We all know that commuting in and out of London is the most stressful thing ever, but did you know it could be damaging your health on more than just a mental level?

New research from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) has found that we’re consuming a staggering 800 extra calories A WEEK thanks to stressful commutes, as well as exercising less. Because, let’s be honest, how many people can face sweating at the gym after an hour squashed between armpits on a busy overground?

A poll of 1,500 people, conducted by Populus, found that two-fifths exercised less thanks to their commute, a similar proportion said they slept less, and about one-third reported increased snacking or fast food consumption.

They’re shocking statistics, and yet generally this news doesn’t surprise me at all. I know from personal experience how unappealing any form of fitness can seem after the ordeal of a commute, which is why I always have to exercise either at 7am before leaving for work, or straight after I exit the office and before I commute home.

As for the food thing – well, I don’t commute out of London, but I can well imagine that if you’re leaving work completely starving at 7pm, with the prospect of a 50-minute train ride out to Surrey, the allure of a Caffe Nero muffin is just too much to resist.

Here lies another problem – the food available in stations is, in general, just so damn bad for you. Sure, there’s the odd banana around and, if you’re lucky, an M&S selling salads, but most places revolve around the unhealthy trio of baguettes, baked goods and burgers.

So what should they do to tackle this? Well, rail officials have said they are carrying out an ‘upgrade plan’ to make rail stations more healthy, such as having comfier trains with more seats. But that’s not really what we need is it?

I think the real problem here is that many Londoners spend almost their entire day either commuting or working. I’m lucky that I have a job with fairly regular hours – many people I know, working in fields such as law and accountancy, clock 11-hour working days as standard. Book-end this with an hour-long commute each day and it’s obvious why exercise doesn’t get a look in (and that’s before we even talk about the G&T and crisps gulped down on the journey home).

Ideally, all bosses would just shut the doors at 5pm and tell everyone to bugger off to the gym, but that’s obviously not going to happen. What workplaces could improve on, however, is offering lunchtime exercise classes, on-site gyms or discounted gym membership and sports clubs to get colleagues working up a sweat around their office hours.

That, or can we magically produce cheaper house prices, so we don’t all have to commute so bloody far in the first place?!

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I think it’s fair to say that many of us felt super motivated watching the Olympics, whether we found ourselves suddenly Googling triathlon clubs in the local area, or having a serious conversations about how to make our future babies into Olympians.

It’s inspiring to see talented athletes give the competition everything they’ve got, and keep persevering despite being completely knackered and often in pain. In fact, it makes you feel ever so slightly wuss-y for not whacking up your resistance in spin class, or deciding to skip your run due to some light drizzle outside.

So, next time you’re totally not feeling the thought of a hard workout, take a look at these Olympics moments to restore your enthusiasm (warning: you might weep a bit too!)

1. Alistair Brownlee during the triathlon run

The Brownlees were absolutely phenomenal in the men’s triathlon, leaving the rest of the field way behind. The most impressive moment for me was when, despite the fact he was grimacing with pain and exhaustion, Alistair picked up the speed of his run to win the gold medal by a MASSIVE margin.

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Oh and I definitely choked up when he and Jonny had a little cuddle on the finish line, because these two are just brilliant.

2. This guy who fell on his face and still continued

I don’t know if you were watching the men’s horizontal bar competition in the gymnastics, but there was a serious ouch! moment when this dude, Epke Zonderland from Holland, literally face-planted after losing his grasp on the bar.

Fair play to the guy though, he got back up and finished his complicated routine, which means next time you decide to miss aerobics because you’ve got a tiny bit of a headache, you need to grow a pair (I’m talking to myself here).

3. The women’s hockey final

All the way through the Rio Olympics, the GB hockey team demonstrated the kind of sportsmanship that transformed their sport, in my head, from a vaguely terrifying affair to an activity I’d actually quite like to try.

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The penalties during the final against the Netherlands provided nail-biting viewing, and who couldn’t be chuffed for the British team after their jubilant victory? I was particularly pleased for Kate Richardson-Walsh, who, at 36, has been to the Olympics three times already, and finally got a medal at her last Games. Serious #squadgoals

4. Adam Peaty’s world record

When I interviewed Sharron Davies before the Games, she said that what Team GB really needed was a gold medal at the beginning to set them off on a great path.

