What is it? Targeting those much hated frown lines around the eyes and forehead, this 45-minute treatment promises to mimic the affect of Botox, plumping and hydrating the skin.

Where I tried it: Sorbet Salon in Crouch End (there is also one in Muswell Hill).


My experience: I mean first of all can we talk a out how nice Crouch End is? Lovely high street, although I Zoopla’d it and unfortunately the only way I’ll be affording a house there is if I find an 90-year-old millionaire to marry. Sorbet Salon is a bright, welcoming shop on the main road, with a reception area full of Dermalogica and Environ products – treatments from both brands are also on offer here.

On arrival, I sat down to fill in a questionnaire about my skin complaints/allergies/any medical procedures, before being led through to one of the nice, clean treatment rooms at the back. The facial, my therapist told me, was split into several parts: first a deep cleanse, then a section where a metal probe passes sound waves through your skin to help the penetration of the vitamin-rich serums applied to the skin, and finally a mask, which has an electric current passed through it, again to increase the penetration of the serum.

Unfortunately, the last part of the treatment wasn’t an option for me as I’d ticked ‘yes’ to the question ‘Do you have any metal plates in your face?’ (after having both my jaws broken, an X-ray of my lower face basically looks like an advertisement for ScrewFix). The therapist and I both agreed that passing an electrical current through my Robo-face was officially A Bad Idea.


However, I was still optimistic that I’d see good results from the treatment, especially as I now have faint frown lines and crows’ feet that don’t disappear when I relax my face (true story: on Friday night I walked into a bar behind a girl the same age as me, I saw she got ID’d so I got my driving licence out, the bouncer was like “Nah love you’re fine”. Sob.)

The cleansing section of the facial was all fine and dandy, despite the fact I’d been a complete pain in the balls and put on waterproof mascara which refused to budge for a while. Way to make your therapist hate you.

Next up, the sound waves. This was a truly weird experience – it’s basically like having a very high-pitched sound shooting from your forehead right through your brain, which made my jump out of my skin when the therapist first touched the probe onto my face. You do quickly get used to it, although I only really calmed down when the therapist patiently assured me that no, my brains weren’t being scrambled and yes, this was going to make my forehead lines look much smoother.

If that wasn’t odd enough, next was the mask. Firstly, several intense serums were put over my face – one on the chin especially targeted at clearing up breakouts, another to deliver vitamins to my crinkly forehead – and then the mask was applied. At the beginning I’d been asked if I minded a mask over my eyes and mouth, and thinking this must mean some kind of fabric mask, I said no. Well, it turns out it’s actually a gooey liquid mask that oozes onto your face and then turns solid – quite a freaky experience. I could just about cope with having my eyes sealed shut but drew the line at the mouth – I think if you look at the picture below you’ll understand why.


Normally at this stage, electrodes would be attached to the mask to send a current through it, but because I wasn’t having that, I got a lovely shoulder massage instead – a win-win, really.

After 10 minutes, the mask is peeled off. My therapist told me that occasionally people have asked to take the freaky impression of their face home, which I found kinda amusing and alarming at once. Would you really want this in your house?


The treatment was rounded off with a moisturiser and SPF being applied to my face, which was great given that it was a blazing hot day outside, and then I was left to get ready/check myself out in the mirror.

It must be said that, without the electric current bit, I probably don’t show the results as much as most people who have this treatment. However, I did notice a definite improvement in the lines on my forehead: they are less deep and the skin overall looks more healthy and plumped.


Should you try it? At £85 per treatment, ‘The Frown’ facial is certainly not cheap, but if you’re particularly concerned about your forehead area, I’d recommend doing it the day before an event where you want to look particularly line-free! Plus you get to swan around Crouch End, which I thoroughly recommend.

 

Iron Zuu Virgin Active

What is it? A new 30-minutes class at Virgin Active, combining old school weight-lifting and primal movements.

My experience: As the owner of a distinctly dodgy shoulder, I’m always really wary of lifting weights in case I do myself further damage. However, it’s something I definitely want to do more of, which is why I was excited to try out weights in the controlled environment of Iron Zuu.

Our instructor for the class was Nathan Helberg, an Aussie fitness fanatic who was evidently very passionate about the benefits of ‘primal movement’ and used that to develop the Zuu and Iron Zuu classes (the former is apparently HUGE in Australia, and those guys know a thing or two about getting ripped).

