It’s the classic contradiction of a heatwave: on the one hand you wanna look bangin’ wearing only a vest top and a pair of denim short shorts, on the other it’s so hot you can’t bear the thought of exercising in case you actually expire.

This is the type of weather where I turn to Magnum ice creams and Prosecco as my main forms of sustenance, so there’s no way I can give up on exercise. So how can you keep fit in a heatwave without melting? Here are my top tips…

Get it done early

There’s nothing that motivates you to go for a run at 6.30am quite like the knowledge that it’s only going to get hotter outside.

I also have a slight obsession with early morning London in the summer – there’s something quite magical about that hazy sunshine and the feeling that you have normally busy places all to yourself.

The other benefit of exercising early is that it doesn’t matter if you get waylaid by spontaneous evening drinks in the sunshine – with your workout done, you’re free to kick back on those long summer evenings with friends/gins.

Wear proper workout gear

When it’s boiling hot I appreciate the value of good quality fitness gear more than any other time – mainly because if you’re wearing a fabric that’s too thick or doesn’t have sweat-wicking properties you can REALLY tell once the temperature soars.

I’m often asked if expensive fitness gear is worth it and personally I would say it is – my Sweaty Betty leggings may have cost £90, but I always reach for them when I want to stay comfy in gruelling conditions (in fact, if they’re clean I’ll always reach for them over every other pair of leggings I own, because they fit so well, hold everything in and include magic bum-lifting properties).

You don’t have to spend close to a hundred quid for good fitness gear though – high street sports chains are always offering high-tech garments in the sale – but this is not the time to go for more ‘fashion’ fitness stuff from New Look or Primark, as you’ll end up an angry, sweaty mess.

Oh and if you’re exercising outside always wear sun cream with UVA and UVB protection – otherwise you might achieve a great bod in the short term, but you’ll end up a wrinkly old prune in the long term.

Embrace the gym/studio

You know why you should be super, super excited about going to the gym during a heatwave? Because it has AIRCON. Honestly, what more could you want?

Seriously though, most gyms and studios are way cooler than your actual home when it’s boiling hot outside, so if anything you can use that as motivation to work out more, not less.

When you’re feeling sluggish and knackered because you’ve been too sweaty to sleep properly for a week, going to a fitness class can seem like a living nightmare, but the endorphin boost will leave you feeling energised (and perhaps tire you out enough that you can sleep despite the sweaty bedroom).

Change cardio for weights

If you seriously can’t deal with the thought of elevating your daily sweat levels with a cardio session, then don’t skip your workout – try strength training instead.

Squats, deadlifts, dumbbell workouts and planks are less likely to see you over-heat than a full-on cardio session, plus, in my experience, they are even better for transforming your body as summer holidays beckon.

Feeling nervy about trying weights for the first time? Read my guide to overcoming your fear here.

Drink up

Sorry to state the absolute obvious, but if you are sweating buckets due to exercise, you need to drink plenty to keep those hydration levels up.

I’ve made the mistake before of setting off on a 10k run without any water, mainly because I couldn’t be bothered to carry it, and ending up feeling dizzy, headache-y and extremely grumpy afterwards.

It’s not easy to carry around two litres of water when you’re actually exercising, so I recommend having plenty of water before your workout (I swig a couple of pint glasses as soon as I get up – LAD), as well as carrying water with you.

Walk everywhere

During the current heatwave I’ve been walking everywhere – particularly because if the choice is 20 sweaty minutes on the tube or 40 minutes walking, I’d rather take the longer, less horrific option!

I’ve also been meeting up with friends for a walk on the weekend, rather than always having to sit down together for a blow-out meal – it’s such an easy, enjoyable way to get exercise in the sun, and is great for your mental wellbeing as well as burning calories.

Don’t be hard on yourself

There are a few times when I’ve been running outside recently where I’ve had to take my pace right down to cope with the heat – and that’s fine.

A heatwave is not the time to aim for a PB, or think that you can suddenly up your mileage – it could actually be dangerous to push yourself too far in such harsh conditions. There will be many, many months of colder weather in which you can run for your life or go for that epicly long bike ride. For now just focus on staying alive and thinking about the lovely cold shower you can have at the end. Dreamy.

