I am undoubtedly a morning person. Given the choice between doing a task at 6am and 10pm, I would nearly always opt for the crack of dawn (accept when it comes to morning raves – after one very unsatisfactory experience, I’ve put those in my hate-abase for life). By 9pm, I’m barely able to stumble to the bathroom to brush my teeth, let alone engage my brain and body in any kind of exertion.

However, even with my inclination towards the early hours, I have to admit morning workouts in the winter are tough. Darkness and freezing temperatures are hardly enticing, especially when the alternative is staying warm in bed, or loitering around on the sofa with toast and tea before work.

Given the fact I’m allergic to evening activity, however, I basically HAVE to do my workouts in the morning. And, whether it’s because you’re an evening sloth, work long hours or have a busy social life, you may well be in the same boat.

So how do I manage it? Here are a few tips I’ve learnt from my pre-work fitness sessions…

Go to bed earlier

No-brainer right? If your alarm is set for 5.45am, you can’t stick to your normal bedtime routine – but this fact seems to be lost on a surprising amount of people.

Personally, I’m in bed by 10pm (see the previously mentioned sloth phase that kicks in at 8pm). Some people might think that’s laughable, but whatever your normal bedtime, you definitely need to adjust it so that you’re still getting a full night when you adopt your new wake-up routine.

There have been approx. 2 million studies on how getting enough sleep makes you less stressed, less hungry and more beautiful (or something like that), so assuming you can sacrifice sleep as part of your workout regime just doesn’t cut it.

Prep your stuff beforehand

I’m dishing out this piece of advice like I ALWAYS stick to it (sadly I don’t), but leaving the house at 6.30am is immeasurably easier if I’ve prepped the night before. Plus, my work outfits are a hundred times better if I don’t choose them in 3 seconds while stumbling around in the dark – and I never risk accidentally forgetting to bring knickers (truly the worst).

The evening before a dawn workout, I pack a bag with my work clothes for the next day, makeup, protein powder, toiletries etc, and also lay out my gym clothes so that the amount of decisions I need to make in the morning are ridiculously minimal.

Don’t give yourself time to think

Leading on from my previous point, there is a lot to be said for morning workouts in that you literally don’t have time to talk yourself out of it.

If I’m heading to the gym in the evening, I’ll probably come up with a thousand excuses for not going while I sit at my desk all afternoon. On the other hand when my alarm goes off first thing, I don’t even let myself consider the possibility of not going to my class or the gym – it’s as mandatory as going to work, not optional.

I’ve wanged on a lot here about the importance of making exercise a habit, but it’s so true. Once rolling out of bed and straight to the gym becomes habitual, the struggle is drastically reduced.

Try a scheduled class

There are two big benefits to booking a morning class rather than trying to drag yourself out for a run or to the gym. Firstly, the fact it starts at a strict time means you absolutely cannot “just have another 10 minutes in bed” – you have to get up and moving.

Secondly, motivation can be difficult on cold winter mornings, but if you have an instructor shouting at you then you’re far less likely to simply lie on the mats listening to Rihanna and doing the occasional sit up than you would alone in the gym.

Get someone else on board

One thing that has made a big difference in my morning motivation is persuading my husband to get up and head to the gym at the same time (separate gyms, we’re not that annoying).

It means he no longer lies in bed grumbling while I try (and fail) to silently get ready for the gym; and it also means if I’m having a ‘meh’ day he’s more likely to motivate me to get out of the door.

If you have a partner or flatmate who can adopt your routine with you, it’s really helpful. An alternative would be to promise to meet a friend at the gym or get an early morning running buddy – you’ll feel dead guilty if you don’t make it, which means extra resolve to get out of the door.

Look on it positively

If you see exercising first thing as the ultimate hardship then you’re always going to end up groaning at the sound of your alarm.

But, if you think of the positive aspects – arriving at your desk feeling like you’ve already achieved something, enjoying a hearty breakfast to reward your efforts and most importantly, having your evenings free to see friends/cook elaborate dinners/ lie down watching Netflix for four hours, then you will see early morning exercise as one of the most savvy things you can do.

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I’m in a pretty blissful place right now, having existed on a diet of panettone and BBC period dramas for the past week, but one thing that’s driving me nuts is the annual deluge of ‘new year, new you’ crap that’s hitting my inbox.

There’s nothing wrong with using the new year as a marker to motivate yourself, but the press releases I get range from the wishy-washy (“Feng shui your way to fitness”) to the downright delusional (oh hi there, detox tea).

I don’t claim to be an expert, but I know there are plenty of more practical routes you can adopt if improved health and fitness is your main goal for 2018. So, without further ado, here is my no-bullshit guide to making exercise a regular thing in your life this year…


Exercise: the more horrible it is, the better for us – right?

Well in my opinion, this attitude never works long-term.

