I used to think only crazy people exercised on holiday.

I’d read those guides in women’s magazines covering ‘6 exercises you can do in your hotel room’ or ‘How to get a six pack on your sun lounger’ and think no thanks hun, when I’m on holiday the biggest workout I want to do is toddling around the pool for a five minutes or walking from my table to the breakfast buffet for my 500th round of pancakes.

Once I started to get a bit more into the old fitness, I did become more concerned by the two-week breaks from exercise, but consoled myself with the fact that I walk a lot more on holiday than I would in an average desk-bound day at work. For example, a single day walking around Universal Studios on a press trip clocked up a mega 35,000 steps on my Fitbit – surely as good as a gym session, right?

However, in the past year, I’ve actually done something that once seemed unfathomable – I’ve gone to THE GYM while on holiday.

A hotel rooftop in Naples

I know, I know – I’m a weirdo.

But give me the chance to make a case for continuing some kind of exercise routine on holiday.

Firstly, there’s the fact that for once, I’m not trying to squeeze in a gym sessions in between work/social events/important TV shows I want to watch. I’m therefore not in a rush and staring angrily at the person taking up five pieces of gym equipment at once/stressing out while I wait in the 3-mile shower queue/trying to dry my hair, put on my knickers and apply mascara all at once.

Treadmill with a view!

In fact, holiday gymming is the most leisurely of activities; you can potter around the place all damn day if you want, and even if you just go for half an hour, you congratulate yourself so much more than you would at home because OH MY DAYS YOU WORKED OUT ON HOLIDAY YOU HERO.

Holiday workouts normally mean being confronted with some mad hotel gym that contains a few handweights, a running machine from the 1960s and a few other non-identifiable contraptions – but I like that it makes me change up the exercises I’m doing and take a more creative approach to my workouts. Rather than just going through the motions I actually have to plan out what I’m going to do, which is fun if you’re a fitness nerd.

A mad gym I was confronted with in Sorrento

There’s also the fact that it’s the one time I exercise with my husband, which is quite a nice bonding experience (in real life we never exercise together, in fact I did an interview with Women’s Health all about how we nearly killed each other while training for Ride London as a couple, so this harmonious holiday fitness really is a rare occurrence).

Perhaps most importantly, we always get the gym to ourselves, because everyone else is far too sensible to consider exercising on holiday. Me though? I’ve now become such an enthusiast, that for my 30th birthday trip to New York I’ve legit ticked ‘fitness centre’ as one of the criteria when searching for hotels. I can literally feel 22-year-old me falling to her knees in horror at this news, but soz babes – this is what you’ve become.

 


In my quest to try every new fitness class that foam rolls into London, I tend to notice when the fitness world is heading in a certain direction, trend-wise.
Until recently, it was all about exercise classes that were ‘the hardest workout ever’, where you had to sign a waiver to say ‘sure, it’s ok if my head explodes during this session’ and muscle-bound men screamed in your face while you attempted to make your wobbly legs box-jump 10 metres in the air.
Perhaps as a reaction to this, there is now a new wave of workouts based on the idea of ‘balance’ and ‘wellbeing’  (or ‘doing nothing‘, as the Mail bills it), with major gyms citing this gentle approach to exercise as an important trend going forward.
In my experience, these classes involve, for the most part, stretching veeeeery slowly and lying down on the floor – I may even have fallen asleep in the child’s pose at one.
Elsewhere, fitness bloggers are assuring fans it’s ‘all about balance’ and ‘listening to your body’, being kind to yourself rather than pushing your limits in the gym, and feeding your body ‘the foods that make it happy’.
And while it’s all a nice sentiment, I have to be honest: if I indulged all my body’s cravings for a day off or stopped exercising the minute I felt my muscles screaming, I might as well just wave goodbye to fitness altogether.
As for feeding my body what it wants, I would be living off chip shop chips and Ben & Jerry’s ’til the day I died.
I have no problem with people taking an hour out to stretch, avoiding injury or having a rest day, and I certainly think it’s dangerous for people to feel guilty if they don’t exercise.
But let’s be honest – if you are in the fitness game to improve your personal performance or change the way your body looks, then all this touchy-feely ‘just give yourself a break’ mentality is not going to get you anywhere.