Well, she was right: Adam Peaty’s gold medal in the opening weekend – a World Record no less – set the pace for the rest of the Olympics, with Britain cleaning up across a huge range of sports. Just 20 years old and so speedy! It was inspiring stuff.

It also brought us Olympic Nan (Adam’s ultra-proud, social media loving gran), and for that we should forever be grateful.

5. Mo Farah

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This guy got two gold medals in a hugely competitive field, plus he has his own signature arm movement. He just rocks. End of.

6. Basically anything done by Laura Trott

I’ve already harped on about my love for Jessica Ennis-Hill (who is still one of my top gurrrrls, don’t worry) but Laura Trott is definitely going onto my wall of glory after her performance at Rio.

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Her speed and strength is just amazing, as is her ability to compete in endless events without any sign of flagging. Plus, it’s great to see her coolly handle all the crazy tactical stuff involved in those cycling events (I swear that final never-ending points race in the Omnium would drive me to a nervous breakdown).

Basically, I want to be her, but failing that, I’ll definitely use her as my inspo next time I’m think of slacking off a bit at spinning.

What was your most inspiring moment?


How many times have you scrolled through Instagram and decided that you’re probably the only person in the world who doesn’t have abs you could grate cheese on?

If you follow any fitness influencers or brands then the answer is probably ‘a lot’; the photo-sharing platform is rammed with images of physical perfection (and as we all know, ‘perfect’ nowadays basically means slim, with a curvy bum, big boobs and insane muscle definition – at least if you’re on Instagram).

That’s why I was interested to read a feature on the matter today written by Anna Kessel for the Guardian, in which she argues that women’s fitness has become a beauty contest – you can read her piece here.

Anna’s point is basically that exercise has become a means to end (the aim being, to achieve the dream photo-ready body) rather than something to be enjoyed because it makes women feel good.

Speaking of the ‘strong not skinny’ motto Anna writes: “Rather than ‘strong’ paving the way to female liberation, it all just smacks of new pressures to look a certain way, to conform to a new body trend”.

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And it’s a trend that’s difficult to achieve without Olympian-like discipline, which inevitably makes women (including, occasionally, myself) wonder – maybe I’m just not trying hard enough?

The problem is that as soon as you set yourself appearance-driven goals, exercise becomes something associated with guilt rather than pleasure. If you exercise regularly, you should be giving yourself a pat on the back, but instead girls are standing in front of mirrors, poking their stomachs and wondering why they still need to tuck them into their jeans while sitting down, despite all that hard work.

I personally have the odd ‘but seriously where the hell ARE my abs?’ moment, but luckily I’ve accepted that crop tops and short shorts are never going to be my friends in quite the same way as wine and cheese are. I’m always going to want desserts and I just don’t have the discipline to do HIIT seven days a week, especially if it means I have to give up the workouts that make me feel good (even if they make little noticeable difference to my thighs).

I admire the self-control of people who’ve made a living out of their incredibly fit bodies – and from those I’ve spoken to, I believe they genuinely enjoy the effort that goes into sculpting those amazing muscles. But the rest of us need to remember that it’s not achievable for everyone, and that’s totally fine – you’re not a failure at fitness just because you don’t have the #fitspo bod. When it comes to exercise it is most definitely the taking part that counts, and the benefits go way beyond how you look in a gym mirror. 

With the Olympics currently on TV, I’ve been watching an unhealthy amount of interviews with athletes, and one thing that seems to unite them ALL in horror is the thought (or memory) of being forced to stop training through illness or injury.

Exactly a year ago, I was in exactly those shoes, and although it was obviously less of a biggie because I’m not about to win any gold medals, the thought of taking months off exercise following jaw surgery still made me feel thoroughly depressed. 

Imagine it like this: if you’re into fitness, it feels like you should be on a constant uphill journey, or at least coasting along the flats – in other words, either improving or maintaining your fitness. To slide downhill is to basically say ‘Ahh I probably shouldn’t have bothered with all those hours in the gym because now I’m back to square one and all my muscles have turned into Flumps’.

There’s also a horrible feeling of lethargy when, as a normally energetic person, you’re forced to just…lie there. Or in my case, sleep sitting up so all the gunk from my broken face could drain away to, umm, god knows where – my arms?

My doctors’ orders were no exercise for 10 weeks, with only light exercise for a while thereafter. This doesn’t sound too bad really, but given that I’d been in the best shape of my life fitness-wise before that, it felt like a real kick in the teeth (which, incidentally, would’ve had similar effects to the old jaw surg).