Don’t get me wrong – exercise should be sweaty and uncomfortable to a degree, but if you’re just having a shit time (rather than a hard but rewarding workout) then you’ll always be searching for excuses not to work out.

For example, I absolutely hate doing cardio in the gym. I find it incredibly boring, sweaty and soul-destroying. In my early twenties, my routine consisted entirely of gym-based cardio, and as a result I used to DREAD every trip because I found it so awful.


You know what? I just don’t do it anymore. For me, cardio is much more enjoyable if I’m running outside or going to classes rather than slogging it out on the cross-trainer.

Basically, if you’re finding one type of exercise a nightmare, instead of forcing yourself to have a crappy time in the name of fitness, just ditch it from your repertoire – because life really is too short for workout dread.


Without a doubt the change that has made the biggest difference to my body is starting to incorporate more strength training into my routine.

I was a complete cardio freak for years, but although I could run for hours, ask me to lift even the tiniest of dumbbells and my twig arms would be quivering.

woman doing weights

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not exactly a beefcake (YET!), but there’s definitely more muscle under my cosy layer of Prosecco and chocolate button-created flesh.

For many women, the weights area of the gym can be quite an intimidating place (read about how I overcame this here), but if you start strength training you will soon realise that a) basically everyone in there is only interested in doing their own thing, especially the preening blokes and b) the results totally outdo the initial awkwardness you might feel.

In fact, weightlifting is particularly important for women, especially as we get older, because it helps protect against weakening bones (apparently this is a particular issue for us girls).

If in doubt, book a couple of PT sessions to learn the ropes, or watch videos on where you can learn the basic lifts such as squats and deadlifts.


I’ll be honest, I’m not one of those people who loves exercise so much that they would rather be doing it than lying in bed with a Toblerone. Given the chance, I’ll think of a million excuses to not bother with a workout (“it looks like it might rain”, “That single cough I just did might be a sign of a serious illness”, “It is ESSENTIAL that I stay at home and do a face mask”).

That’s why I’ve found that switching to a morning workout is the key to exercising regularly, because you don’t have a chance to think of excuses before you’re out the front door.

The one thing you should remember with exercising at the crack of dawn is to always, ALWAYS pre-pack your bag the night before if you don’t want to end up sans knickers when you get out of the shower.

However, for me it’s a really effective way to avoid excuses or getting caught up in work, and there’s no better feeling than arriving at your desk knowing your fitness is done for the day.


Once upon a time, my exercise regime consisted entirely of running. Having spent my younger days thinking I was completely crap at sport, based mainly on the fact I never learnt how to do a cartwheel at school (too tall – that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it), I was quite excited to realise that I could run a fairly long way without having a heart attack, and started to go through the usual ritual of 10ks, followed by half marathons, and then a full marathon in 2013.

I carried on running after that, but gradually, the realisation struck: I was really REALLY bored of running. Where once it had been valuable time alone with my thoughts, now I was pretty fed up of huffing and puffing around Clapham Common every morning, What’s more, I was starting to get injuries, and while I could run for ages, other areas of fitness – such as strength – didn’t get a look in.

Since then, I’ve adopted a much more varied exercise regime. From weights to HIIT classes, spinning to pilates, a more balanced approach to workouts means I never get bored or overdo things physically.

If you are the type of person who finds exercise boring – and plenty of people can sympathise on that one – then adopting a pick n mix approach will help you stay engaged and motivated.


fitbit screen

You know what the most exciting thing is about having a Fitbit? Learning how many calories you burn JUST BY BEING ASLEEP.

Seriously though, I find it very useful to have my Fitbit Ionic attached to my arm. Achieving your daily step count becomes quite addictive, which means you’re motivated to go out at lunch rather than stay at your desk, walk rather than catching the tube and stroll off your Sunday hangover instead of just lying on the sofa all day.

You can also set workout goals and measure your calorie-burn for each exercise sesh; not something I’d advise getting obsessed with, but if you were the type of kid who enjoyed getting stars for good behaviour, then you’ll find this really motivating (although sadly, unlike my childhood star chart, I didn’t receive a paddling pool for reaching 100).


“But I’m too busy to exercise” is the excuse about 80% of the nation uses to weedle themselves out of what they see as adult P.E. (side note: I have a friend who claims she was so masterful at excuses she NEVER had to do P.E. throughout the whole of secondary school. Skillz).

Well sure, we’re all busy, but that’s why you have to be organised. I find the best thing is to sit with my diary at the beginning of the week and work out exactly where I’m going to fit each session in between my other commitments.

By doing this, you make exercise a priority rather than “something you’ll get round to if you have time” – because believe me, you will never, ever have time.


I’m not suggesting you spend hundreds of pounds on an entire wardrobe of Sweaty Betty (the leggings are great but £95 OHMYGOD) but buying a few nice pieces of fitness gear will definitely make you feel inclined to mosey on down to your local park for a run.

