaten a pizza but it’s ok because I’m going for a jog later’. I hate to burst your bubble but it’s worth WAY more than just burning a few calories. 

When people talk about ‘cardio’ they basically mean anything that works your cardiovascular system (heart + lungs). You could argue that this includes just about everything that we do on a daily basis but I’m focusing on specific activities that we do to strengthen the cardiovascular system. 

I’m also lumping various cardio training systems together for this post, look out for future posts to delve deeper into specific systems (e.g. high intensity interval training (HIIT), low intensity steady state (LISS) etc.)

Here are my top reasons why you should be cardio training if you’re not already:

1) Weight control – Cardio training raises your heart rate significantly from resting which means that you will need to use energy to keep going. Once you have used the readily-available supplies of glucose within the muscles, your body will begin to burn fat throughout the session and for some time afterwards

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2) Increased body efficiency – Through consistent cardio training the body adapts to increase blood flow to muscles and remove waste (CO2 & lactic acid) more efficiently meaning that your endurance increases. You know that burning feeling that makes you stop? It will go away with commitment, I promise

3) Better heart health – One of the adaptations from cardio training is increased stroke volume in your heart i.e. your heart can pump more blood around your body with each beat. This can have the effect of lowering your resting heart rate and potentially decreasing your blood pressure, putting less strain on your heart

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FYI, there are battle ropes in there somewhere, I’m just making them move faster than the human eye (ok, faster than the shutter on my iPhone camera…)

4) Happy brain – As well as the release of endorphins that any exercise triggers in our brains, there is something about getting out and about and unplugging for a while. Whether you’re running, hiking, swimming, cycling, spinning, dancing or whatever form your cardio training is taking, use the opportunity to unplug from technology, chat with friends or just spend some time with your own thoughts 

5) Unclog those arteries – Cardio training can decrease levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), the bad cholesterol whilst increasing levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDLs), the good cholesterol. This is important as you age to keep your cholesterol within the healthy range

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So what are you waiting for?! Just get out there and raise your heart rate!

ClassPass Hits London

The lovely folks at ClassPass in the US have launched their service in the UK today, starting with London. Watch out, they’re about the revolutionise the way that we exercise… 

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So here’s the basics:

Concept – You pay a fee each month (like a gym membership) but you can go to unlimited classes at over 175 different studios that are signed up. You can go to up to 3 classes at each studio in the month but apart from that, there’s no limitations! You can even put your membership on hold for £19/month and still go to 1 class in that month.

Cost – £89 for one month (or £79 if you sign up now on the link below!), £69 for 3 months or £59 for 6 months, which is a TOTAL bargain if you really take advantage of all of the classes

Which studios are signed up – Psycle (spin), Triyoga (yoga), Boom Cycle (spin), Moreno Boxing (boxing), Frame (all sorts), TenPilates (Pilates) and LOADS more 

Where to sign up – http://classpass.com/buynow?utm_source=tpblog&utm_medium=affiliate&utm_campaign=lon&utm_content=5287

What I’ve signed up to (so far) – Boom Cycle, Moreno Boxing, Edge Cycle, Stretch London

If the brilliant launch event at Barry’s Bootcamp last night was anything to go by then ClassPass have got their stuff together and there’s going to be a whole lot of energy spent in London in the coming weeks! 

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Could you tell we were a little bit nervous about the prospect of a Barry’s class? 

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The view from treadmill 18. Oh god did I hate that treadmill after about 10 minutes… 

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But these incredibly tasty protein smoothies put the smiles right back on our sweaty faces.

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The best bit about ClassPass is being able to work out with your friends without the problems of guest passes to gyms or lack of funds. Just pay once and off you go! As much as you want!! 

Who’s with me? 

Disclaimer: I was given a free month’s membership to ClassPass but don’t worry, I’ll be signing up for a full membership as soon as it runs out,  these views are my own and I think it’s a great idea. Affiliate links included.

It’s Time For A Spring Clean

The 1st of March is technically spring although I don’t believe it because it’s still FREEZING. But the crocuses are coming out in the parks and it’s now light by about 6:30am which makes those early morning training sessions all the more bearable. 

My brain has start to motor forward to summer and those lovely warm mornings when we can run with the sun on our backs and lazy evening swim sessions. Remember that summer bodies are made in winter, it’s not a quick fix that you can do when you realise that you’ve got to be in a bikini in 3 weeks. Put in the work now and you’ll reap the benefits when you look fit as f*ck in summer. 