During recovery, I found myself working out how many days it was since I’d last done a run, googling ‘how long does it take to lose all your muscles?’ and actually struggling to sleep because I generally didn’t feel worn out enough for a snooze after sitting around resting all day. 

A friend has been in hospital recently, and she told me that the thing she really couldn’t stand was feeling like a complete “couch potato” during the period of enforced rest. I totally get this – we’re so used to being told how important daily activity is, and how sitting around all day will turn us into lumps of jelly, that it can feel skin-itchingly frustrating to do nothing for weeks. Although in some circumstances, that’s the very best thing you could be doing for your health. 

Eventually, and very tentatively, I was able to start working out again. I remember on my first run being genuinely scared that all the bumping around would make my jaw fall off (although apparently all the bolts holding it together actually make it stronger – result).

What did surprise me, though, was that I hadn’t completely gone back to ‘square one’ of running i.e. five steps then an asthma attack, Peep Show-style

In fact, my fitness wasn’t terrible, and within a couple of months I was back up to a good level. What’s more, the further I moved away from my gruesome period of recovery, the shorter it seemed to become in my mind – a year on, what felt like a bloody lifetime when it was happening is actually quite hard to remember at all.

In terms of fitness, my ‘journey’ (ugh) has definitely been more a Nemesis Inferno-style rollercoaster than a smooth upward trajectory. I guess what I discovered from the experience is that having time off, whether it’s for health reasons or just a particularly lazy holiday, is never as disastrous as you assume. Oh and that you can still eat chocolate buttons with your jaw banded shut, but that’s another story…

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We were all very excited to see Adam Peaty win Britain’s first gold at the Rio Olympics, and one person who had an amazing poolside seat was Sharron Davies, one of the BBC’s swimming presenters and a former Olympic medal winner herself (she gained silver in Moscow).

I caught up with Sharron after she touched down in the Brazilian capital to find out what she expects from the Games, and what it’s really like to be an athlete taking part in the competition…

How does Rio compare to London?

“London will always be impossible to beat; it was beautifully organised, and everything ran exactly the way it was supposed to. I’m not 100% sure Rio with be as smooth, but I love the friendliness and party atmosphere. Having been to 11 Olympic Games, I know each has its own personality, and the last time I felt this wonderful beach vibe was Barcelona.”

What are you looking forward to, swimming-wise?

“It’s going to be great to see Michael Phelps and Chad Le Clos back in the pool. And obviously, for the UK, we’ve got two big medal hopes in the form of Adam Peaty and James Guy. It’s great that they’re competing early on – hopefully that will set the team up. In London we didn’t have a very good first couple of days, which led to nervousness, and that was contagious throughout the team – they puts their heads down. Here, however, it’s very positive that we’ve got two fantastic role models starting off. I think it will do the opposite for the team.”

How does it feel to be an athlete at the Olympics?

“There is nothing like the Olympics. Every athlete would swap all the medals they’ve got for just one Olympic one. This is what they train for, and dedicate years of their lives towards.

“The Olympic park itself is a fascinating place to be as a competitor because you’re watching all these Olympians come and go and trying to work out what their sport is, and where they’re from. At the same time, you’re trying to control your nerves in the run up to your event.”

How do competitors cope mentally with the pressure of training and competing?

“In terms of training, it’s about coping with the mundanity of getting up at 6 0’clock every morning and training for hours and hours every day, while everyone around you is going partying, watching films at the cinema or going off on holiday. You can’t do all that, as you have to stick to your training programme.

“When it comes to competing, a huge part of being a successful athlete is mental strength; it’s almost as important as physical strength in the pool. You have to be able to deal with expectations and pressure, and to look across the pool at the start and think ‘They’re no better than I am'”.

Has the Olympics changed much since you took part?

“A big change is how the participants’ families are treated. In my day, you didn’t even get tickets for your family. My parents used to watch me compete on television. My dad managed to find the money to come to Moscow, but generally they weren’t there. It’s a different world now.”

Finally, what do the competitors do after their event has finished?

“Once your event is finished it’s all about supporting other athletes. There’s a lot going on in the Olympic park, and they go off and cheer Team GB in track, boxing, canoeing, kayaking – whatever really!”

Sharron Davies is part of the BBC’s Rio 2016 team. The BBC is bringing extensive coverage of the 2016 Summer Olympics live from Rio across TV, radio and on the BBC Sport website.