at your beat dance class review

What is it?

Fancy yourself as Beyonce’s next backing dancer? Over the course of 1.5 hours, the At Your Beat workshop allows you to learn a choreographed dance routine to some of your favourite artists’ songs, including the likes of Beyonce, Rihanna and Little Mix.

My experience:

Deep down inside all of us is the belief that maybe, just maybe, we’re supremely talented dancers and just haven’t discovered it yet. After all, you think, I can bust a move in da club, so surely with a bit of choreography I’ll basically be Beyonce?

Ready to discover my inner street dance expert, I rocked up to the Drunk In Love – 7/11 – Run The World dance workshop in Elephant & Castle with my friend Rosie, both of us assuming that this would be our jam purely because a) we love Beyonce and b) we strut around like we own the dancefloor on nights out.

I quickly discovered that the main reason I think I’m a fab dancer on nights out is because I can’t actually see myself in the mirror. As the warm-up for our class kicked in, and I saw the reality of my dancing ‘skills’ in the studio mirror, I turned to Rosie and suggested I might be too tall for sexy dancing. ‘I’m very long’ I hissed, while trying to move my gangly limbs in an alluring way.

Clearly the instructor CJ thought we were all a bit uptight too, as she announced that to ‘loosen up’ we would be walking across the studio in pairs doing our best sassy Beyonce impressions for everyone. I kid you not folks.

Luckily, Rosie and I are old and weird enough that things like this don’t embarrass us too much any more, even if our ‘sexy’ walk was a bit more Mr Bean than Queen Bey. And everyone was very supportive and encouraging, particularly of the pairs who decided to crawl around booty-shaking in the air.

Then it was time to get down to the serious choreography; lots of sassy hip rotations, flicking our hair around and complicated footwork. It’s not often you get told to ‘TOUCH YOURSELF LIKE BEYONCE’ but I certainly enjoyed it.

We started off learning each step slowly without the music, then gradually built up the dance. There was definitely a wide range of skill levels in the class, but I felt like the pace of teaching kept the right balance between being too boring for the good people, and too hard for the spatially-challenged (hi there).

After an hour and a half learning the routine, it was time to watch groups performing the dance with full backing track playing. Unfortunately, Rosie and I made the fatal error of choosing the ONE group where absolutely no one knew the dance, which led to a hilarious few minutes as we threw ourselves round the dancefloor, Miranda Hart-style, while everyone applauded politely. Bless their hearts.

However, if you want to get an idea of how well some people managed to learn it, here’s a snippet…

​Good huh? And although I was crap, I certainly enjoyed the workshop, which is one of the more fun ways to get a sweat on on a Saturday afternoon. This is one to go along to with your girlfriends and have a laugh without taking yourself too seriously!

Fitness level:

Any fitness level – this class was really inclusive and there was a lovely feeling of supportiveness between everyone.

I burnt:

200 calories (probably half of which through laughing).

Workshops cost £20. More info here.

1. MASSAGE

What it means to other people: A lovely, relaxing experience where you are gently rubbed with fragrant oils while listening to whale music.

What it means to runners: A grit-your-teeth-and-bear-it feat of endurance, involving a sports therapist sticking their elbow in your bum muscles while you try not to scream.

2. GEL

What it means to other people: A hair product used extensively by 14-year-old boys.

What it means to runners: A energy-boosting substance you squeeze into your mouth during long runs. May or may not give you the sh*ts, which is always a fun gamble.

3. SPLITS

What it means to other people: An impressive gymnastic feat, usually performed at the Olympics or at 2am at house parties.

What it means to runners: The time is takes you to run a certain distance – doesn’t prove quite so interesting as the gymnastic kind at social gatherings.

4. CAKE

cake for runners

What it means to other people: A special treat.

What it means to runners: An ESSENTIAL.

5. RECOVERY 

What it means to other people: The day after a heavy night on the town.

What it means to runners: The day after a heavy run.

6. ROLLER

What it means to other people: An little cylinder you put in your hair to produce Cheryl-worthy curls.

What it means to runners: An instrument of torture; made of foam you use this to ease out muscle tensions while gently screaming.

