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.

Whether you’re fat, thin, have the body of Jessica Ennis-Hill or anything in between, fitness is for everyone.

However, a quick glance at the adverts coming from most mainstream sports and fitness brands would suggest otherwise – tiny, size 8 bodies are EVERYWHERE (or, for blokes, chiselled six-packs as far as the eye can see).

So it was totally refreshing to see that this week, Nike has launched its sports bra campaign – and HOORAY there is someone who’s bigger than a size 10 in the photos.

The snaps appeared on Nike’s Instagram page, offering advice on how to find the perfect sports bra. While the main point of the campaign is to guide shoppers through the minefield of finding the perfect boob holder, it’s undeniable that using plus size models sends out a strong message about body positivity – if a mega sports brand like Nike is saying the fitness world is a place for all body shapes, people sit up and listen.

In fairness to this particular brand, they do have a strong track record in representing women who are talented, tough and inspirational in their adverts – Serena Williams, I’m looking at you. But I can’t remember seeing many adverts featuring more curvaceous girls modelling sportswear – perhaps this the start of a shift many people would like to see.

serena williams nike advert

After all, there is clearly an appetite for more diversity – when a gorgeous plus-size woman was featured on the front of Woman’s Running earlier this year, there was hugely positive feedback for what is still, ridiculously, seen as a ‘brave’ move by the editor.

The problem with not showing people of all shapes and sizes working out is that it puts people off. I’ve always hated the thought that anyone would be scared to exercise because they feel embarrassed by their body and what other people might think – as if it’s a whole experience that’s just not ‘for’ them. And by featuring more diverse body shapes in adverts, it not only helps to quash the myth that just because you’re larger, it means you’re unquestionably unhealthy – it might also encourage some of those who’ve been put off exercise previously to get involved.

Well done Nike – now let’s hope the other fitness brands follow suit.

Clean Eating's Dirty Secrets
It’s not often you find yourself shouting at the TV like ‘Omg, I agree with everything she says!’ – at least not since Margaret left The Apprentice.

But that’s exactly how I felt watching Grace Victory’s Clean Eating’s Dirty Secrets on BBC Three this week.

The show saw Grace investigate the momentally popular ‘clean eating’ phenomenon, focusing mainly on the bloggers and self-styled nutrition experts who’ve made a fortune out of plugging eating plans which they claim made them glowing and gorgeous.

It included Grace trying various diets such as veganism and ‘the starch diet’ (which is basically just eating a crapload of potatoes) in a bid to find out whether she could reach the same health nirvana being preached across Instagram (spoiler alert – nope).

The documentary was particularly timely for me as I’m currently trying out a vegan diet for a feature I’m writing at work, and despite what the health bloggers might say, I am NOT finding it a doddle.

I’ve been vegetarian for years without much hardship, but giving up dairy and other animal products such as honey has been a real challenge so far – and I’m only nine days in! Already, I feel an unreasonable annoyance with all the people on the internet who are telling me that being vegan is really easy and fun – something Grace agrees with in the documentary (a girl gotta have cake, right?)

Another important point the programme raises is the questionable credentials of those spouting out health advice in a tone so authoritative you’d think they were actual professors. In fact, many nutritionists just have an online diploma to their name. Nothing wrong with online diplomas of course, but when it results in people peddling advice that a trained dietitian labels as “nonsense”, the results are dangerous.

The serious side of all this dietary piffle was shown when Grace visited an eating disorder clinic. A shocking stat that stayed with me came from one of the clinic’s lead staff, who said that a third – YES, A THIRD – of high profile health bloggers had approached her for help with orthorexia and other eating disorders. While someone expelling the virtues of solely eating potatoes on YouTube might seem like a bit of joke, that stat is certainly not.

Personally, I’ve been at times uncomfortable with some of ingredients bloggers’ cookbooks have advised me to eat in the name of ‘keeping clean’. The whole issue of replacing certain sugars with others, for example, is a real dietary quagmire. Is putting a litre of maple syrup into a cake really that much healthier than adding a few spoonfuls of sugar? I just don’t believe certain self-proclaimed ‘nutrition experts’ have the deep insight to tell me yes or no to this question.