Start with your mind, it’s time to blow out the cobwebs of winter:

– Go out for a walk or if you’re not fortunate enough to live in the countryside then jump on a train until it looks green out of the window. Take a load of snacks and water, plot a route that sounds manageable and off you go. It’s great exercise for the brain as well as the body

– Try reading a new book that you might not have picked up before, it’ll wake your brain up if you’ve spent the winter hibernating with Game of Thrones or Mad Men. Try Us by David Nicholls, The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins or Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese, all books that I’ve enjoyed recently

– Sign up for a challenge, physical or otherwise. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn Spanish or learn to roller skate? Now’s your time to push yourself with the longer days and promise of sunshine!

Now for the body:

– Try and cut out refined sugar for 30 days. I know, it’s a toughie but you’ll feel the benefits very quickly. Things like biscuits, chocolate and cake are out but if you start looking into it there are healthier alternatives. There’s still some sugar in things like agave nectar, coconut sugar or raw honey but they go through less of a process than white or brown sugar so there’s less chemicals hitting your system. Give it a go!

– If you’re a caffeine fiend now is the time to start cutting down. By removing stimulants you’ll learn to listen to your body more and read your ups and downs. After a few days any headaches and cravings will disappear, especially when you realise how much more balanced and level you feel

– Step up your high intensity cardio (alongside your weight sessions) to torch any hibernation body fat, now is the time to start ‘leaning out’ before bikini season. By starting early and slowly your summer body will be much easier to maintain throughout the season of BBQs and ice cream

Who else is doing some spring-cleaning? 

The Benefits of Weight Training

There’s so many different types of exercise out there so how are you meant to know which one is best to shave those inches off your butt? Or how about if you wanted to beef up your back? Or even if you’re in training for a triathlon? 

It’s tricky and to be totally honest, the best answer is…. Mix it up. 

This post is going to be the first in a series of helping you to understand the benefits of different types of exercise and break down some of the mystery surrounding them. 

I’m starting with weight training, my favourite. 

Firstly, let me debunk the biggest myth about weight training. Ladies, if you lift weights you’re NOT GOING TO TURN INTO A MAN. That’s because we women simply don’t produce enough testosterone to grow manly muscles. Yes, we can increase our muscle mass and decrease our body fat to look toned but you’ll never be ripping out of your tops, don’t worry. 

Here are the benefits of lifting heavy things and putting them down again:

1) Increased muscle mass will speed up your metabolism, helping you to burn more calories when at rest because muscle burns more calories than fat. It will also allow you to eat more food without putting on weight. Result

2)  Everyday activities will become easier as your body gets stronger. Just think, you just might be able to carry all of your shopping bags into the house in one trip

3) Bone density is improved by putting heavy loads onto your bones through activities like weight lifting. This is particularly important as you age and you can  actually reverse the early signs of osteopenia or osteoporosis through weight lifting

4) You’ll get lean, that all-encompassing golden fitness goal. While you might not see any difference on the scales, your clothes will feel looser and you will be tighter all over as 1lb of muscle takes up a lot less space than 1lb of fat

5) Your posture will improve, instantly giving the illusion that you’re taller and slimmer. By strengthening your core (including your back) you’ll be able to pull your shoulder-blades down your back, elongating your neck and pulling in your waist

6) Improves motor skills like balance and coordination. If you can clean and jerk like a boss then your everyday life will be a breeze

7) Decreases the risk of injury through strengthening bones, ligaments and tendons. Say goodbye to back pain, twisted ankles and twinges in your knees

8) Weight lifting, like any exercise, releases endorphins which will instantly lift your mood and make everything seem better. Remember this one when you can’t be bothered to go to the gym. 

9) It allows you to focus very specifically on muscles and areas that you want to work. For example, you can work on bulking up your calves or ‘toning’ your upper arms by working on your biceps and triceps. I seem to spend an unnecessary amount of time on my glutes for some reason…

When you start weight lifting it’s a good idea to have a session either with a Personal Trainer or Gym Instructor so that they can show you the proper form and technique on the resistance machines and free weights. Technique is so important when you’re loading your body with heavy things as it can be very easy to do something wrong and not work out the part of your body that you’re trying to target or get injured. 

