muddy shoes

Running is amazing – for all the reasons I listed here, there’s a lot to be said for popping on your trainers and heading out the front door.

However, there are a few *niche* gripes that you only recognise once you start to run regularly. Introducing the problems only runners will understand…

1. When people take up the ENTIRE pavement in front of you.

Your patience level for pavement hogging reaches zero when you’re running. Okay, you’re not an arsehole – a mum with a buggy or someone in a wheelchair can’t help taking up a narrow path. But when you have a group of three people walking astride TOWARDS you and they still don’t get out the frickin’ way, you’re sorely tempted to just trundle on right through them.

2. Anyone who shouts piss-taking ‘encouragement’ at you.

And let’s be honest, any randomer (usually a 13-year-old boy) who shouts ‘faster’ at you in the street is taking the piss.

3. Discovering your headphones have tangled themselves into oblivion.

This ALWAYS happens on those days when you’re short on time. And you always stare at your headphones in disbelief like ‘What the hell, I only left you alone for half an hour and you’ve done this to yourself!!


4. Needing the loo during a run

Oh my god is there anything worse? The answer is no, no there isn’t.

5. Getting home from a ‘needing the loo’ run to find that some other household member is in the bathroom

This is a true test of love and loyalty for everyone involved in the situation.

6. Disobedient traffic lights

Ok so here’s the thing: occasionally, you’ll be in your running groove, and hope that every pedestrian crossing you come to is green so you can speed on through. Other times, you’re like ‘dear god I’m dying, please let there be a red man coming up’. In both scenarios the traffic lights will do the OPPOSITE of what you require from them *shakes fist*

7. Wet leaves on the ground

Much like all public transport in the UK, your response to travelling through a slippery, sludgy bunch of leaves is basically ‘ugh’.

8. The earbud that constantly falls out of your ear for an entire run

This is a weird one, because you can be wearing the same earbuds for AGES and then suddenly, you’ll go for a run and one side will just continuously pop out despite you ramming it in with ever-increasing force. Did your ear hole get bigger or something? *checks in mirror*

9. Rain

This is the worst (except if you kind of didn’t want to go on your run anyway and you can point outside at the light shower outside like ‘Oh look, I couldn’t POSSIBLY run in this hurricane’.)

10. Beauty articles that tell you only to wash your hair once a week.

Given that post-run your hair looks like it belongs to one of the more disgusting peasants on Game of Thrones, there is no way you’re leaving it seven whole days before washing it… (see below: sexy huh?)

post running hair

11. Waiting for your watch to get GPS signal

Me to Fitbit: ‘You’re not even trying, are you?’

12. Running + a runny nose

Just eww.

13. When someone overtakes you while they’re running for a bus.

It is truly humiliating when someone wearing jeans, a jumper, smart leather shoes and a shoulder bag sprints past you while you are in FULL RUNNING GEAR. Although in fairness they clearly have more motivation to be putting in a sprint session at that point.

14. People not sympathising with any of your running problems.

Because after all, you have chosen to do this to yourself.

 

 

What is it?

H.E.A.T. is Virgin Active’s “newest and toughest class yet”, lasting 60 minutes and combining sessions on the SkillMill (similar to the treadmill, except powered by your feet) with resistance training and intense cardio on the floor.

My experience:

Having already tried out Gymbox’s “toughest ever class” Flatline, I was looking forward to seeing how Virgin Active’s killer session measured up.

The first piece of equipment I was introduced to was a harness attached to the wall by an elasticated rope. The idea is you strap it around your torso and then run/crawl away from the wall, fighting against the resistance of the elasticated band. About the least kinky use ever for a harness, but it definitely works you hard.

virgin-active-heat-review

Another new piece of equipment I encountered was the SkillMill, which is a bit like a curved treadmill but without the “on” button. Instead, the power of your feet is what drives the machine, with the option to whack up the resistance to makes things tougher.

skillmill-virgin-active

Before the class started, I was strapped into a Myzone heart rate monitor – this beamed by heart rate onto a screen on the wall, as well as calories burnt.

If you’re a competitive type, you’ll love this – the information of everyone in the class is displayed on the wall, so you can see who’s heart rate is in the ‘red zone’ (which I believe is around 90% of your maximum heart rate).

virgin active heat review

As a class we were split into two groups, alternating between the SkillMill and floor work. I started off on the SkillMill. This bit of kit takes a bit of time to get used to – at the start I was worried I was going to fly off the back – but once you get used to it, it’s great.

We alternated between walking, sprints and high resistance training, where you lean forward on the SkillMill and power through with your legs (see below). It was tough, but in a good way!

skillmill virgin active

My favourite bit was definitely the sprints – I feel like I know where I am with a sprint and it’s one way I’m guaranteed to get my heart rate up into that fat-burning ‘red zone’.