7. PB

What it means to other people: Peanut butter – for the true American. PB & J sandwich, anyone?

What it means to runners: Personal best. To you this figure  is very important and interesting, but all your friends and family are like ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ when you start talking about it.

8. BIB

What it means to other people: What babies wear when they eat. Catches all the dribble.

What it means to runners: What runners wear when they participate in mass races. Again, good for catching dribble.

9, RICE

What it means to other people: Delicious carb that you eat with curry. YUM.

What it means to runners: The stages you follow when you’ve pulled a muscle: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Except you only remember to do this about three days after the injury has occurred…oops.

10. STREAK

What it means to other people: Running around naked. Highly entertaining.

What it means to runners: Running every day for a certain period of time. Much less entertaining .

11. HIT THE WALL

What it means to other people: A physical act we all try and avoid while parking the car.

What it means to runners: An experience that occurs during a marathon. Specifically the bit where you suddenly start promising yourself you’ll never do this again because you’re so exhausted you can hardly breathe/blink.

12. WATER

What it means to other people: What you drink when you’re thirsty.

What it means to runners: Something you spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about before you do a long run. Will I be too thirsty? Can I carry that much water? Will I drink so much my brain explodes? Will I need the toilet halfway round and ruin my time? Etc etc etc.

13. CHIP TIME

What it means to other people: Only the best bloody evening of the week – time to hit the fish and chip shop! (Side note – I’ve noticed people in London don’t do this is as much, but where I grew up in South Wales Friday night was chip night).

What it means to runners: Your finishing time in a race, recorded by a tiny ‘chip’ on your shoe or bib.

14. WAKING UP IN WINTER

What it means to other people: The hardest thing in the whole goddamn world.

What it means to runners: Even harder, because you know you have to go OUTSIDE and run around.

15. SENSE OF ACHIEVEMENT

What it means to other people: Something you feel occasionally at work or at home when you make a really good lasagne.

What it means to runners: A feeling you experience EVERY TIME you run *high five*

16. RUN

What it means to other people: A horrible activity you only do when you’re absolutely forced to i.e. running for your bus.

What it means to you: An exhilarating activity you CHOOSE to do several times a week even though you have no bus to catch, much to the confusion of your non-running acquaintances.

 


Whenever anyone’s asked me what my New Year’s Resolution is for the past few years, I’ve said “to be perfect, obvs”

What I mean by is, to become one of those flawless girls who does yoga and makes smoothies every morning; who always has shiny, straight hair and clean shoes.

Obviously I’m half-joking when I say this – no one is actually perfect, and if they were, they’d probably be completely boring. But these days, there seems to be so much pressure to be doing EVERYTHING in an idyllic and photogenic fashion, from eating breakfast (#smoothiebowl!) to being in a relationship (#spoilt #soblessed) that you  do sometimes feel as if everyone else is living in a dream world that you’re somehow excluded from (and it’s probably your fault for being so goddamn lazy).

It’s not just relationships, interiors and fitness regimes these dream girls seem to excel in, it’s also their careers. I read a brilliant piece recently by The Pool’s Amy Jones this week where she talks about feeling under pressure to achieve great things in the digital sphere alongside her day job.

“I took a scary new job, which I threw myself into headfirst, revitalised my food blog, started a newsletter, looked into podcasting, began writing a book. I took on every project that sounded interesting in my new job, woke up early to work on my side projects and spent my evenings and weekends running around London or in front of a laptop” she says.

Reading this was like scanning a list of all the things I feel I should be doing. After all everyone else seems to have 20k Instagram followers, a perfect flat in Notting Hill, an award-winning podcast and at least 13 holidays a year, so why haven’t I? The idea of ‘perfection’ is so visible these days that it’s easy to feel like you’re failing to achieve the same things as everyone else, and for someone like me who has always put pressure on myself to achieve ‘the best’ – A grades, an Oxford degree, an excellent shoe collection – this can be particularly stressful.

However, as Amy concludes, trying to achieve absolutely everything is stressful and exhausting.