Get in touch if you have any questions or if you want to start lifting heavy things with me!

The Yes Woman

10 years ago my best friend and I embarked on a ‘life-changing’ trip to Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii. I say ‘life-changing’ because it was in a way, but not in an ‘I lived off air and good vibes in an ashram and now I know my soul’ kind of way. We basically partied and had fun for 6 months and learnt to say ‘yes’ (within reason) to lots of cool things. We were inspired by reading The Yes Man by Danny Wallace who said yes to everything in his life and even ended up getting his book about the experience made into a film. A lot of the crazy and memorable experiences we had were down to that book, thanks Danny Wallace.

Apparently underground tubing and caving requires some fetching balaclavas in New Zealand… 

Anyway, I was inspired to do this again recently as a way of keeping myself busy and man, has it worked… 

I’ve got a couple of incredible opportunities coming up in the next few months that I would never have been a part of had I not taken a deep breath and said ‘yes’. I can’t tell you what they are yet but I think it’s fair to say that they will take me hugely out of my comfort zone but also give me a massive boost. 

This isn’t meant to be an overly-emotional post but I just wanted to share the excitement that can come with taking a chance and having the confidence to put yourself out there. I’ve spent long enough closing myself off and not having the balls to give things a go so from now on I’m saying yes. 

Give it a go.

Fitness Trends for 2015

2014 was the year that fitness became mainstream. 

No longer is it strange to hear people say ‘oh, I can’t go for dinner, I’ve got Pilates’ or ‘let’s catch up at spinning’. Juicing, whether at home or bought, is more acceptable and quinoa is now a staple of a lot of people’s diets. AND they know how to pronounce it correctly. 

So what does 2015 hold for us then? 

1) CrossFit-style workouts

While not everyone feels brave enough to step into a Box (yep, that’s what CrossFit gyms are actually called), the high intensity circuit-style workouts are finding their way into ‘normal’ gyms. Anything that combines explosive movement, weightlifting and a lot of reps (read: sweat) will have you building muscle and burning fat like a pro. Embrace it but make sure you pay lots of attention to technique especially with the weightlifting. Oh, and don’t become a CrossFit douchebag… 

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2) One-stop shop gyms

A gym or fitness studio is no longer just a sweaty room that smells a bit like that time you left your PE kit at school over the Easter holidays and had to put it on again afterwards… Gyms now have spas, like Equinox so you can get a facial after boxing, and plenty more are offering pre and post-workout nutrition like 1Rebel, a new gym in Liverpool Street, London, that provides a complimentary cold pressed juice or healthy salad with lunchtime classes. As fitness is becoming a part of our busy lives, gyms that can offer something extra have that edge.

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3) Cross-training

No, I don’t mean that weird ski-type machine in the gym. I mean training in ways that aren’t necessarily directly connected to your chosen discipline. More and more runners are getting into yoga and strength training to improve their technique and keep their muscles in optimum shape. For sports players it’s no longer about spending hours kicking or hitting a ball, they now might be as familiar with a cadillac in the Pilates studio as they are with a footwork drill. Unless you’re an Olympic athlete then cross-training WILL be beneficial, step out of your comfort zone and give something else a go this year.

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 4) Fitness trackers

Athletes have been using heart rate monitors to track their intensity levels for years but the mainstream market is catching on. A lot of fitness trackers were introduced to the market in 2014 but 2015 is going to be the year that they go mainstream. There’s plenty out there on the market (eg. the Misfit Flash, the Fitbit Charge and various watches like the Samsung Gear and the Withings Activité) so do your research and find out which would suit your needs best. It could help to motivate you through the rest of the winter for that summer body!

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5) Fitness is for life, not just for beach season

Fitness isn’t just about being skinny or having that 6-pack any more, it’s about long-term health and strength, inner and outer. You’ll hear more and more people talking about wanting to be strong not skinny (myself included) and feeling ‘better’ rather than ‘thinner’. It’s about finding a sustainable diet and level of exercise that isn’t restrictive or obsessive, something you can enjoy with friends and family and that compliments your life but doesn’t take it over. Sounds pretty good right?

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2015 Race Calendar

The atmosphere, buzz and sense of achievement connected with any organised sports event is scarily addictive… And this is why I keep signing up for more and more! 

