bxr-skills-london-review

What is it?

Located at the (dead swanky) new BXR London gym in Marylebone, Skills is a pay-as-you-go class designed to hone your boxing skills and get you fit along the way. Each day of the week, the class focuses on a different technique, so by the end of it you’ll basically by professional boxer Anthony Joshua (who, incidentally, is on the committee of the new gym).

My experience:

First of all I’d just like to toot my horn and let you all know that I woke up at friggin’ 5.50am to review this class for you guys – YOU’RE WELCOME.

By the time I arrived at 7am, I had just about woken up, which meant I could pay attention while our instructor demonstrated the correct way to punch the bag and move your feet around (amazing how few box-fitness classes actually bother with this).

Once we’d mastered the technique (I use the term ‘mastered’ loosely in my case) it was on to a fast and furious warm-up, involving burpees, press-ups and all manner of exercises that no one in their right mind would do at that hour of the morning.

bxr-skills-london-review

When we were fully sweaty, it was on to the boxing, and, similar to 1Rebel’s class Rumble, this involved slowly building up a sequence of punches until we were, essentially, beating the shit out of our punch bags.

The only slight issue I had was being able to see our instructor at the front of the studio. The nature of the class means there are whopping great punch bags hanging everywhere and – like all trendy workout classes these days – the lights were dimmed, so several times I really couldn’t see what he was doing, and had to rely on copying those around me instead.

 

bxr-skills-london-review

However, in general I would say the instruction was good and there was more focus on technique – for example, how to kick correctly – than I normally get at these type of classes.

Perhaps the most memorable part of the session was when we were told to partner up (always terrifying for awkward people like me) and told to punch each other in the stomach. Yep really, partner one had to stand with their hands above their head and brace their abs while partner two repeatedly punched them in the stomach. This was fine until the instructor decided that my partner wasn’t whacking me hard enough and took it upon himself to beat the crap out of my abs while I stood there like ‘Umm actually, I don’t entirely agree that this is pain-free’.

All in all, a fun and educational class, but probably not one to try while you’re on your period…

Fitness level:

Any fitness level, as long as you don’t mind getting punched.

 I burnt:

300 calories

More info. Classes start at £15.

 

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F45 Tottenham Court Road London

What is it?

F45 is a fitness phenomenon that started in Australia, home of fit people (in every sense of the word). Since launching several years ago it has spread internationally, with the a new UK studio opening in London’s Tottenham Court Road. Imagine circuit training but with trendy studios, tonnes of good equipment and upbeat, knowledgable instructors and you get the idea.

My experience:

There are 27 class ‘programs’ available from F45, but I tried Athletica, which promises to get you leaner, faster and more agile in 45 minutes (all music to my ears).

I was a bit wary when I arrived at the press taster class and saw a couple of huge, muscly male instructors, not because I have a problem with big, muscly men – quite the opposite – but because in my experience that tends to mean ridiculously heavy weights, testosterone-fuelled competition and lots of bootcamp-style shouting in your ear, which is meant to be encouraging but I just find aggravating.

F45 Tottenham Court Road London

Luckily, I was completely wrong. In fact, what struck me most about the class was how welcoming and inclusive it was. Sometimes it’s nice to have an instructor who’s cheers you on rather than screaming in your face, and weights that are challenging but still actually lift-able (if I go to one more class where they assume that EVERYONE can run around swinging two 30kg weights off their arms I will scream).

That’s not to say this isn’t hard work. In small groups of three or four, we moved our way round a series of exercises including kettle bell squats, Russian twists, TRX pull-ups, battle ropes and pushing a weighted sled up and down a track. By the end I was about 85% sweat. But there was a fun, upbeat feel to the class and a good camaraderie among the groups, which helped everyone get through the intense exercise (we did three 20 seconds bursts with a short break in between each, before moving to the next exercise).

F45 Tottenham Court Road London

I’ll be honest, the only not so great aspect of this place is the changing rooms. F45 is not alone in this; the problem with lots of studios that offer classes is that everyone hits the changing room at the same time, which means there’s not enough room for everyone to shower/get dressed/dry their hair at the same time. A warning for shy types: the showers at F45 are pretty open (one girl kept screaming to her friends outside “I can see everyone naked, it’s horrible” while I was also in the shower, which was flattering).

However, changing room gripes aside, I definitely recommend this class – it’s a great way to set yourself up for the day and I never felt like I’d deserved a breakfast more!

F45 Tottenham Court Road London

This is the kettlebell I accidentally swung into my crotch. NOT ADVISABLE.

Fitness level:

Average to good, although it’s a really encouraging class so even if you’re crap someone will help push you on!

I burnt:

510 calories (woohooo!)

 

From £25 per class (7-day trial for £20). More info here.

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Just like every other basic bitch twenty-something woman in London, I love a good brunch, and having lived in the Clapham area for the past few years, I’ve tried A LOT of them.

As a vegetarian, you often want to know beforehand that you’ll be decently catered for in a restaurant – otherwise they might just throw you a few leaves or a potato and expect you to be happy (FFS).

