Last month, I was featured talking about my career change in the latest issue of CF Life magazine from the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, so I thought now would be a great time to write an update on what has changed since I left a high-pressure, full-time job last summer.Read More
Your heart rate (HR) is a useful measure of your activity level and training intensity when exercising. When your exercise intensity increases, your heart rate also increases to match the increased rate of energy expenditure and oxygen uptake.
Heart rate can be expressed as the absolute number of beats per minute (bpm) or as a percentage of your maximum heart rate (% HRmax).
Knowing your heart rate in bpm at any point in time may not be a very useful measure on it’s own. So, to put it in context, it’s a good idea to have some ideas of where you sit across other heart rate measures...Read More
I’m super fascinated by health monitoring. I love the quantified self movement. I love that there is an ever evolving arm of science and technology that can help us to get a better handle on the state of our health.
Yet, I’ve never been enamoured by fitness trackers.
In fact, I would go as far as to say I am sick of fitness trackers, having acquired and forgotten about at least half a dozen already.Read More
Exploring London’s Fitness Scene with a ClassPass Membership
For those of you that don’t know, I have just moved to London (after going between Cambridge and London and pretty much living out of a suitcase for a few months). I’m so excited to finally be here permanently, and even more excited to use ClassPass to discover my local fitness hotspots.
ClassPass is a monthly fitness membership that allows you to experience a diverse range of workouts across a network of beautiful, boutique partner studios in participating cities.
ClassPass only launched in London in March, but knowing that they already successfully operate in a multitude of U.S. cities, I was absolutely thrilled to jump on board right away to start exploring .
ClassPass London Studios + Classes
There are thousands of classes available to ClassPass members, including cycling, pilates, yoga, strength training, dance, martial arts, and more. There are outdoor classes, indoor classes, and they are spread all over the city.
I’ve noticed that there’s a large number of yoga and pilates studios and classes, especially, from well-known studios such as TriYoga and TenPilates, to smaller centres with more of a community feel.
There are also some cult studios such a FRAME, 1Rebel and BOOM Cycle that have joined the diverse ClassPass network.
Honestly, there is so much variety and such an incredible quantity of classes available every single day that I usually don’t even know where to start when I log in to book onto some sessions!
I really like the feature on the site that allows you to ‘favourite’ particular studios. I have marked the ones that are closest to me and that I’m particularly keen to try out.
New studios and classes are also being added on a frequent basis so I’m constantly keeping my eyes peeled for exciting email alerts.
How ClassPass Works
As a ClassPass member, you have the freedom to take as many classes as you want per month. However, each studio in the ClassPass network can be visited a maximum of 3 times per month under the ClassPass membership. I think this is a brilliant idea, so that you can get a feel for a studio by taking alternative classes or you can return to your favourites, but you are also compelled to keep variety and excitement in your workout schedule, which is what ClassPass is all about!
It’s so easy to book, even when you’re on the go. The ClassPass website is really well optimised for mobile although I’d love to see an app launched in the near future.
Edit: My wish has been granted; the ClassPass iOS app has landed in London.
Checking in at classes is super easy, too. There are no print outs or vouchers to show, but it’s a good idea to take a photo ID.
If need be, you can cancel your ClassPass membership at any time, or even put it on hold for a month.
Sign Up for a ClassPass Fitness Membership
ClassPass membership is available for just £89 a month - that’s generally cheaper than a membership to a single boutique studio.
Even better, if and when you’re ready to commit, you can sign-up for 3 months for £69 a month or 6 months for £59 a month!
The link below is your invitation to join ClassPass, go ahead and check it out!
Click here for a ClassPass Fitness Membership
If you haven’t yet started your membership, what studios and classes would you be keen to try?If you’re already in the ClassPass club, what are your favourites?
I’ll be doing my best to keep you updated on the best classes that I visit during my membership!
Recently, I’ve introduced a scientifically-backed exercise protocol to my training sessions: Tabata. Since I had my first sweaty experience of Tabata with Master Trainer Richard Scrivener, I’ve been hooked.
What is Tabata?
Tabata is a form of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), which is something that I have been a fan of for a long time. However, Tabata follows a unique structure; 20 seconds of exercise at maximum intensity, followed by 10 seconds rest, repeated 8 times. That makes this super-effective drill’s duration just 4 minutes. That’s doable for anyone, right?