Once I was on the floor work, I found it a bit trickier to get my heart rate as high, which was a bit frustrating as I felt like I was working my arse off! The floor work included bear crawls, kettlebell squats, battle ropes, lunges and of course, plenty of work with that harness, providing a real full body workout.

I was very impressed with the range of equipment available (I tried the class at Virgin Active’s swanky new Mansion House gym) and think the class definitely lived up to its goal of increasing cardiovascular endurance and all round strength.

At the end of the class my heart rate monitor told me I’d burnt off over 500 calories, which is not bad going for someone of my weight (some of the bigger blokes burnt off 1,000 – oh the things I would eat if that was me!)

I’d definitely go again, although first of all I need to work on my press-up game – seriously, what is this?!!?!

Fitness level: 

At least a moderate level of fitness, in my opinion.

I burnt:

500 calories

More info here.

Last Thursday was certainly not your average weekday evening for me – rather than a gym session then dinner in front of the telly (my life is so glamorous), I found myself at the Honorable Artillery Company near Old Street, competing in The Great Row for Cancer Research UK.

The challenge was to row a marathon, 26.2 miles, as a team of six, all the while competing against 13 other teams to complete the distance first.

As well as being a fairly challenging experience, it was also an educational one! Here are 6 things I discovered…

1. 26.2 miles is a REALLY long way to row

An admittedly fairly obvious statement to start with – but I’ll be honest, I hadn’t quite appreciated how long this distance would take to row. Sure, I’ve run the marathon, and I remember it being bloody hard, but I assumed on a rowing machine we’d be done in about an hour and I’d go home to put my feet up (clearly, I hadn’t thought this through).

My boyfriend even said to me when I signed up ‘Errrm, you do realise you’ll have to row about 7k each right?’ and I was like ‘Yeah yeah piece of cake.’ Nope, it’s hard. Luckily the atmosphere at the event was electric, with club tunes pumping out and plenty of encouraging teammates – plus, we were rowing for an amazing cause, which definitely helps you find that extra power!

2. Technique is everything when it comes to good rowing

About the only wise thing I did when I signed up for The Great Row is take advice from Patricia Carswell, who blogs all things rowing over on Girl on the River. She gave me some really good advice on technique; namely, that you shouldn’t be whacking the resistance on the erg up to 10 when you train (it’s not good for your back or technique) and that most of the work should be done by the legs, not the arms.

While we were doing the marathon row, she was great at pointing technical points out to me, such as keeping the length in each stroke (sometimes I tend to get a little frantic), which really helped me up my game rowing-wise.

Since taking her advice, I’ve also noticed LOADS of people are using the rowing machine incorrectly in the gym. I’d say the majority think it’s all about speed and a mega-high resistance, but their technique is shocking and actually looks like they could be doing themselves some damage! If you’re not really sure how to do it properly than I urge you to watch this video Patricia sent me, and educate yourself.

3. I have a weird crush on Dan Walker

Does he count as a weird crush, or a normal one? We were lucky enough to have Dan presenting on the night and I must say he has a certain tall and jolly appeal.

Staring lovingly at Dan with a sweaty ponytail

4. Teamwork is everything

I was SO lucky with my team, especially considering I’d never met any of them before. As well as Patricia, there was also Georgina from Fitcetera,  TV presenter and blogger Olivia Cox, Made In Chelsea’s Akin Solange-Caulker and finally Akin’s lovely friend Devon. Everyone was brilliant – no one had a tantrum and gave up, no one turned their nose up at taking the position of ‘foot holder’, and the whole team was really great at encouraging each other to keep the hell going.

5. CrossFit makes you hardcore

From the start of the rowing marathon, it was clear one time was extremely dominant – the CrossFit team. They finished way ahead of everyone else, whereas we were close to the bottom, which suggests to me that I probably need to start CrossFitting IMMEDIATELY.

6. Cancer Research’s goal is for 3 in 4 people to survive cancer in 20 years

Now here’s something truly important that I wasn’t aware of – Cancer Research UK’s next big aim is for three quarters of those diagnosed with cancer to survive it (currently, it’s one in two). They hope to achieve this amazing feat within the next two decades, but obviously, they require a huge amount of fundraising to support this, which is where you guys come in! Sign up to take part in The Great Row yourself and aim to raise at least £25 per person – more info here. You can even train for free at David Lloyd gyms every Friday in March. Personally, I can tell you it really is a rewarding challenge to take on; I found it tough but the feeling of achievement once you’re done is incredible!

The final sprint to the finish!

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fitness first SHRED

What is it? 

This new Fitness First class promises to burn fat and build muscle with a combination of compound lifting and HIIT training.

My experience: 

As someone who has the muscle strength of a flea and needs to change that, Fitness First’s new SHRED class sounded right up my street.

Firstly, it’s upbeat – I tried the class on a dreary Monday morning, but the loud music and fast pace quickly got everyone smiling and in the mood to push themselves. It probably helped that, since the class was laid on for press, Instagram sensation Zanna Van Dijk was also there, and she was brilliant at encouraging and pushing us as we worked through a series of exercise.