That’s why I’ve rounded up the best vegetarian brunches in Clapham for all veggies to try – and yes, this was a lot of fun to research.

ESCA

esca vegetarian brunch clapham

Best veggie dish: Melted Smoked Chedder and Crushed Avocado Omelette, £7.90

This cafe has had a revamp recently, and the interiors and customer service are now so much better. The biggest improvement though is the menu; gone is the tired all breakfast buffet and now they serve up delicious omelettes crammed with flavour.

The cheese-filled omelette topped with avocado is an absolute winner if you’re looking for something hearty and filling.

THE DAIRY

the dairy vegetarian brunch clapham

Best veggie dish: Fried Cacklebean egg, cavolo nero and crispy potato £10

This trendy restaurant has food critics raving, but a word of warning – the portions here are all about quality rather than quantity, which might not be what you’re looking for if you’re hungover and ravenous.

However, if it’s fine ingredients and unusual flavours you’re after, then The Dairy is the place to go.

We were perched at high stools for our breakfast, which for me consisted of a vegetarian version of the beef cheek dish on the brunch menu (they replace the beef with butternut squash, as you can see above).
It was very tasty, if a little tiny post-gym. Basically, what I’m confessing here is that I went home and had some toast afterwards. #sorrynotsorry

BRICKWOOD

brickwood avocado and feta on toast

(Image: Instagram/TheLondonFoodQueen)

 

Best veggie dishes:

Smashed avocado with feta and poached eggs on sourdough £9
French toast brioche with mascarpone and maple banana £9.90

You need to get to Brickwood before 10.30am if you want to sit down straight away – with it’s Aussie charm and brilliant coffee, this is one of Clapham’s most popular brunch joints.

My go-to on the menu is definitely the avocado, feta and eggs on toast because let’s face it, it’s the #basicbitch dish of choice.

However, if you’re looking for something sweet, the French toast is unbelievably good. I mean it’s probably about a million calories but definitely worth every one of them.

After much research, I’ve found the best tactic  is to take a mate and go halves, treating the French toast as dessert.

ECO

eco vegetarian brunch clapham

Best veggie brunch: Homemade granola, creamy yoghurt and fresh fruit, £4.95

Eco is a bit weird in that it’s kind of a pizza restaurant but also does everything else. I like the chilled-out, industrial vibe though, and the service is quick and efficient.

If you love baked eggs and frittatas, this restaurant has some great veggie options, but in the interest of changing things up (and because I was too hungover for anything big when I visited), I’m including this lighter number from the breakfast menu.

Sweet, juicy strawberries, crunchy granola and thick, creamy yoghurt – combined with an Americano this is just what you need (incidentally while I ate this, my boyfriend was eating a massive 11am calzone, so we must have looked like a strange pair!)

THE MANOR

the manor clapham vegetarian brunch

Best veggie brunch: Poached eggs, potato flatbread and sorrel, £7.50 with avocado side, £4.50

The Manor is sister restaurant to The Dairy, and equally lauded by critics, but I have to say I prefer this place, which is on a side street of the main road.

For brunch it’s a lighter, more spacious environment that The Dairy, plus it’s cheaper and the portions are slightly bigger, but come with the same interesting flavour combinations and textures.

I’m aware this brunch looks a little weird from the snap above, but four of us had it and agreed it was bloody delicious! The potato flatbread was salty and filling, the poached eggs were perfectly done and I loved the creamy sauce on top. Avocado on the side but it made a lovely addition too.

THE CLAPHAM NORTH

clapham north brunch vegetarian

Best veggie brunch: Wild mushroom, spinach and potato hash topped with melted tallegio cheese, crispy shallots, £9.50

Considering the Clapham North is a pub, I was amazed with the array of brunch options, but the enticement of wild mushrooms was too much to pass up on.

When this pan was placed in front of me, I have to admit I was a bit like ‘Is that it?’, but the flavours of the mushrooms and cheese combined were so rich that actually I felt satisfied for hours afterwards (read: cheese coma).

Some of the stuff on the menu here is wildly expensive considering it is a pub (and you smell the faint night-before booze aroma in the air), but if you get a window booth and choose carefully it’s a nice, laid-back place to go on a weekend.

What are your favourite vegetarian brunch spots? Let me know in the comments below!

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Having got engaged in September, I finally chose my wedding dress a couple of weeks ago.

It’s a gorgeous dress, if I do say so myself, and I love everything about it; the way it fits, the way it hangs, and mainly the fact it’s totally different to your standard strapless ballgown.

However, beautiful dress aside, one thing that helped me decisively part with my cash was the shop owner’s attitude towards me. Or more specifically, my body.

Because when it came to my measurements, she was basically the first person I’d spoken to at a dress shop who didn’t enquire about my diet/weight loss plans ahead of the wedding. In fact, she specifically said she wouldn’t advise me getting thinner ahead of my marriage in October.