The Science of Tabata
What I really love about the Tabata protocol is that it was developed in response to pioneering research conducted by Professor Tabata. His research comparing two experiments is totally fascinating:
Group 1 followed the Tabata protocol, working at 170% of their VO2 max during the 20 second exercise blocks.
Group 2 worked at a VO2 max of 200% for 30 seconds, but had longer rest periods of 2 minutes, and repeated this for 4-5 rounds.
The Tabata method increased both anaerobic and aerobic fitness.
How is it possible to work out above 100% of your VO2 max?
Your VO2 max (100%) is the maximum amount of oxygen that your body can use during exercise. Working at your VO2 max and below means that you are in the aerobic zone, meaning ‘with oxygen’, and can likely sustain the exercise for a long period of time. Exercising above your VO2 max means that you are in the anaerobic zone, ‘without oxygen’, which can only be sustained for a very short period of time.
Essentially, there’s an inverse relationship between how intensely you can exercise, and how long that exercise can be sustained for. So, if you feel that you could do longer intervals, you aren’t pushing yourself hard enough. If you decide to try the Tabata method, be sure that you putting everything you have into each of the 20 second bursts. Go all out!
A Tabata Workout
A full Tabata class, like the one that I took with Richard, lasts for 20 minutes. This incorporates a warm up, a few minutes of cardio to start increasing heart rate, a break down of the exercises that will be included in the Tabata, the official 4 minute Tabata workout, some core conditioning, and a cool down.
Exercises for Tabata
A number of different exercises can be used to form a Tabata from body weight exercises, to treadmill sprints. I also really like to use a spin bike or rowing machine to ensure I get lots of variety in my Tabatas. When you’re selecting exercises to include in a Tabata, be sure to choose explosive movements that will challenge you. Some of my favourites include burpees, mountain climbers and squat jumps.
My Verdict on Tabata
I’m sold. If I can improve both my aerobic and anaerobic fitness by adding just 4 minutes of HIIT per session, I’m damn well going to do it! I love that I can easily add a blast of cardio onto the end of a weight training session to ensure that I’ve covered all bases during my workout.
Be warned: it’s brutal. You will sweat, you will be out of breath, and your muscles will fatigue. Don’t expect to end your workout with a Tabata and then be off the gym-floor and in the shower a minute later.
I spend more time recovering from a Tabata than I do completing it, but I push myself hard because I want the best results.
I recommend downloading a Tabata timer app and giving it a go!
Have you tried Tabata? Let me know what your favourite exercises to incorporate are!
At the beginning of this month, Reebok launched their new fully-integrated marketing campaign, “Be More Human”, and as soon as I spotted it, I fell in love with it. It’s a brand campaign that I’m really, genuinely excited about. I love that the concept encourages people to live up to their full potential and to be a better human, not just a better athlete.
“How will you honour the body you’ve been given?"
This notion is in keeping with the new brand logo that was revealed last year: the Reebok delta. While the delta is a symbol of change, the Reebok delta has three distinct parts, representing the physical, mental and social changes that occur when people push themselves beyond their perceived limits and embrace an active and challenging life.
What I especially like about this multi-channel campaign, is that there are so many elements to explore and immerse yourself in.
Freak Show: The Brand Film
It was the Freak Show brand film that first drew my attention to the new campaign. I found it totally captivating and motivational. It acknowledges fitness as a lifestyle and a means of self-improvement.
“We’re not out here flipping tyres to be better tyre flippers. We’re doing it to be better, period… Better, stronger, more determined humans."
Be More Human Online Experience
The Be More Human Experience is the online destination of the multi-channel campaign, where there are lots interactive tools to discover.
A better workout can build a better brain, and this interactive grey matter visualiser shows you how.
Science shows that a proportional relationship exists between the intensity and complexity of our exercise and the amount of benefit to the brain. This element of the Be More Human Experience demonstrates how different activities stimulate neurotransmitters (emotion and cognitive action), the cerebellum (smooth mental and physical movement), the corpus striatum (TBC), the hippocampus (memory) and the frontal cortex (executive functioning). It’s totally fascinating!