I think I need to accept that by the age of 30 (I’m 28), I won’t be able to complete my mad checklist, which includes: live abroad, get abs, read all the books anyone has ever mentioned to me, become editor of the Sunday Times Style, own a perfectly-trained dog, buy a scenic cottage with an easy 30-minute commute into London, and have a wedding that’s so wonderful Vogue magazine will approach me and be like “Look, we know we don’t put brides on our front cover but with you we just HAVE to.”

*Breathes*

Back in the real world, the problem with my list of (slightly exaggerated) goals is that no one has the time or energy to ‘have it all’.

What’s more, sometimes the facts are against you – when I graduated, I assumed I’d be earning megabucks in a swanky job by now, but the sheer state of the economy (not to mention the journalism industry) means that the days of getting paid loads and being easily promoted through the ranks are long gone. I DO get free shampoo though.

Constantly putting pressure on yourself and living with a ‘What next?’ mentality is draining and unsatisfying. And I’m definitely guilty of it – as soon as I’ve achieved one thing (“Great, I’ve got engaged!”) I’m onto the next (“Maybe I should do another marathon while I plan the wedding?”).

So my goal for next year is to accept that perfection doesn’t really exist and spend a bit more time appreciating the little things I already have, whether that’s an evening with friends or an A-grade cup of tea. There’s nothing wrong with setting resolutions in January – I’ve got a few up my sleeve – but above all be realistic and use your aims as motivation rather than a stick to beat yourself with.

Happy new year! 


 


Every January, beginners’ Latin and Ballroom dance classes across the UK are filled with eager adults inspired by  Strictly and secretly thinking they probably have what it takes to become the next Louise Redknapp or Ore Oduba.

I know because HELLO, I was one of them a few years back, and since then I’ve been attending dance classes on and off in the glamorous surroundings of my local church hall.

The set up has changed a bit – originally I was young, free and single, and attending classes with my flatmate and fellow Strictly expert Rosie (I wanted to be Ola, she wanted to be Flavia).

More recently, I’ve started up again with my fiancee Sam, because let’s be honest, we’ve gotta fill that cringey first dance song somehow!!

I don’t have any pictures of us dancing (because criiiinge etc)

I’m now at an intermediate level, which means occasionally, I actually know what I’m doing! Here are a few of the things I’ve learnt about taking dance classes…

1. You’ve gotta learn the basics

YAWN, I know. But if you think you’ll be able to go to a few dance lessons and suddenly wow everyone with a fierce Paso Doble at your next social gathering, you, my friend, are misguided.

Obviously this is hard and boring to accept, but you’ve got to practice for a long time to become a skilled dancer. This can be frustrating if, like me, you’re the type of person who took up the guitar for about three weeks as a teenager and then became furious that you weren’t Kurt Cobain already.

The thing is you need to know the building blocks for each dance in order to create the full shebang. On Strictly, those contestants are just performing a set, choreographed routine; if you flung them on the dance floor with a brand new partner to free-style the quick step they probably wouldn’t have a clue.

In each dance there is a basic step, turning steps and ‘figures’ (the fancy bits to jazz your dance up). Learning these can be laborious and takes friggin’ ages, but by the end of it you should theoretically be able to dance with anyone and do the steps in any order (so you can be one of those awesome people who turns up at a random salsa bar and takes everyone’s breath away #LifeGoals).

2. You’ll probably suit one style more

I was shocked to discover that I’m better at Ballroom than Latin dancing – I’d always assumed I was more Shakira Shakira than Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice.

However, it turns out the upright, elegant style of Ballroom is more my jam than the sexy hip-swivelling of Latin, and it’s true that for most people, one style will come more naturally.

That’s not to say you can’t get good at the other style, it just takes more practice (see above).

3. Glitter is not compulsary 

So, it’s your first night at your new dance class, and you decide to rock up in a gold sequin flapper dress a la Strictly winner Caroline Flack? (Mega fans, you know the one I mean).

You might be a tiny bit embarrassed when you get there because, in general, people tend to wear their normal clothes for dance lessons – soz to disappoint.

What is much more important as you progress is wearing the right shoes, because this really affects how you place your feet.

Trainers are not great for either men or women – you need something that will slide across the floor easily, so the grippy soles don’t really work.