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What is it?

Sweat It in Aldwych, London offers a variety of HIIT classes targeting different areas of the body. These include Pillar Killer for the abs, Machine Guns for shoulders and arms, and Engine Room for the legs and glutes. Each class is split between exercise on the treadmill and floorwork.

My experience:

The first thing I discovered when it came to attending Sweat IT is that I can’t pronounce Aldwych –‘I’m off to a class in… Old Witch?’ I grumbled when I rolled out of bed at 5.45am. After a tube ride and a nice stroll through Covent Garden (minus all the blimmin’ tourists), I arrived for the 7am class, and ordered my post-workout smoothie to collect on the way out (turns out this is quite a taxing decision at this time of day, so I went for ‘Posh’ because it was the only one named after a Spice Girl).

As well as nice changing rooms and a large, well-equipped studio, I was also happy to discover a fridge of reusable water bottles that you can fill up and return at the end of the class. It’s so simple and SO much better for the environment than dumping plastic bottles in the bin, and I can’t believe more gyms aren’t doing this.

To the class, and essentially, Sweat It follows the same format as Barry’s Bootcamp or 1Rebel’s Reshape: a few minutes on the treadmill, a few minutes doing weights on the floor, and swapping back and forth until you feel like you might have a heart attack.

The difference is that Sweat It has taken this concept and ironed out some of the niggles. The floor equipment, for example, is better: each person has their own landmine bar, a ‘rig’ stacked with bars and weights, plus a shelf to store dumbbells on. Rather than having to scrabble out a space on the floor for planks, ab crunches and so on, you have a clearly demarcated zone (although no mat, which means your arse bones get a bit sore during V-sits). I did the Pillar Killer class, which lasts 50 minutes, and our floorwork included mountain climbers, Russian twists, side plank dips and weighted sit-ups.

Another improvement is the treadmills – these ones are seriously impressive. For example, you can switch between ‘run’ mode and ‘parachute’ mode (where all the movement of the belt comes from your legs) at just the press of a button, so there’s no fiddling about with that red cable. Changing speed doesn’t involve shuffling through all the numbers; instead, you hit the 10km per hour button on the screen and the speed change is almost instant.

They’re simple tweaks, admittedly, but honing a successful format is never a bad thing. Sweat It also introduces a new element with a ‘challenge’ at the end of the class. In pairs, we had to take it in turns to complete 80m on the treadmill running against a 20kg weight in parachute mode – which sounds weird, but was essentially VERY VERY HARD.

By the end of the class, I felt like I’d had a really thorough workout. Unfortunately, Sweat It suffers from the curse of all class-based studios: not being able to provide enough showers to prevent queues when a deluge of people suddenly leave a session at once. But the queue wasn’t horrendous and the toiletries were nice, plus there were swanky Dyson hairdryers, so all is forgiven.

Overall, I was really impressed with Sweat It and would definitely attend another class – it’s a great way to kickstart your day.

Fitness level:

You get to choose your dumbbell weight and there are always three speed options to choose from on the treadmill, so anyone with reasonable fitness would be fine at this class.

I burnt:

400 calories (which I then re-ate after turning up to work and finding someone had left a whole Colin the Caterpillar cake on the side).

More info here

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What is it?

You’ve probably heard of FRAME – with studios in Shoreditch, King’s Cross, Victoria and Hammersmith to name but a few, the fitness chain is taking over London, and bringing with it a unique line of quirky classes, from 80s Aerobics to Ass and Abs.

The class that caught my eye, however, was the Spice Girls workshop. I mean obviously – I was a child of the 90s, so anything involving the world’s best girl group was always going to appeal (FRAME definitely knows how to appeal to the millennial woman).

At £25, it’s not cheap, but I decided to sign up to the two-hour session with a mate who was equally keen to unleash her inner Geri one Bank Holiday Monday.

My experience:

It can basically be summed up like this – positives: the class was really fun, negatives: I realised that I am a terrible dancer.