The Human Score
Science journalist David McRaney was asked by Reebok to design The Human Score test. It looks at human traits and the role that physical fitness plays in the equation. The Human Score Video explains the background of the test a little more...
“Many studies have shown that grit outperforms talent in many situations…"
I love stuff like this and couldn’t wait to take the test. It was really simple, fun and eye-opening; it made me think about the things that I value. I think that my score and description are pretty accurate too!
What’s your human score? Leave me a comment or tweet me to let me know!
Break Your Selfie
Finally, the #BreakYourSelfie element of the campaign is all about capturing you and your life with fewer filters. Reebok are encouraging people to post pictures of themselves at in their broken, sweaty, post-workout states.
I really like the inspiring and gritty vibe of the campaign, but I’m not sure that I could be fully immersed in the concept of non-stop punishment, spending every day ‘beaten, and muddy, and sore’ (is that really good for anyone?!).
However, I love the idea that tough fitness has the power to transform lives, sharpen the mind, strengthen human bonds and liberate human potential. I fully endorse constant progress and pushing your personal limits. I’ve been totally inspired by this campaign. Have you?
I met Annie Foulds, a professional fitness coach and Sweaty Betty ambassador, at the launch of the new Sweaty Betty Get Fit 4 Free campaign. As well as being enchanted by Annie's infectiously upbeat personality, I was fascinated by her impressive and varied résumé of achievements. While Annie’s current focus is on marathon running, she’s previously completed an ultra-endurance Sahara race, been a professional dancer and fitness competitor, and she’s even doing a part-time psychology degree!
I caught up with her for more details on how she eats, trains and maintains such an enviable physique...
You developed the new GF4F campaign - talk me through the process of designing the workout?
Sweaty Betty gave me the brief of want they required, then I used my experience and passion for how I like to train myself and encourage my clients.
I wanted to have a workout that covered all three elements: cardio, conditioning and stretching. I am an endurance athlete, so I love the high intensity training. I spent many years training for fitness competitions, so I know who important it is to have a strong body. I also love yoga and find it enormously beneficial and a great compliment to my style of workout.
There's something for everyone in the SB Fly Flex Flow workout. I am a great believer in having all three elements in one’s life - not just one - to have a wonderfully healthy mind and body.
What's your nutrition like on a typical day?
Breakfast (5.30am) - half a banana, white Americano, and granola with honey and milk
Snack (10.30am) - a handful of nuts and an apple, another half a banana
Lunch (between 2pm-3pm) - salmon salad from Pret, or salmon and veggies at home
Dinner (between 5.30pm-8.30pm) - fish (cod), vegetables and juice
I will drink at least 2 litres of water per day
I don't use supplementation really; just vitamin C and zinc. I use gels when I am running a marathon. I try to keep my nutrition clean as possible.
Favourite healthy meal or snack?
I adore king prawns - I could eat the whole pack. They are low in fat, easy to cook with just about anything or eat on their own! Nuts are a real favourite too - but only in very small quantities. They’re a great source of protein.
A glass of champagne at the weekends.
You’re such a busy lady, what does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day for me starts very early at 5.30 am. I shower, have a quick breakfast, dress and am out of the door by 5.50 am for my first client session at 6am - 7am. I have eight clients a day.
The sessions vary from running, kickboxing, TRX, conditioning, Insanity, or dance sessions. Some days I can have three running sessions back to back. So, I feel very fortunate that my main hobby is running marathons. As my sessions are so varied, I make sure my training bag is packed with new outfits the night before, as I could have up to five changes in one day.
My day is about 14 hours long. Some days are shorter, but generally I sit down at home at 8.30pm. However, I am a mother too, so I make sure I have time to collect my son from school.
What is your own training regime like?
I manage my own fitness by being very strict on myself. I am my own worse critic and I will push myself very hard.
If I have a gap in my day I will make sure I go off for a run, or if the gap follows a running session, I will do a stretch session at home. I try and run at least for an hour about five times during the week. Obviously, if I am really short on time, I just do what I can and run harder and faster; I will maybe find a hill or add in some stairs - Battersea Park is great for that. I always do a long run on Sundays. Off-season, I try to keep to around 45 - 50 miles a week. I try to compete in two marathons a year now. This year I am intending on completing four. London, Stockholm, Athens and Florence.