Iron Zuu is a combination of traditional gym-style weights – bicep curls, shoulder presses and squats with the bar – and movement, which basically means bear crawls, frog squats, and a truly horrendous exercise that involves stepping one foot forward and twisting while maintaining a squat position (this was by far the hardest bit!).

 

Iron Zuu virgin active

The idea of combining weights and movement is to provide a full body workout, active recovery between lifts and to improve injury prevention. Nathan told us that the bear crawls mean you have stronger arms and joints so if you stick you’re arm out when you’re falling, it’s less likely to snap, at which point I had to stop listening and do a bit of silent wretching because ARGH SNAPPING ARMS. It did work though; my enthusiasm for bear crawls was duly renewed.

I was kind of surprised when the class came to an end – I hadn’t realised beforehand that it was only half an hour long. I can imagine, though, that in a standard class where the exercise is continuous, with no breaks to explain the ethos of Iron Zuu, you would be more than ready for it to finish after a gruelling 30 minutes!

Iron Zuu virgin active

Overall I enjoyed it, my only concern being that, for the dodgy-shouldered among us, there was barely any explanation of the weight-lifting moves for anyone who doesn’t normally lift. However, most moves were fairly self-explanatory, and it certainly offers something different from my normal aerobics classes.

I burnt: 150 calories (but it would be more during a non-explainer session).

Fitness level: I asked Nathan if this class was suitable for beginners and he said yes, although the main aim of Iron Zuu seems to be enticing seasoned male weightlifters away from the gym and into the studio (currently it’s around 95% women attending the fitness classes at most gyms). How happy these two groups of people will be to workout alongside each other remains to be seen…

However, if you’re intrigued by Iron Zuu, I definitely recommend trying out a class, even if it’s just to experience the LOLs of other gym-goers staring at you through the glass as you crawl around on the floor like a giant baby.

Iron Zuu virgin active

 

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For those of us who would classify our body type as ‘distinctly bog standard’, Instagram can be a daunting place.

Toned legs, gym-honed arms and stomachs that definitely don’t require tucking into jeans dominate the app, thanks to the rise of Instagram fitness stars, who have gained legions of fans with their exercise tips and beautiful bodies.

But what does it take to actually be one?

Well, I got a glimpse of just that thanks to Lilly Sabri – a fitness trainer, blogger and hugely popular Fitstagrammer – who gave a HIIT class with Whitworths to mark the launch of its new Shots range recently in London.

The exercises included those Lilly does herself four to five times a week, so it was a good opportunity to find out just how much effort it takes to get that dream bod.

The short answer is: a lot. Although HIIT is great for getting solid results in a short amount of time, it is still BLOODY HARD and  despite being a regular exerciser, I can’t imagine gearing myself up to do that intense a workout nearly every day of the week.

We started off with seeing how quickly we could do 40 high-knee runs, 20 mountain climbers and 10 ‘military’ burpees (which is where you lie down on your stomach before jumping up), repeating the whole set three times in an effort to reduce our times. That pretty much set the pace for the whole lesson, which featured 45 second bursts of (sometimes agonising!) exercises interspersed with short breaks.

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That’s me in the corner. That’s me in the spotlight.

Among the most effective were the ab exercises. Lilly told us ‘try and remember these, as this is the ab workout I do’ as she took us through the moves, so I desperately tried to store everything in my memory bank, because if there’s one thing I want even more than the funds to do all my shopping in M&S Simply Food, it’s that lady’s stomach.

The exercises included twisting from the crunch position using a water bottle as a weight, lying flat on your back and repeatedly scissoring the legs up and down from a vertical position to flat out on the floor, and holding a crunch position with the legs bent at the knees, before gently tapping the toes on the floor.

There was also a Chaturanga-based move, which is where I got completely lost and had to be like ‘LILLY HELP ME’ and she was like ‘I got you’, which shows that she’s a lovely person who still has time for the rest of us despite having perfect abs.

I’ve mentioned before that a lot of press classes are a bit lax, but Lilly’s class was hardcore all the way through. The only respite came at the end when we had a yoga-style relaxing lie down (I think the correct name is Shavasana?) and man, I really felt like I’d earned that privilege.