Others, however, take a more balanced approach. I went to a talk by Madeleine Shaw, who was name-checked in the programme, and was really impressed with her healthy attitude towards food. There is also the argument that anything that encourages us to lay off the junk food is a good thing.

That being said, I have to agree with Grace – the proliferation of so-called food gurus sharing their ‘expertise’ is worrying, particularly when it leads to obsessiveness with eating ‘clean’. What my vegan experiment has taught me so far is this – a life without occasional indulgence is a pretty miserable one indeed, and while we’d all like to have Instagram-worthy abs, it’s not worth giving up the sheer joy of a good meal for.

Pur Glow Together Gradient Matte Shimmer Bronzer
I’ve mentioned my love of a golden glow on this blog before, but after working with beauty editors for the past few years, I absolutely WILL NOT go out in the sun without a loads of SPF 50 slapped on my face.

Obviously, this means I will have the skin of a 25 year old when I’m 60 (right?), but currently it just means my face is much paler than the rest of my body during the summer, which is why I’m a huge fan of a good bronzer.

I’ve tried loads of them, from high end (Benefit’s Hoola is a lovely shimmer-free option) to cheap as chips products (who didn’t spend their early 20s drunkenly applying Rimmel SunShimmer in the club toilets?)

Most recently, I’ve been trying out Pur’s Glow Together Gradient Matte Shimmer Bronzer; a name that isn’t half a mouthful, and may sound contradictory – how can you be matte and shimmery?

Pur Glow Together Gradient Matte Shimmer Bronzer
Basically, it’s because there are six different shades in the palette: three matte, and three infused with a delicate shimmer. These combine together to create a lovely natural-looking bronze – not the ‘muddy’ effect you can sometimes get from these products – and you can choose to go heavier on the matte or the shimmer according to your taste (personally, I don’t like to be too sparkly!)

While trying this product out on holiday in Italy, I was pleased to see it gave a really nice bronzed effect when I brushed it over my forehead, the bridge of my nose, cheekbones and jawline. Generally you should always focus on the places where the sun would naturally hit your face when applying bronzer, and ALWAYS use a big brush to avoid a too-obvious application (we’re talking brown stripes people).

Before and after

As advised on the packaging, I then swept a bit of the bronzer down my neck and décolletage area, which was good for blending out the obvious fake-tanned-bod-meets-big-pale-face dividing line that haunts me.

The thing I was most impressed with when testing out Pur’s bronzer was the staying power of this product. Given that I tried it out in 30 degree heat in the South of Italy, I was amazed to see how good my skin looked when I returned to my room after a day in the sun (normally it’s a truly horrifying moment when I get back to my hotel room and realise I’ve been walking round looking like a blotchy, sweaty mess for most of the afternoon).

At £24, the Glow Bronzer is admittedly a bit punchy price-wise, although it comes in a really big, sturdy palette, and for me was as good a quality as comparably priced bronzers from Nars and Benefit. Definitely one for the holiday shopping list!

Buy it here, £24

Pur Glow Together Gradient Matte Shimmer Bronzer

Being single in London can be the best of times, and the worst. 

On the one hand you’ve got the endless exciting possibilities of meeting ‘The One’ every time you step out of the door, on the other you’ve got the ‘omg I can’t afford a flat unless I find a boyfriend’ feeling and the lonely days when everyone else seems to be busy receiving flowers and back massages from their boyfs (#spoiltrotten!) while you eat breadsticks and watch Homes Under The Hammer alone in your dressing gown.

I actually loved my single times in London, although I realise that’s very easy for me to say from the cushy land of a long term relationship. However, it definitely taught me A LOT about the kinds of guys you’ll come across dating in London, as have the experiences of all my closest friends.

So, in the manner of Carrie Bradshaw advising a new-to-Manhattan 23-year-old how to navigate her love life, here’s my wisdom on what types of men to expect when you dive into the capital’s dating scene…

1. The finance one 

He works in the City, lives in some swanky period conversion in an ‘edgy’ part of town and LOVES skiing/the lads/the lash more than anything else. Rating somewhere between Boris Johnson and MIC’s Spencer Matthews in the arrogance stakes, he’ll invariably try to persuade you back to his house after a first date. Don’t even bother trying to make him your boyfriend – a fat salary never makes up for being a w**ker.