I love being an Insanity instructor and I practice my sessions at home, which keeps me in good condition. As I mentioned. conditioning work is important to me, so I squeeze that in at home whenever I find the opportunity. My family will tell you that it is not a strange sight to see mummy walk lunging down the hall way or doing jump squats in the kitchen!
You look amazing (can you believe that Annie is 45?!), what are your secrets?
Haha! That is very sweet. I drink lots of water. I keep my skincare very simple. I don't wear a lot of make-up - blusher, lipstick and mascara. I facial scrub and moisturise daily - morning and night. I mix my body moisturising cream with olive oil and rub it into my body twice daily. I even put olive oil in my hair when I am blow drying it. I have a fab hairdresser called Eve from Errol Douglas Salon in Knightsbridge where I have been going for over ten years.
What are your workout outfit essentials?
I love a bit of colour. It makes me feel happy! Sometimes I'll wear bright orange vest tops with funky coloured longs socks; they’re such fun and they keep my calves warm too!
However, some days I want to look cool and sharp - so I opt for very chic Sweaty Betty black leggings, vest top and black ski jacket.
A must are my colourful head bands - they are fun, but also very essential - they stop my hair looking very mad and keeps my earphones when I am running in place. They also double up as a neck warmer too!
I also love my Sweaty Betty Zero Gravity outfit - I just bought the latest blue colour way! It's just amazingly cool and practical. The Zero Gravity Tights lift your bottom!
What is your ethos?
"Live today like there's no tomorrow".
I also like "Train to Change," because this applies anything; your mind, your body, or preferably both.
Last week, Nike+ Training Club (N+TC) look over London to offer free classes from paddle boarding to ballet, all with expert trainers. I was invited to join a few classes (including the launch class; spinning with 1Rebel at the Gherkin, which looked amazing!) but only managed to squeeze one of them into my calendar. That one was Yoga at The Orbit with Jessica Skye and it was incredible.
Nike+ Training Club
N+TC is a free, functional fitness training app designed for women with over 100 full-body workouts! The workouts are inspired by world-class athletes and based on years of Nike research - and that really shows. The app is great for guiding you through an entire workout, but I also find it an amazing source of on-the-go inspiration when I’m looking for new exercises to add to my training programme. I highly recommend downloading it.
Yoga at The Orbit with Jessica Skye
After arriving at the Olympic Park, heading 80m up The Orbit and changing into appropriate attire (how awesome are the new legendary lava tights?!), I was ready for a yoga session with a stunning view over London. Jessica, Nike Trainer and the founder of Fat Buddha Yoga, lead an amazing yoga practice that worked towards building strength and focus, as well as improving flexibility and balance. I was so focused throughout the session that I almost didn’t get chance to appreciate the beautiful nighttime skyline (I said almost…) and felt blissfully relaxed after we finished with a Savasana. Jessica is such an encouraging and inspiring instructor and I'm looking forward to taking more classes with her in the future.
Refreshments from CPRESS
If you missed out on classes at NTC week (or even if you just want more!), you can still join Nike by signing up for some N+TC digital sessions. And don’t forget to download the app!
If you managed to grab a spot on a N+TC week class, I’d love to hear about it!
I recently spent a couple of months training at Six3Nine*; an impressively unique personal training practice in Covent Garden, London. At the practice, I experienced an incredible personal training service which was bespoke to the nth degree. And, with the help of my trainer, Russ, I achieved far more than I had anticipated...
The Practice + My Personal Trainer
From the moment that I learned of Six3Nine and their fad-free approach to health and fitness, I was excited to experience what the practice and their elite group of trainers had to offer. I had high hopes for Six3Nine and they didn’t disappoint!
The practice itself is a hidden treasure; at basement level behind a grey door on Drury Lane is a highly-optimised, ultra-functional, super-sleek space. There are no fixed-resistance machines here - only equipment that encourages free and functional movement. I love this concept.
Free initial consultation at Six3Nine
My first visit to the practice was for my free 60 minute initial consultation with the practice manager, Dan. As well as performing a full body composition analysis, Dan spoke to me about my current lifestyle, health, exercise, nutrition, goals and generally got to know me a little better.
This process assured me that I’d be assigned to a trainer whose specialisms and personality were best suited to me, to develop a highly-personalised plan.