Actually I kind of already knew the latter. Although I love dancing on a night out when I can just freestyle with a glass of wine or six, once I have to follow an actual choreographed routine I’m hopeless. I discovered this on my hen do, when I played the part Beyonce in my own music video (diva WHO?) but going to FRAME’s workshop only confirmed my complete lack of skill when it comes to learning and remembering a set dance routine.

The class started with a warm-up to the dulcet tones of Posh, Scary, Baby, Ginger and Sporty, before we ‘broke the ice’ by strutting one-by-one across the room using our best Spice Girls moves. Sounds terrifying I know, but once you’re in the room with a bunch of similarly over-excited 29-year-old women it would seem weird not to do an individual runway walk by means of introduction.

Then we started learning the actual routine to the classic tune, Stop. Our instructor, who I have no doubt is a normally professional dancer and can’t believe the hilarity of bunch of dweebs gyrating around thinking they look like popstars, was nevertheless very friendly and patient, offering to repeat any sections we didn’t understand (umm, all of it please).

After learning each section bit by bit, with a tonne of repetition, we were divided up to ‘perform’ our learnings back to the class. My group consisted solely of me and my mate Rosie, who managed to get lost about five seconds in and basically spent the rest of the ‘performance’ doing what we do best: freestyling like a pair of goddamn queens.

I realise I’m making the whole thing sound like a bit of an ordeal but the whole point is it was LOADS of fun and no pressure to actually be good, which is lucky considering we basically recreated the dancefloor seduction scene from the Inbetweeners movie.

Fitness level: Any

I burnt: A quite frankly STAGGERING 750 calories, even though I was enjoying it so much I barely noticed I was exercising. Now that’s a win.

More info here.

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f45 8 week challenge review

Even if you’re into fitness, it’s always good to shake up your exercise regime every now and again, and after getting stuck in a workout rut over recent months, I decided to take on the F45 8-week challenge.

If you haven’t heard about F45, let me explain…F45 is a group training concept that originated in Australia (hence why you’re almost guaranteed to hear a few Aussie accents in one of the London branches!)

Each studio runs a class on repeat throughout the day: one class all through Monday, a different one all through Tuesday, and so on. Part of the appeal of F45 is that these classes are regularly changed – you never get that feeling of déjà vu that can happen so often in a structured class.

The classes are HIIT and circuits based, but you could be doing anything at each station, from lifting weights, to boxing with a partner, to TRX press-ups. Each class is 45 minutes long and involves short bursts of activity with a quick rest in between each.

review f45 8 week challenge

It’s a formula that’s been massively popular – there are now lots of F45 studios all over the world, and thousands of people have posted their body transformations on Instagram. Many of these body makeovers are down to the ‘8 week challenge’ – a program that requires participants to go to five F45 sessions a week and stick to a diet plan available via the F45 challenge app.

One of the promises of the plan is that you’ll gain muscle if you follow it – which definitely appealed to me, as despite upping my strength training recently, I’ve still got a long way to go before I feel strong and toned. As a vegetarian, I also struggle to get enough protein, so the eating plans (which include a meat-free option) are another sell.

At the start of the plan, I was weighed and had pictures taken in my underwear from the front, side and back (honestly not as horrendous as it sounds, it’s done in the female changing room where everyone is always in their pants anyway). This is so you can see the physical changes at the end of the plan – because as we all know, the scales are not the most reliable indicator of how successful you’ve been.

THE EXERCISE

So how have I got on?

Well, firstly the classes. These are brilliant. At the Paddington branch, where I’ve been training, owners Cam and Dani have an infectious energy and enthusiasm that perks up even the most cold, drizzly morning (and in February there were PLENTY of those).

Also, because the classes are so varied I haven’t felt any workout dread. Classes vary hugely,  including MKatz (mainly weights based), Brooklyn, which features high-intensity cardio and a round of boxing, and Foxtrot, one of the few sessions where I genuinely thought I might throw up towards the end. While they’re tough, the fact you move round the circuit means you’re never stuck on an exercise you’re not keen on for long, and there’s a great camaraderie between everyone who trains there, which definitely keeps you going.