This year you can find me at:

February 1st – Winter Run 10k – COMPLETED 73:16

May 23rd – Eton Dorney Sprint Triathlon (750m swim, 20km cycle, 5k run)

June 7th – Finsbury Park Women’s Running Series 10k

June 21st – Nike Women’s 10k (Victoria Park)

August 8th – London Triathlon Olympic (1,500m swim, 40km cycle, 10k run)

Who’s with me?  

The power of alone time

While Simon (my fiancé) is in India for 2.5 weeks, I’ve had to fight the urge to book arrangements in for every night due to not wanting to be alone all of the time and not wanting to spend loads of money! 

So today I did something that I haven’t done in a couple of years by myself, I took myself off on my bike and had a cheap little adventure. 

I’ve lived very close to the Olympic Park for nearly 2 years now and can you believe it, I’ve never been! It’s an easy 5km cycle there which only took 15 minutes and then once you’re into the park there’s lots of wide and smooth cycle routes that take you around the whole area. 

My first triathlon is coming up in May so with that in mind I headed to the Aquatics Centre for a swim (cue swimming selfie…). 

It was busy in there but once you’re in the water there’s actually plenty of room for swimming! I swam sets of 250m for 1km, alternating breaststroke and freestyle trying to concentrate on my technique. For triathlons you really want to swim hard with the arms to save your legs for the cycling and running to come, so I focused on them. Jelly arms now… 

Afterwards I basked in a bit of February sun overlooking the canal and took some time just to relax and enjoy not having to rush anywhere. Also, hello Vitamin D top up!

I cycled the long route home through a very busy Victoria Park and I’ve spent the afternoon doing chores, writing up plans for a PT client and pampering myself. 

The point of this rather rambling post is to remind myself (and you) how important it is to do things for yourself every now and then. Our lives are always so busy and rushed, there’s never enough time for ANYTHING. So make time, indulge yourself in whatever it is you enjoy and luxuriate in the alone time. That’s all there is to it.  

Race Report: Winter Run 10k

‘Guys, we need to sign up to this race! It’s through central London and there’s fake snow and polar bears and everything!’

Skip forward a few months and our team had dwindled right down for plenty of very valid reasons. However, despite an awful race prep and freezing cold weather, this race was momentous for me and here’s why….

The Training

There was no cardio training to be seen in the month leading up to the race. In fact, my last run had been a slow 4k on New Year’s Eve in Nice that felt really rather tough. 

I’ve been doing lots of strength training and because I’m bulking I’ve not been using calories up on cardio. So while I’m definitely stronger I had serious doubts as to my cardio fitness which has never been a strong point of mine. 

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The Race

I’d spent all day before the race in bed with a migraine so the immediate prep was going really well. Not. 

I managed to get some sleep the night before, after cramming in some rice and woke up feeling quite fresh which was a nice surprise. The morning was grey and cold, just right for running… We got down to the welcome area nice and early and I warmed up outside Downing Street before I felt remotely comfortable taking off my coat to leave with Simon. 

The start line was a little bit chaotic as although we’d all been given wave times there didn’t seem to be any checking or order to how people were starting. Everyone was crammed into the start area and they were just letting 2,500 people go in each wave. It meant that I ended up doing the warm-up 3 times before I even got to the start line!

Anyway, off I went feeling pretty sceptical about how it was going to go. However, I surprised myself by feeling really quite comfortable all the way up until 5k. 

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At that point though the problems hit. My hip flexors tightened up first, followed by my back and finally my left ankle. By the time i hit 8km it had become a mental battle. 

I didn’t even notice the fake snow zones or cow bells along the route although I do remember being a little underwhelmed by the novelty of the race. Just being able to run on closed roads along the Thames was enough of a novelty for me.

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I could hear my normal pace running away from me through my headphones so I just concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other and ticking off the ½ km markers. This was one race that I was going to finish running, whether my muscles wanted to or not. 

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With 200m to go, I normally step up a gear and go for a big finish but this has to be the slowest sprint finish I’ve ever done. But I did it. I proved to myself that not only can my base fitness carry me through a 10k without walking but I can also run by myself and self-motivate. It was a good feeling to cross that finish line and hold my head high. 

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The Results

1st km: 07:10

2nd km: 06:50

3rd km: 06:54

4th km: 06:47

5th km: 07:16

6th km: 06:21

7th km: 07:19

8th km: 07:21

9th km: 07:04

10th km: 07:30

TOTAL TIME: 01:13:12

Now that I’ve got the bug back, I’m itching to sign up to EVERYTHING. But while I fight the urge, I’ve got a sprint triathlon in May to get training for so watch this space for training updates.