As someone who’s a size 8, this shouldn’t really be a surprising event. But actually, it was, because if there’s one thing I’ve learnt about getting married it’s this: whatever dress size you start at, people expect you to get skinnier.

I’ve had numerous people ask me whether I’m planning to lose weight for my wedding, as if there’s this expectation that I should be cutting my calorie intake in half and slotting in an extra two hours of cardio a day in order to be worthy of becoming a wife.

And the question I want to ask all of them (and probably would, if I wasn’t so damn British) is “Are you f**king SERIOUS?!”

It’s not that I think I’m a smokin’ hot babe, FYI, it’s more because it seems SO wrong to me that there’s this expectation on brides to starve themselves for what’s meant to be the best, happiest day of their lives.

Seriously, I’m a size 8, how small do these people think I should go? And even if I was twice the size, I certainly shouldn’t be grilled about my food plans for the next six months. Interestingly, similar questions certainly haven’t been heading my boyfriend’s way – in fact, the endless questioning I’ve had since getting engaged would suggest that a wedding is almost a solo entreprise on the woman’s part, with the bloke just turning up on the day to find the pre-planned scenario around him.

Under all this pressure, it’s no wonder that one survey found over 70 per cent of brides want to lose a ‘significant’ amount of weight before getting hitched. It’s even led to the awful term ‘brideorexia’ to be coined, which shows that this burden to look perfect, whatever that is, is really no laughing matter.

Let’s get this straight – I know plenty of people do want to go on a sensible diet before their wedding, and if that’s what helps push them through those spin sessions then good luck to them – but that ambition to get healthier should come from within, rather than everyone around a soon-to-be bride being like “Umm are we still going to have that bum when the wedding day comes round?”

Personally, my goal this year is weight gain (in muscle, not cake sadly). I’m fed up of having to scramble for the smallest weights at a group class or my arms collapsing on me when I try and do a press-up, so muscle-building and toning is what it’s all about for me in the next few months. Far from getting skinnier for my wedding, my plan is to get hench enough to carry my new husband over the doorstep!

 

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sports wear primark spring summer 2017
I’m going to be honest, I normally associate Primark with cheap knickers, Christmas jumpers and colourful crossbody bags, not fitness gear.

However, the retailer has brought out its own sports line for spring, and as someone who can’t really afford to splash out 90 quid on a pair of Sweaty Betty leggings on the regular, I was excited to try it out.

The range comprises of a number of designs, some more practical than others, including leggings, tops, jackets, sports bras and trainers.

Here’s what I thought of Primark’s offering…

Leggings

The Primark leggings are great – I love the patterned grey pair, below, and the more subtle, mesh-kneed leggings (£8) too.

primark sports leggings

I was impressed with the fit and comfort; much better than a pair of Peacocks leggings I tried recently which actually saw me run out of an aerobics class to change because they were falling down and exposing my arse to the poor ladies behind me.

primark mesh sports leggings

The are obviously not made from any fancy sweat-wicking fabric, but for a pair of basic leggings the Primark options are a good shout (I’ve worn them multiple times and still no holes, which is always a fear with Primarni).

The only ones I couldn’t really get on board with are these side-tie numbers (£7), which just seemed a bit too faffy for something as practical as a workout.

primark ballet leggings

Tops

My favourite of the Primark tops was definitely this pale pink number (£6), mainly because it magically makes my stomach look way more toned and my boobs  bigger than they are (dear fitness brands, this is really all it takes to win my loyalty).

primark sports top

Beside these rather shallow points, it’s a good top for sweaty types like moi because of it’s super thin fabric.

I wasn’t so keen on some of the other tops they sent me, but mainly because I’m not cool enough to carry off crop tops or baggy drawstring vests.

primark sportswear summer 2017

I can tell that all that’s going through my head in this picture is “WHY IS MY STOMACH OUT?”.

Caps

Looooooool. I think this picture says it all.

primark sportswear spring 2017

Good if you’re 19, not sure about 29. I’m no Kylie Jenner.

Jacket

I got a couple of jackets to try out, starting at the quite frankly ridiculous price of £12.

This silver number is totally perfect to wear on the way to the gym, or for moderate exercise, and has a handy hood and pockets.

running jacket primark

However, for serious outdoor training, I think jackets are one item you really do have to invest in (whereas I’d argue you can get away with cheaper vests/leggings OOOH CONTROVERSIAL).

Basically, this  – and the other cute pink jacket, below – are nice, but not designed for ya marathon training.

primark sports jacket

Sports bras

No I’m not gonna post a picture of me rocking the Primark bras, but the retailer has quite a few available, starting at £5 a pop.

sports-bras-primark

Personally, I found the support they gave perfectly adequate, but I have to qualify that statement with the fact I’m not big-boobed, and therefore don’t rely too much on a hard-working sports bra.

sports-bras-primark-spring

They’re also not particularly thick, so if you’re relying the bra for, ahem, coverage, then bargain bras might not be for you.

However, if you find yourself at the office having forgotten your sports bra and need to grab one for the evening gym sesh, I recommend giving Primark a try…