F45 8 week challenge london paddington

Over the course of eight weeks, I never got bored of the workouts, and I genuinely think you could go for months without getting fed up. It’s also lovely that you get to know your fellow class-goers so well; by the end I felt like I was in a little 7.50am club where we would all chat in changing rooms afterwards and compare notes on which stations we found best/worst. Having this team spirit definitely makes the experience more enjoyable, and it doesn’t at all feel forced or clique-y.

THE FOOD

Luckily, the vast majority of the recipes have been really tasty, and I’ve been introduced to a few new veggie foods such as tempeh (do not fall into my mistake and sample this raw – it tastes MUCH better cooked in the recommended spices!!). I was also pleased that it didn’t cost me a million pounds to buy all the ingredients, which has been the case on other meal plans.

As for hunger, it’s been totally fine. The first breakfast on my first day was an avocado chocolate smoothie. As the greediest person alive, I was genuinely worried that I’d be ravenous again by the time I sat down at my desk at 9am – but you need to trust the plan, because actually by upping my fats and proteins (I am normally very much a carb-fiend) I stayed full much longer than I expected.

As well as reducing my carb intake, the plan has also drastically reduced the amount of sweet treats I’m munching my way through. While normally snack time in the office would involve foraging around the freebie table looking for cakes and chocolate, now I’m following the plan and having snacks such as a protein shake made with almond milk, chickpeas and nuts. I have to say I did draw the line at the ‘celery boats’ though, since it turned out this just constituted a stick of celery with some almond butter on it. No hun, no.

In week two my sister was staying with me for a few days, which means she got to try out the meal plans. It made me realise that unless you have a gigantic fridge, doing this challenge alongside a housemate or partner would be tricky, as there is SO MUCH FOOD at the beginning of the week (those bags of spinach are massive beyond all reason)

However, my sis – also a veggie, much to my mum’s horror – was really impressed with the meals, which included breakfasts such as scrambled eggs and asparagus (warning – asparagus does weird stuff to your wee!), lunches including lentil and chickpeas with courgette, and dinners such as spiced rice and greens.

I admit I have had a few slip-ups (mainly due to my sweet tooth) but these have certainly not been as bad as my normal routine; think a square or two of dark chocolate rather than hoovering up a massive Dairy Milk, or indulging in some Halo Top (it’s basically calorie-free, right?) instead of mainlining Ben & Jerry’s.

The biggest tests on the eating regime came when I was eating out or on holiday. In these cases, I tried to stick as closely to the principles of the F45 eating plan as possible – choosing high protein, low carb options, not going mad for any sugary stuff and sticking to decaffeinated drinks.

That brings me on the most dramatic incident of my first fortnight, when the plan requires you give up caffeine, as well as dairy. I decided to prepare myself for this by kicking the caffeine a week early, as I couldn’t bear the thought of coffee and sugar cravings all at once.

Unfortunately, after a week caffeine-free (I had a splitting headache the first day but was fine after that) I completely forgot about my new regime and had a coffee with a friend at the weekend. What followed was the most delirious night’s sleep I have EVER had – I couldn’t get to sleep for ages because my heart was hammering out of my chest and I then proceeded to wake up what felt like every 45 minutes throughout the night.

It’s really made me see what a massive effect caffeine has on your body, and I’m considering giving it up for good, rather than just for the first two weeks of the plan. Cheese and milk chocolate on the other hand? I’m not so sure…

THE RESULTS

I am really pleased with the results of the challenge – I feel fitter than I have in ages and also have given my eating habits, which had strayed into the dangerously carb and sugar-focused, a big reboot.

I’ll confess, I’ve meandered slightly from the food brief – some weeks I would buy the ingredients on the list and end up doing my own thing with them. But by simply eating a more balanced vegetarian diet I’ve noticed an improvement in my skin and a reduction in stomach fat.

I haven’t lost loads of weight, but then I didn’t expect to since I was already exercising five times a week. However I definitely look more toned and more importantly have noticed I can lift heavier weights and sustain tough cardio exercises for longer.

I definitely recommend the 8 week challenge. Those in my F45 branch who really committed to the eating plan have seen staggering results, so if you’re willing to put in the work and dedication you can definitely shape-up successfully with this challenge.