The Problem With Bulking

Lift more weights, eat more food, do less cardio. 

Sounds pretty easy right? 

Well, I guess it is physically but it’s not so easy mentally.

To put it into context, I’m coming to the end of the first month of a 6 month plan in which I’m spending 3 months building muscle and then the last 3 months will be spent trying to strip body fat to increase definition and get that ‘toned’ look that I’m after. 

To build muscle, you need fuel. And that fuel is being supplied by nearly 2,000 calories each day of unprocessed food. That’s an awful lot of food, especially given that to meet this I’m having to eat mountains of vegetables, lean protein and lots of carbs squeezed into 3 main meals and 2 snacks each day.

The workouts are focused around lifting increasingly heavy weights and doing very little cardio training (apart from my daily commute and occasional cycles to see friends) which is very different to the high intensity stuff that I normally do. 

The result is that although I feel stronger (I’m PBing all over the place on squats, presses and basically everything), I also feel ‘bigger’. You’re probably thinking ‘well obviously, you’re building muscle’ but for someone who has spent their entire life trying to be smaller, this feeling is alien and not entirely comfortable. 

Watching my abs disappear day by day, the scales creep up slightly and my legs getting bigger is actually bloody difficult. It goes against the grain and it makes me feel out of shape bizarrely. It’s having an effect on my willpower too as I’ve never had to eat more to hit calorie goals before, so I’m thinking ‘well I might as well have 3 biscuits, it’ll help me hit my calories’. 

As I keep telling myself (and my friends and clients), you have to trust the process and getting control over your willpower and brain is part of this process. So I’m making sure that I eat plenty of ‘clean’ foods and hitting the gym to try and avoid the dips in willpower. 

Most of all, I’m accepting the fact that I’m struggling and that is ok. Not everything is easy and I know that I will appreciate the results a lot more because of the battles that I’ve been through. 

The Clean Eating Revolution

You might have heard people talking about ‘clean eating’ but what does it actually mean? Well, there’s different levels of clean eating. 

For example, you could go hardcore and do a Whole30 which cuts out all sugar, dairy, legumes and grains or you can do a slightly more lifestyle-friendly version, which is what I’m doing.

The rules are very simple. If it came out of a packet and has been processed far beyond its natural state, don’t eat it. So that means trying to steer clear of:

Bread (especially white or over-processed types)

Pasta

Cakes/biscuits and anything sweet or dessert like

Most dairy (minus a bit of feta or greek yogurt here and there)

‘But what is there left?’ I hear you cry. Plenty is the easy answer. You can eat all vegetables (although try to stay away from canned veg and beans as they often have stabilisers and other chemicals in them), meat, fish, brown/basmati rice, sweet potatoes, fruit, dark chocolate (with 3 ingredients or less), nuts etc. 

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A typical day of clean eating:

Breakfast – green smoothie (½ banana, handful of berries, 10 pieces of cucumber, a big handful of spinach or kale, 1 stick of celery, juice of ½ lemon, 2 tsp flaxseed, 1 tsp chia seeds)

Morning snack – a few almonds or macadamia nuts

Lunch – baked chicken breast with spices, baked sweet potato, steamed green vegetables, raw spinach, tomatoes, cucumber, ½ avocado, drizzle of olive oil

Afternoon snack – 100g greek yogurt with a chopped apple or berries

Dinner – 2 egg omelette with mushrooms, pepper, spinach and a side salad (spinach, cucumber, spring onion, cucumber, pumpkin seeds, olive oil, lemon juice)

Evening snack – 1 square of 90% dark chocolate

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When I’m focusing on eating ‘clean’ foods 80-90% of the time, I feel less bloated, my energy levels throughout the day stay much more constant rather than peaks and troughs and I feel stronger and more focused in the gym. It’s also really good for building lean muscle without increasing body fat whilst doing the right sorts of workouts. 

I eat out at least once a week with friends and the key to sticking to your clean way of life is to pick things off the menu that are as unprocessed as possible, preferably without sauces which are often loaded with salt or sugar. If you do want to indulge yourself then go for it but try to limit it to once a week if possible. 

Let me know how you get on!