I’ll give you a couple of examples to illustrate what I mean. When I was at university, I was a ‘runner’ insomuch as I could jog for about 20 minutes round the park without dying. I did this fairly regularly to maintain a decent level of cardio fitness, but I never really pushed myself or varied my routine.
When I hit my mid-20s I joined a running club and suddenly my performance and stamina were taken up to a whole new level. In fact, ‘suddenly’ is the wrong word – it took a crap-load of effort.

At that club I was made to push myself way out of my comfort zone, to the point I would be a gasping, sweating mess by the time we ended a long run or sprint session. It was tough, but it’s what I needed to do in order to start running marathons and getting consistent PBs.
More recently, I’ve realised the pay-off for hard work again. For months – probably years – I’d been tootling around, going to various aerobics or pilates classes but nothing that really pushed me too hard. Again, nothing wrong with this – but I couldn’t really understand why, despite the fact I was working out really regularly, I wasn’t getting any more strong or toned.
Then I started my fitness blog and began trying out some new types of workouts, such as HIIT and CrossFit, as well as doing more weight-training. It was harder, for sure, but – along with cutting out chocolate for a month – it really helped me see some results. Before I’d always said ‘I’m just not one of those people whose body changes through exercise’, but that was b***ocks; I just wasn’t trying hard enough.

Enjoying the facial expression here.

I want to reiterate that I have no problem at all with people having days off (I’m having one right now!), holidays, stretching sessions or easing off from certain exercises if they sense an injury coming on.
But I worry that people who embrace the slightly touchy-feely mentality that’s currently having a moment will be disheartened when they’re not getting any results.
A friend recently asked her personal trainer about introducing gentle mobility sessions into her routine, and his answer was basically ‘Yeah not a problem, but it has to be on top of the fitness you’re already doing, not instead of’.
That’s the key really – you can’t get away from the fact that actually, there is nothing you can supplement for bloody hard work when it comes to fitness (and believe me, if there was I’d be the first to sip Mojitos by the pool while magically forming six pack abs).
By all means don’t kill yourself, but if you really want to see progress…You. Just. Have. To. Work.
More info here.

Subscribe for more posts

Get notifications straight to your inbox


I’ve read several articles recently about how my millennial generation is totally boring compared to Generation X before us – we workout instead of raving, drink smoothies instead of taking drugs and are more interested in trying to claw our way onto the property ladder than checking out the latest indie band down our local pub.

One thing that’s bound to make the 40-something Glasto-goers roll their eyes even more is the growing popularity of ‘fitness festivals’ – massive get-togethers of like-minded workout nerds, meeting up to try classes, hear fitness ‘influencers’ talking about how they became influential and spend money on the various health foods waggled their way by exhibitors (or, if you’re me, just try lots of samples).

It’s quite weird when you think about it – where once upon a time, exercise was something to be endured and generally got out of the way, these days we’re celebrating it with three-day long extravaganzas. Obviously, I’m the perfect target market for this kind of thing, which is why I found myself at Be:Fit London, billed as the UK’s only health and fitness festival for women.

Be:Fit ran for three days in the Business Design Centre in Islington, and comprised of a huge array of classes (Another Space HIIT, Gymbox Yoga, Barrys Bootcamp and so on) as well as a central floor space full of health brands showing off their wares. There was also a couple of stages where the likes of Carly Rowena, Joe Wicks and Lilly Sabri chatted to eager crowds.

As I was waiting for my friend outside the festival on Saturday, I could tell there was a definite type of person attracted to Be:Fit – I’ve never seen so many twenty-something women in Sweaty Betty leggings assembled before!! However, I was pleased to learn that not everyone there was a fitness blogger – the lady I chatted to while queueing for a yoga class was a teacher whose husband was looking after the kids for the weekend so she could enjoy some “me time” at the festival.

That brings me on to the queues – possibly the main drawback of Be:Fit. Basically, a certain number of spaces in the class can be booked beforehand, and then anyone with a VIP ticket gets automatic access. That leaves anyone with a standard ticket who hasn’t been able to book ahead queuing for half an hour or more to get into a class, and even then, you’re not actually guaranteed access.