The take-out was that my muscles hurt for several days, but I finally understood how people get those amazingly honed bodies. I often wonder why – despite doing running, pilates and aerobics at least five times a week – I don’t have one of those sculpted bods, and I think the answer is more targeted, bodyweight-focused exercises like Lilly’s. That and not seeing cake as a God-given daily right, but that could be more of a struggle…

Meeting Lilly Sabri

I know, we’re basically twins…

Barresculpt from Barrecore
What is it? A new class from ballet-inspired fitness studio Barrecorre, which uses resistant band exercises to build intensity and help you feel the burn in those deep, hard-to-reach muscles.

My experience: A lot of the exercise classes I do as a journalist are fairly relaxed (think lovely rooftop yoga), so I swanned into Barrecore’s studios in Mayfair thinking I would barely feel a thing.

After about 5 minutes, I realised I was wrong – BarreSCULPT is intense. The class is divided into sections targeting individual muscle groups such as legs, arms, abs and back, and by the end of each, my muscles were genuinely screaming for mercy  (and a long lie down in front of the telly). Definitely the sign of a good workout.

For anyone who has previously just messed around with a resistance band for 5 minutes before abandoning it, this class is a bit of a revelation. When used properly, the band helped transform classic exercises such as leg raises and bicep curls, suddenly targeting muscles I never even knew I could exercise (oh hi there, diaphragm).

The ridiculously bendy teachers were great at coming round to discreetly correct people when their position was slightly wrong, and it was reassuring to hear the instructor say ‘I’m hurting too!’ during some of the more intense moves. God knows how they could talk and tell us what to do at the same time!

I left feeling like I’d had a really solid and unique workout. If you’re already a cardio fiend and want to incorporate more toning work into your fitness routine, I definitely recommend giving BarreSCULPT a try.

I burnt: 150 calories

Fitness level: At least moderate, I would say. If I’d gone to this class having never done strength work before it might have put me off for life. However, fitness fans will relish the challenge.

BarreSCULPT launches on 1 September. More info here.

It’s impossible for me to hide the fact that I’m a super competitive person. When I was younger, I would be quietly furious at losing a game of Ludo, and as an adult I spend my mornings jogging round Clapham Common trying to overtake all the blokes in front of me.

You can imagine, then, that a spinning class involving trying to beat everyone else in the room is right up my street.

Virgin Active’s new group cycle class, The Pack, involves three teams (yellow, pink and blue) going up against each other in a series of challenges covering speed, power and steady RPM.

When I went along to try the class at the Mayfair club, I obviously decided which team to be in based purely on which T-shirt colour I thought would suit me best, which of course was a massive error.

What I should’ve done as I entered the room was looked around and clocked which team looked the most goddamn fierce, but still, that is a lesson learnt (victory over vanity, every time).

Virgin Active the pack review

Anyway, the class itself starts off like your standard spin class, with thumping tuuuunes and lots of flashy lights, except in this case you have a big screen at the front of the class telling you what speed to cycle at, plus how long you have left on each track.

Interspersed with these more familiar spinning sessions you have a series of group challenges, which include ‘Sumo’ (where your whole team cranks up the resistance until you can barely push your feet round) and ‘Speed Freaks’ (by far the best – this involves each team racing round the track by cycling as fast as possible).

The entire class is 45 minutes long, with each sweaty second counted down on a clock in the corner of the screen. The name of the song playing is also displayed, which is useful if you want to go and Spotify the crap out of it afterwards.

Virgin Active the pack review

Getting my sweat on

Everyone is prompted to whoop along with their teammates/scream at them encouragingly if they’re not putting in enough effort, and I have to say, the competitive element is very motivating. After all, there’s nothing like a combative spirit to make you push a little harder when you might otherwise turn your resistance right down and chill at the back of the class.

By the end of the session I was sweating my face off and, according to my Fitbit, had burnt off around 280 calories (the monitor on the bike said more, but however much it was, it totally justified my post-workout Ben & Jerry’s).

I was definitely impressed with The Pack, although as I said before, if your an ultra-competitive weirdo like me, you might want to pick your team wisely, because it can be frustrating when you’re trying REALLY hard and still losing. Or maybe I just need to grow up a bit…

Virgin Active the pack review

You can find out more about The Pack here.