For women, a small heel is best, which is  a pain when you’re massively tall like me, because when I dance with any man under 5 ft 10 he’s like “WOAH now”.

However, if you want to become a good dancer, you need the right footwear. And babes they aren’t glamorous – sample footwear style below (!!!) Jimmy Choo eat your heart out.

4. You’re going to have to let your barriers down

If you’re the type of person who feels mildly disturbed when anyone dare intrude your personal space then Ballroom and Latin dancing is going to test your barriers to the max.

At most dance schools, it’s common practice to swap partners every few minutes so that you can experience dancing with various people (it also means if you’re dancing with someone really crap you get the exchange them, which is always nice*).

This means you might find yourself in an embrace with a man or woman you’ve never met before, rubbing your leg up and down their’s (this is known as ‘decoration’ in a dance) and trying not to step on their feet.

It actually doesn’t feel as weird as it sounds in the context of a dance class, but you have been warned…

5. Chewing gum and deodorant are musts

I have lost count of the times I’ve had to dance with someone who either seems to have smoked about 40 fags directly before the class (vom) or hasn’t washed their clothes/underarms in about two weeks (double vom).

Seriously, if you are going to be in extremely close proximity with strangers, sort your bodily smells out!

6. It’s an amazing feeling when you finally ‘get’ a step

Yes, there’s a lot to learn and you might have to dance with a few smelly people, but the first time you manage to waltz round a room or perfect a full jive routine is as exciting as being Sandy from Grease and Patrick Swayze from Dirty Dancing all rolled into one.

If you’re thinking of trying dance lessons then seriously, go for it – it’s a brilliant way to bond with your partner, improve your coordination, meet new people and learn some sassy little moves!!

 

*NB I’m not talking about Sam.

carly-rowena-main-interview

You can’t be in the fitness blogging world and not know about Carly Rowena: the personal trainer has garnered a massive following online for her expertise and positive approach (and personally I like anyone who’s Instagram bio says ‘Forever trying to make food go to my boobs’).

I was lucky enough to interview Carly while she was working with Stand Up To Cancer earlier this year – here’s what she had to say…

How did you first get into fitness?

‘As a child I was always running around outdoors instead of watching TV, so it was no surprise that I joined the gym as soon as I could.

‘The big shock was that I fell in love with weights. I had previously always been a cardio bunny but weights changed my whole outlook and the shape of my body.’

What does you typical week in workouts look like now?

‘I try to never go two days without working out, but to be honest four days is usually the most I can into my schedule due to travel and work commitments.

‘At best, I like to have two HIIT sessions and 3 LISS sessions a week (this usually comprises of a walk or jog with my dog).

‘Weights-wise, I split my body in four groups: Legs and Butt, Chest and Biceps, Back and Triceps, Shoulders and Core.’

What are the most common gym mistakes people make? 

‘Far too often I see women spending all their time doing cardio and men only focusing on weights. Women end up with arthritis and men have heart attacks – there needs to be a balance.’

 How do we get abs like yours?!

‘One word: food. I know no-one wants to hear this, but abs don’t come from exercise unless you have extremely strong genetics.

‘Reducing stress levels, eating a balanced diet and having at least 6 to 8 hours sleep a night will get you much closer.

‘The best exercises to boost muscle in my opinion are hanging leg raises, planks and side plank dips.’

What’s the best way to get more out of your workouts?

‘If possible, get a trainer. You are never more aware of how much harder you can work than when someone else shows you.

‘If you’re not sweating or can’t feel your heartbeat quicken then you’re not pushing hard enough!’

Who is your biggest fitness inspiration?

‘My mum! She used to run marathons even though she was suffering with ME. She’s now my favourite client and loves to show her friends that she can do pull-ups at the age of 69!’

What’s the best way to motivate yourself when you don’t feel like exercising?

‘We ALL have days like that. I suffer from adrenal fatigue, and sometimes exercise is the last thing in the world I want to do.

‘But then I log in to my social channels and read the incredible comments or emails I receive from my followers and I can’t wait to get moving. They’re my inspiration!

Niomi and Carly Rowena put on a special Barry’s Bootcamp class to raise money for Stand Up To Cancer. Check out their YouTube channels to see how they got on.