To be honest, I can see that this is a situation that’s hard to avoid with an event like this – there are, after all, only a limited amount of places per class. However, if Be:Fit is repeated next year, I would definitely flag to anyone thinking of attending that you can’t automatically expect to get into lots of classes if you buy a standard ticket.

Luckily, my friend and I managed to get into two classes (helped by our press wristbands) and they were both absolutely brilliant.

The first was a core activating workout with Sam Eastwood. I hadn’t heard of celebrity trainer Sam before, but I have to say she is probably the funniest fitness instructor I have ever come across – and that definitely makes a difference when you’re on your millionth repetition of a side squat and your legs have turned to jelly.


Among other things, Sam told us how to pull in our pelvic floors (“Imagine you’re really trying not to wee or fart”) and how to get a really good bum workout during squats (“I’ve just put an egg up your bottom – now crack it!”).

Having been thoroughly toned and formed a long and loving connection with my pelvic floor, we then headed into the Reebok Fitness Studio for BLOK Party, a dance cardio workout. All I can say about this is OHMYGOD it was so good. As the instructors told us at the beginning “This is mainly about having fun, and the fitness comes second” and they were so right. Basically we all danced like Nicki Minaj at her very filthiest for 45 minutes and it was brilliant (my mate enthusiastically complimenting my twerking skills was one of the highlights of my life).

After our classes, we had a wander around the various stalls in the main arena, which offered everything from healthy breakfast bars to healing teas to fitness wear. Personally, my entire home and kitchen are at peak storage capacity, so I didn’t buy any more stuff, but I definitely enjoyed a few tasters (yes, I am every exhibitor’s worst nightmare, sorry).

Had we stayed longer, I would’ve made an effort to go to one of the talks or workshops on offer (there was everything from ‘Building a business in fitness’ to ‘How to have a healthy relationship with exercise’). However, I left feeling satisfied with my visit, which may have been much less cool than a Gen X-style rave up, but definitely left me on an endorphin high!

Subscribe for more posts

Get notifications straight to your inbox


The other day, Facebook merrily reminded me that it’s four years since I ran the London Marathon.

FOUR YEARS!

As well as sending me into a silent panic about how quickly time seems to be passing now I’m a proper grown-up, this information also got me thinking about why I started running all those years ago.

The simple answer is heartache (yep, time to get your violins out people). When I first started ‘proper’ running, rather than just the odd 15 minute tootle round the park, it was during a messy on/off relationship, where my emotional energy and self esteem were dipping, and I suddenly found myself craving an outlet for all my ~feelings~ (really, there was only so long I could wang on at my poor flatmates).

Running became a means to channel my feelings – whether it was anger, stress or just plain ‘waaaah I’m sad’ – into something physical and productive. It sounds weird, but I felt that I could almost fuel myself on the energy of my emotions, like each chunk of heartache was a coal I chucked on the fire, making me run further and faster than I ever imagined I could.

Running was also a means of proving my strength to myself. When relationships get messy, it can really knock your confidence, which is where the endorphin boost comes in mighty handy. The little sense of achievement at the end of every run, plus the greater glory at reaching bigger goals (a 5k, a 10k, a half marathon), reminds you that actually, you’re just fine thank you. Curating a break-up running playlist featuring Alaina Morrisette You Oughta Know and Beyoncé’s Irreplaceable helps too.

Now, whenever a friend is going through the pain of a relationship ending, I always recommend exercise to help them recover emotionally (all this #revengebody stuff is all well and good, but post break-up exercise is about so much more than that). Whether it’s running or boxing or yoga that floats your boat, the simple act of making time for yourself and accomplishing physical feats will help restore emotional equilibrium.

My broken heart was long in the past by the time it came to my marathon training, thank the Lord. By then, I was leading a fun but hectic lifestyle, working full time as a journalist, going out out every Saturday night and dating like a trooper during the week, which meant a whole lot of booze and probably not enough rest and recuperation.