In particularly, I recommend buying a pair of high-waisted leggings that you can pull up around your stomach (no one enjoys seeing their tummy VPL waving back at them in the mirrors during aerobics), a good sports bra and some thin vests in any colour that won’t show up sweat patches (grey marl you are NOBODY’S FRIEND).


You know what the very hardest thing about exercise is? Overcoming the initial dread when you’ve been out of the game for a while.

There have been certain times in my life when exercise has fallen by the wayside, and getting back into the swing of things is daunting.

The key to a good exercise routine is simply making a habit of it. Once it’s part of your everyday routine you don’t overthink fitness – you just get the hell on with it.

If you are keen to get fitter but feel intimated by the whole thing, I recommend the “10 minute” approach. Basically, tell yourself you will just do 10 minutes of jogging/gymming/a Davina DVD and that if, after 10 minutes, it’s the worst thing in the world, you give yourself permission to do so. The vast majority of the time, you’ll discover you want to carry on; simply crossing that psychological start line is the difficult bit. The number one tip for 2018 is to conquer your doubts and go for it.

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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.



What is it?

Combining a number of Time Out-worthy phrases – ‘rooftop’, ‘pop-up’ and ‘morning workout’ – Wake Up London is a Tabata class happening on top of John Lewis Oxford Street throughout the summer and into September.

It’s run by fitness company HEX, aka personal trainers Phil Wilkins and Chris Timmins, who normally operate round my neck of the woods in Clapham, but are taking up early morning residency on top of a shop because, well, why not?

My experience:

Firstly, I have to say it’s pretty bloody exciting walking around John Lewis when it’s still closed – so many neatly lined up things! No other people! (Not that we were allowed to buy anything at 7.20am, obviously).

There were around 10 of us in the class, and we bundled into the lift up to the sixth floor, where John Lewis is currently hosting a rooftop bar/restaurant thing for the summer called The Gardening Society.


Luckily, the astroturfed set-up for the rooftop bar is also perfect for an early morning workout; I had been half expecting a blank concrete wasteland when we got up to the top, but instead there were plants, cute little benches and wooden buildings dotted around.

We started off with a warm up which involved jogging, jumping and crawling our way round the astroturf. Then, we were split into two groups, one of which started with boxing, the second with a series of exercises such as push-ups, weighted squats and V-sits.


My boxing partner was fairly unthreatening looking, so I was shocked when I took the pads and had to catch some pretty ferocious punches. More enjoyable for me was the exercise set; there’s something about doing Russian twists in the fresh air that makes them so much more enjoyable.

In fact, the main perk of the class was definitely the chance to enjoy the great outdoors while getting a morning workout out of the way, although I’m not sure it would be so lovely in the rain (apparently they run the 45-minute classes every Tuesday or Thursday, come rain or shine).



Fitness level:

Definitely any – and it’s a welcoming class to go to alone.

I burnt:


Click here for more information.

More info here.

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Have you ever watched Laura Trott or Jason Kenny whizzing around the velodrome on telly and though ‘yeah, I could do that no probs’?

If so, you should probably get yourself down to London’s Olympic velodrome – aka Lee Valley Velo Park – which offers a Taster Session for wannabe track cyclists to find out what it’s really like to reach top speed on two wheels at a 45-degree angle.

I bought the hour-long Taster Session as birthday present for my boyfriend Sam – it was 40 quid each for an hour. We turned up 45 minutes early, as requested when we booked, but were told to wait about 20 minutes before actually getting kitted up. This at least gives you the chance to go and see the velodrome from the spectator seats – it’s a pretty impressive sight!

Next we had to don our gloves and helmets and were given a bike. ‘They don’t have brakes by the way’ the guy told me as he rolled a bike my way. Oh brilliant.

lee valley velodrome taster sessions review 1

I will say now that this activity is not really for the faint-hearted. Before booking I’d read a bunch of reviews online, all of which seemed to be by 45-year-old men, and that was certainly the main demographic when we showed up. A voice in my head said ‘Well this will be fine, I’m obviously one of the fitter ones here’ but as well as strength, you also need nerves – that track feels a whole lot steeper once you’re on it, and on top of that you also have your feet strapped in to a bike with no brakes.

However, the instructor eased us in fairly gently – starting with a pedal round the flat section at the bottom of the track before we gradually moved up higher.

You have to cycle pretty bloody hard to stay up on the slopes – this really is a workout – but once you’re up there it’s an exhilarating feeling.

As for stopping with no brakes – you basically have to slow yourself down as much as possible and then grab the handrail while trying not to fall off. A bit of a test in itself for some of us (yes me).

The entire session is over in an hour, which is really as much as you can manage given the amount of effort that goes in to track cycling. Although I was nervous beforehand, I came out of the velodrome feeling really pleased that I’d given it a go – it’s a pretty unique sensation, and an experience I’d definitely recommend trying!

Oh and you also get a certificate, as modelled by Sam.


For more info visit the Lee Valley website.

More info here.

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