The idea of SHRED is that you alternate quick HIIT sessions – such as jumping up and down from a step or high knees runs – with weights. Given my limited upper body strength I kept the kgs on my bar fairly light, but I could still really feel I was working my muscles, and while some classes (I’m looking at you, Flatline) are all about lifting as much as you can regardless of technique, there was a lot more focus on doing it ‘properly’ at SHRED.

fitness first SHRED

In fact, I’d say it’s ideal for people like me who aren’t thrilled at the prospect of hanging out in the weights section of the gym but still want to incorporate some weight-lifting into their routine. Plus, the stuff you learn here will probably make you more confident when you do hit the gym floor!

The toughest bit of the session was the challenge they gave us at the end. We had to pair up and, while one partner did squats with the bar, the other had to do a standing sit against the wall, before switching. The challenge was how many squats each pair could do in five minutes, and by the end, I genuinely thought my legs might fall off.

fitness first SHRED

I even tried to claim to Zanna, who told me to squat deeper, that I was ‘too tall’ to go any lower, before remembering that this excuse would not wash with a gorgeous 6 ft 1 personal trainer. DAMN.

Unsurprisingly, we didn’t win the challenge, but I did really enjoy the class, and think I definitely got a bit of booty-shaping out of it!

Fitness level:

Anyone, but in particular I’d say it’s perfect for people who have good cardio fitness but need a bit of guidance with their strength training.

I burnt:

250 calories

More info here.

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review veggie pret menu

If you’re vegetarian or vegan, Pret is definitely one of the best lunch options on the high street, since the company actually acknowledges we don’t all just want to eat egg and cress sandwiches every day until we die (probably of boredom).

In fact, the meat-free Veggie Pret in Soho proved such a success that it’s become a permanent fixture, and now there’s a brand new menu for us to enjoy across all stores.

pret apple pomegranate pot

Being a real martyr for the veggie cause, I decided to put myself out on a limb for you guys and try a load of stuff from the new menu, which is available now. Here’s what I thought…

Cauliflower and Chickpea Dhal – £3.45, VEGAN

This was the stuff of of dreams. All too often veggie soups can be seriously bland, but this soup, which contains delicate cauliflower florets alongside chickpeas, split peas, lentils, tomato and some bloody delicious spices was an absolute TREAT for the tastebuds. Another plus point is that it’s thick rather than watery, so you’ll stay full.

Apple and Pomegranate Overnight Oats – £1.99, VEGAN


Gluten-free oats meet almond milk, grated apple and pomegranate – this is one of Pret’s new breakfast offerings, suitable for vegans. It was perfectly edible, although slightly underwhelming, and the portion size is a bit on the skimpy side for greedy types like me (it certainly wouldn’t make a whole breakfast in itself!) Personally I prefer Pret’s classic bircher muesli, which is flippin’ delicious.

Rainbow Veggie Pot, £2.25 – VEGAN

Pret Rainbow Veggie Pot

A colourful pot combining humous, chantenay carrots, radishes and mustard cress. This was lovely in the same way that any crudités/humous combo is infinitely pleasing. I’ll be honest, for a week’s worth of lunches you’d be much better off buying a big tub of humous and some vegetables, but obviously Pret is about convenience, not money-saving, and on that count this is a winner. It’s so pretty too, like a little vegetable garden!

Greens & Grains Soup, £3.45 – VEGAN

Another freakin’ delicious soup. It looks like I’m now going to have a few rivals to my love of Pret’s Pea & Mint. This tasty lunchtime option contains a load of vegetables (spinach, petit pois, broccoli, basil, leek, cavolo nero, onion) mixed up with brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat and millet to provide body. As my South Wales brethren would say, it’s LUSH.

Courgetti Veggie Pot, £2.25 – VEGGIE

Pret Courgetti Veggie Pot

I’m not going to lie, I found this one a bit ‘meh’, mainly because too the very watery raita – excess liquid is a problem I always get with courgetti! It also felt a bit lacking in flavour and excitement, although credit where credit’s due, it’s certainly healthy.

Asian Greens Veggie Pot, £2.49 – VEGAN

Pret Asian Greens Veggie Pot

A lovely way to get your greens, this pot contains avocado, peas, edamame and coriander (soz coriander haters!) The veggies are brought to life by the Asian dressing, with is really tasty and satisfyingly thick.

There is also a bunch of other stuff on the new menu including a vegan Mango Chia Pot which is literally always sold out (I reckon it must be a good’un), Coconut Porridge and Spiced Corn and Quinoa Soup. Additionally, the chain will be offering coconut milk versions of its hot drinks, which makes a nice change from bloody soy milk.

All in all, a good update from Pret, because anyone offering more options to veggies gets my approval!