My weekly long runs, always completed on a Saturday morning, became my weekly headspace. It was a time when hitting work deadlines and wondering whether some boy was going to text me back became irrelevant. Instead the focus was all me, myself and I – a time to reflect and test my physical capabilities. As a woman, you’re often so obsessed with how your body looks that it’s liberating to instead focus on what it can do, and during those months, I didn’t give a crap about whether my legs looked hot in a miniskirt, but took pride in how they withstood constant training sessions and smashed out PBs at a rate I didn’t think possible (my 1hr40min Reading half marathon is still one of my proudest achievements, especially because I was nursing a Six Nations hangover).

I ran the London Marathon in 2013, and completing it was real proof to myself that I had mental strength, as well as physical stamina, that I hadn’t really appreciated before. It seems completely apt to me that the charity supporting the marathon this year is Heads Together – I’ve experienced for myself the emotionally soothing effects of running, and can well believe that the sense of purpose marathon training gives you is an antidote to all kinds of mental stresses and strains.


Nowadays, I see running as a kind of mental escapism; an opportunity to switch from emails, tweets, WhatsApp group threads etc. Whatever particular stress I’m having at the time – and as an anxious person, there are a lot – running gives me balance and a boost of happiness, even if sometimes of the thought of pulling on my trainers and leaving the sofa is mildly horrifying.

To me, running is as much about training the mind as it is your body. Both have surprising reserves of fortitude, and both need to be given equal amounts of attention in order to have a happy and healthy life.

Subscribe for more posts

Get notifications straight to your inbox


As you can probably tell from this l’il blog, I’m a huge fan of a fitness class, and regularly attend everything from aerobics to boxing classes, trendy HIIT sessions to spinning at the local leisure centre.

While the classes and environments may change, one thing is always constant – the kind of people you find at a fitness class.

Whether you’re into Zumba or pilates, barre or body attack, here are a few types you’ll probably be familiar with!

1. The teacher’s pet

This person is absolutely always found at the front of the class. In fact, they’re so well-established that they actually have their own spot, which no one else dare stand in.

To cement their teacher’s pet status, this individual will always be the one to fetch a mat for the instructor, and is relied upon to laugh loudest at their jokes. If it makes them happy…

2. The permanently confused one

Not everyone has great coordination; in fact, some people will literally never get their heads around the class routine, no matter how many times they attend it.

This person can normally be found accidentally walking into other class-goers as they bound the wrong way, or doing their own sweet thang as everyone else performs a perfectly synchronized routine.

I kind of love this person, as long as I’m not exercising next to them.

3. The noisy one

While most of us like to keep a low profile at fitness classes, there’s always one person who likes to scream/bellow/grunt their way through the whole affair.

Most commonly found at boxing-inspired and HIIT classes, these people are seemingly unaware of the surprised looks they’re getting from everyone else.

4. The competitive one

Whoever said it’s the taking part that counts clearly had not met this class-goer, who treats every workout session as if it’s the Olympic Games.

Whether they’re proving that they can sprint across the room fastest, do burpees at twice as fast as everyone else, or hold a plank for 15 minutes, this person is all about showing they are THE WORLD’S GREATEST.


5. The gossipers

Is it an exercise class, or a coffee shop? This pair genuinely aren’t sure. You’ll see them use the class as an opportunity to catch up, only putting in a leisurely effort, because really the most important thing is having a chinwag. Fair play.

6. The perfect girl

While you are sweating and gasping your way through an exercise class, this girl remains absolutely perfect-looking throughout: smooth, swishy ponytail, golden tan, not a drop of sweat on her and toned abs peeking out under her crop top.

On the one hand, she serves as inspiration – if you keep working out, you might look like her one day.

On the other hand, you kind of want to punch her.

7. The newbie

We’ve all been this person at some point – the one wondering around in confusion while everyone else knowingly grabs their equipment, or trying to work out how the hell to do some complicated routine that feels like second nature to regular class-goers.

Be a good person and help them out – it’s no fun feeling like the clueless one!

8. The token bloke

Okay, this is not true of ALL fitness classes – some of them have a fairly even gender split.

However, the vast majority of classes are very much a female affair, although in my experience, there always seems to be one man who doesn’t give a crap about going to a ‘girly’ class and bloody well does some aerobics anyway.

Token blokes – I salute you.