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I am undoubtedly a morning person. Given the choice between doing a task at 6am and 10pm, I would nearly always opt for the crack of dawn (accept when it comes to morning raves – after one very unsatisfactory experience, I’ve put those in my hate-abase for life). By 9pm, I’m barely able to stumble to the bathroom to brush my teeth, let alone engage my brain and body in any kind of exertion.

However, even with my inclination towards the early hours, I have to admit morning workouts in the winter are tough. Darkness and freezing temperatures are hardly enticing, especially when the alternative is staying warm in bed, or loitering around on the sofa with toast and tea before work.

Given the fact I’m allergic to evening activity, however, I basically HAVE to do my workouts in the morning. And, whether it’s because you’re an evening sloth, work long hours or have a busy social life, you may well be in the same boat.

So how do I manage it? Here are a few tips I’ve learnt from my pre-work fitness sessions…

Go to bed earlier

No-brainer right? If your alarm is set for 5.45am, you can’t stick to your normal bedtime routine – but this fact seems to be lost on a surprising amount of people.

Personally, I’m in bed by 10pm (see the previously mentioned sloth phase that kicks in at 8pm). Some people might think that’s laughable, but whatever your normal bedtime, you definitely need to adjust it so that you’re still getting a full night when you adopt your new wake-up routine.

There have been approx. 2 million studies on how getting enough sleep makes you less stressed, less hungry and more beautiful (or something like that), so assuming you can sacrifice sleep as part of your workout regime just doesn’t cut it.

Prep your stuff beforehand

I’m dishing out this piece of advice like I ALWAYS stick to it (sadly I don’t), but leaving the house at 6.30am is immeasurably easier if I’ve prepped the night before. Plus, my work outfits are a hundred times better if I don’t choose them in 3 seconds while stumbling around in the dark – and I never risk accidentally forgetting to bring knickers (truly the worst).

The evening before a dawn workout, I pack a bag with my work clothes for the next day, makeup, protein powder, toiletries etc, and also lay out my gym clothes so that the amount of decisions I need to make in the morning are ridiculously minimal.

Don’t give yourself time to think

Leading on from my previous point, there is a lot to be said for morning workouts in that you literally don’t have time to talk yourself out of it.

If I’m heading to the gym in the evening, I’ll probably come up with a thousand excuses for not going while I sit at my desk all afternoon. On the other hand when my alarm goes off first thing, I don’t even let myself consider the possibility of not going to my class or the gym – it’s as mandatory as going to work, not optional.

I’ve wanged on a lot here about the importance of making exercise a habit, but it’s so true. Once rolling out of bed and straight to the gym becomes habitual, the struggle is drastically reduced.

Try a scheduled class

There are two big benefits to booking a morning class rather than trying to drag yourself out for a run or to the gym. Firstly, the fact it starts at a strict time means you absolutely cannot “just have another 10 minutes in bed” – you have to get up and moving.

Secondly, motivation can be difficult on cold winter mornings, but if you have an instructor shouting at you then you’re far less likely to simply lie on the mats listening to Rihanna and doing the occasional sit up than you would alone in the gym.

Get someone else on board

One thing that has made a big difference in my morning motivation is persuading my husband to get up and head to the gym at the same time (separate gyms, we’re not that annoying).

It means he no longer lies in bed grumbling while I try (and fail) to silently get ready for the gym; and it also means if I’m having a ‘meh’ day he’s more likely to motivate me to get out of the door.

If you have a partner or flatmate who can adopt your routine with you, it’s really helpful. An alternative would be to promise to meet a friend at the gym or get an early morning running buddy – you’ll feel dead guilty if you don’t make it, which means extra resolve to get out of the door.

Look on it positively

If you see exercising first thing as the ultimate hardship then you’re always going to end up groaning at the sound of your alarm.

But, if you think of the positive aspects – arriving at your desk feeling like you’ve already achieved something, enjoying a hearty breakfast to reward your efforts and most importantly, having your evenings free to see friends/cook elaborate dinners/ lie down watching Netflix for four hours, then you will see early morning exercise as one of the most savvy things you can do.

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