Russ Harris at Six3Nine
Following my thorough consultation, I commenced my training sessions with Russ, one of the practice’s Senior Trainers. Russ is undoubtedly one of the best in his field. He has a degree in Sports Science, is studying for a Masters in Strength and Conditioning, and is constantly researching and learning beyond that. It is obvious that he is passionate about what he does, which is really inspiring.
Not only is Russ incredibly knowledgable, he is also amazing at applying his knowledge in innovative ways. Often during our sessions I could practically see cogs whirring inside his head as he developed exercise set-ups and movement patterns that would specifically target my needs. I always found this process completely fascinating and, although some of the outcomes looked like torture devices, Russ always explained exactly how they were beneficial to me. He ensured that every aspect of our training was fine-tuned to my requirements in a way that I couldn’t have imagined possible.
As well as being super talented, Russ is a really nice guy, incredibly patient (which proved crucial when teaching me handstands), puts up with my sarcasm, and is a complete pleasure to train with.
My first session involved a biomechanical assessment to screen for weaknesses and imbalances. I loved this process as I’m always keen to make tweaks that allow me to get the most from my training and prevent injury. I was really impressed with how Russ’s highly-trained eyes spotted everything!
From there, we worked a lot on making sure that I was getting optimal muscle activation, especially my glutes, which are particularly stubborn! We also did a lot of core work, including various crawling patterns, which left my muscles so sore that I was almost convinced that I had fractured ribs.
We focused a lot on bodyweight exercises, including some gymnastics-based work, which I loved. I feel like the value of bodyweight training is so often neglected by people (trainers included!) so it was really refreshing and insightful to have it incorporated into my programme.
Russ also put together a strength and conditioning programme for me. It was great to work on basic movements such as squats and deadlifts and really perfect my form so that I built the confidence to start increasing my weights again. Russ also encouraged me to use kettlebells as part of my training. While at first I was dubious, I’ve fallen in love with the dynamic movement patterns that can be done using them.
I loved that as I learned and progressed, Russ continuously adapted my training programme and encouraged me to try new things. I can’t believe how much we packed into my time training together at Six3Nine!
When I arrived at Six3Nine, I was in fairly good shape and weight loss was by no means one of my goals. However, after 2 months of training at the practice, I noticed that my weight had dropped quite a lot; 3.4kg to be precise. I was a little concerned, so Russ suggested doing a body composition analysis to compare to the one I had during my initial consultation.
The results were beyond what we had anticipated.
I had lost 3.7kg of body fat, yet still managed to gain nearly half a kilo of muscle! The reading also showed an improvement in my left-right balance and a reduction in visceral fat. I achieved this simply by training on average 3 times a week while eating a diet of whole, unprocessed foods.
Improved Lifestyle, Knowledge + Confidence
Although I’m really pleased and fascinated by the body composition readings, what’s more important is that I achieved a completely invaluable knowledge and awareness of my own body. My time at Six3Nine has transformed the way that I train my body, as well as some aspects of my lifestyle.
I can now go into any gym and train with confidence that I know what I need to do for my body, and can experiment with different exercises and set-ups (however unconventional) until I find what is right for me.
I have an intense awareness of my own body. I can tell when I have eaten too much of the wrong foods, or too little of the right ones. I can detect little niggles and understand how to customise my workout to avoid injury. I can recognise the areas that I need to focus my training on and, importantly, I know when I just need to rest.
Six3Nine excels at helping people to realise their goals. When I arrived at the practice I didn’t have a single, solid goal; I wasn’t aiming to improve performance at a particular sport, lose weight or rehabilitate an injury. Instead I wanted to improve my aesthetic, get a little stronger, a little fitter, a little less stressed. What I didn’t realise at the time was that I was essentially seeking the tools to make constant improvements to my fitness and wellbeing, and that was exactly what I got.
Team Six3Nine understand that, for whatever reason, clients are going to move on from training at the practice at some point, and they want to ensure that these clients equipped with the best resources for long-term success. Not only are the team knowledgable, they’re genuinely keen to share their knowledge.
Thank you to the amazing, inspiring, lovely team at Six3Nine for inviting me to the practice, and a special thank you to Russ for all of your support!
If you’re interested in training at Six3Nine, contact the team to arrange a free consultation - it could be the best thing you ever do!