2. The sweet one

The absolute opposite of the City player, this guy is so sweet that instead of wanting to kiss him you actually want to wrap him up in M&S jumpers and bake him a cake. While you can tell the sweet guy would probably make the most devoted boyfriend ever, you also know that being a pushover has zero sex appeal, plus you’d end up feeling more like his mum than his girlfriend. 

3. The one you’re attracted to against all your better instincts 

Can easily overlap with number one – this is a man who you know is just totally wrong, but you want anyway. It could the ridiculous topless poser you swiped right for while drunk Tindering, or the hot guy from uni who’s got in touch with you via Facebook even though you’re sure he had a girlfriend. Although your mates will warn you off, you should probably just meet up with this guy to confirm what an idiot he is and get it out of your system. 

 4. The time waster 

This guy comes in two guises: firstly, the bloke who REALLY wants a date with you but just keeps having to reschedule, or ‘forgets’ to message you until five minutes before you were meant to be meeting. In fact, despite what he says, his behaviour suggests that perhaps he doesn’t actually want a date with you that much at all.

Far more annoying though are the long-term time wasters. These guys date you for weeks – months even – before suddenly remembering that they’re ‘not really looking for a girlfriend’, which seriously begs the question: if that is the case, why go on dates at all?! 

5. The cringe one

You turn up for the date and he’s in a linen safari suit/orange gilet/ankle length leather coat and you’re immediately like ‘No, no, this can’t be happening’ – but it’s too late, he’s already spotted you. The cringe date will then put you through a three hour ordeal of embarrassment that involves him making ‘hilarious’ jokes with the barman, insulting you without realising, falling over at least twice and trying to flirt in a way that makes you blush not with joy but an intense need for the ground to swallow you up. Invariably, this will be the date where you bump into all your best mates. 

6. The Aussie one 

You met him out in Clapham and thought he seemed like ‘a laugh’ – plus he has an excellent tan. But when he turns up wearing a vest and starts telling you about the house he shares with 15 other ‘party people’, you start to get the feeling that you won’t be introducing him to your mum any time soon…

7. The posh one 

Your friend tells you in hushed tones that this guy’s family ‘own half of the Cotswolds’, but once you meet him you realise that, despite this, they haven’t quite got a grip on fundamental social skills. Awkward and bumbling, yet still acting as if he’s somehow superior to you, this guy will not appreciate you answering his question ‘What’s your favourite restaurant in London?’ with the honest answer: ‘Nando’s’. 

8. The penpal

Thought you’d given up penpals at the age of eight? Think again. He’s out there in the dating pool, messaging regularly but with no apparent intention of ever asking you out. Eventually, you’ll realise this and stop messaging back, at which point he’ll probably suggest a drink and turn into number four. 

9. The mind-boggling one 

Inevitably, you’ll have at least one date that feels more like a survival mission than a romantic liaison. Perhaps he’s the most boring man on earth, or super handsy even though you’ve made it clear you’re not interested. As you step on the tube, you’ll breathe a sigh of relief, pleased that the awkwardness is over for both of you. As you step off the tube, you’ll get a Whatsapp from him saying what a ‘great date’ it was and proposing another meet up, making you wonder how on earth you could have interpreted the same ordeal so differently.

10. The mansplainer 

This guy thinks he actually knows more about your job than you do, even though he works in a completely different field. Work in accountancy? He’ll start explaining how the tax system works, despite being in computing. Journalist? Prepare to learn all about the Murdoch empire, even though oh wait you’ve actually worked there whereas he’s been swanning around RBS. Le sigh. 

 11. The ‘how has he not been snapped up yet?’ one

Just when you’re starting to think every guy in London is actually a nutjob, along comes the man who restores your faith in humanity/relationships/blokes. He won’t mess you around, belittle you or try to squeeze your boobs on the first date – he’ll be straightforward, gentlemanly and lots of fun. At this point, it is your responsibility to a) enjoy it and not freak out that it’s all an elaborate deception and b) find out if he has any normal single friends who you can hook your BFF up with. 

No go forth and date!