ClassPass diaries – aerial yoga at Skylab Studio

Skylab Studio in Camden is probably the cutest fitness studio I’ve ever seen. Set up in the attic space in instructor Astra’s home, it offers lessons in hoops, silk and rope as well as aerial fitness and yoga in a really friendly and cosy environment.

I went along to an aerial yoga class on a Saturday morning together with seven other early risers and it got my weekend off to a great start.

Like with all good drop-in classes the exercises and positions could be tailored to different levels so that everyone who attends feels challenged, whether they’re a beginner, intermediate or advanced.

I thought that having done a fair bit of pole fitness in the past would be to my advantage here, but it was still pretty tough going! If you head along to aerial yoga expecting something chilled and yin-like you’re going to have an unpleasant surprise – it was a really active hour and we worked up a sweat in no time.

I felt like the class worked almost every muscle in my body – we did TRX-style pull-ups for the arms and shoulders, inverted sit-ups for the abs, and single-leg salutations for quads and glutes. I’ve got aches all over today, which is always a good sign!

In the second half hour we had a go at some tricks, like the star and a pike-type move where you lie horizontal supported only by the hammock underneath your hips. Astra has been a circus performer for ten years so really knows her stuff and you feel more than safe in her hands.

There was a return to traditional yoga moves at the end of the class when we finished with a Shavasana, or corpse pose, but with our entire bodies inside the hammock like it was a cocoon. This would have been very relaxing, if I hadn’t been worried that I was going to accidentally either kick or headbutt one of the others as my hammock rotated!

As I have a weird thing about being upside down (it’s not just me – Kerouac used to start every day with a headstand), I absolutely loved this class and will definitely be back again. I’ve been desperate to try aerial hoop for ages so plan on giving that a go once I’ve worked on my pull-ups… watch this space!

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The ClassPass diaries – Music Video at FRAME

IMG_0719When I left my last job in December, my truly lush colleagues got me the best leaving gift a fitness fanatic could ask for – a one-month ClassPass.

A ClassPass allows you to try out a whole range of crazy classes at gyms and studios across London, offering everything from barrecore and burlesque to kick boxing and krav maga.

Seeing as December is inevitably a month of indulgence, I decided to wait until January to activate my pass and am hoping that it will help me to kick start 2016 in style.

First up on my list was a visit to FRAME, a dance studio that’s made a name for itself by offering themed classes teaching you how to werk it like your favourite pop stars.

The Music Video class which promises to show you how to ‘move and groove like they do on MTV’ seemed like a good shout, and I wasn’t disappointed!

We learnt a routine to Blow by Beyonce and, although I know I definitely can’t dance like Queen B, I still FELT like I could by the end of the class.

Instructor Alexus teaches the same routine three weeks in a row, ramping up the difficulty level each time, and I’m pretty glad that the week I went happened to be a ‘beginner level’ week – otherwise I would have struggled to keep up!

No one took the class too seriously though – it was much more about having loads of fun. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves hugely while unleashing their inner sassiness. It was awesome – I’d definitely visit again!

Butternut squash tagine

It’s been a while since I’ve posted any recipes (I’m finding it true that Londoners don’t cook all that much – there’s no time!), but last week I made a butternut squash tagine that I thought delicious enough to be worthy of sharing. This was first made for me by my lovely friend Charlotte, who I think got it from a Jamie Oliver recipe book. I imagine Jamie’s original is fancier, but the way I like to make it is nice and simple.

1. De-seed a medium sized butternut squash, chop into chunks (I leave the skin on because of all the GOODNESS) and roast in the oven for about 30 mins.

2. While the squash is roasting, dice two onions and soften in some olive oil in a large saucepan over a low heat.

3. Add raisins and cinnamon to the onions. Really helpfully, I don’t measure amounts of either… I just bear in mind that this recipe makes four portions, and I keep tasting as I go along and adding more cinnamon if I think it needs it.

4. Next, add a tin of chopped tomatoes and a tin of chickpeas, including the water. Cover and leave to reduce on a medium/low heat.

5. When your squash is done, chuck that into the pot too, mix well and leave for a little longer so that it soaks up some of the cinnamon flavour.

6. Serve with couscous and a dollop of Greek yoghurt on the top. Delish!

Trespass activewear – review

Me wearing Trespass

Over the years I’ve developed something of a Nike obsession, and these days about 90% of my kit comes from there. One of the things I’ve been slightly concerned about is replacing it when it gets too worn, as unfortunately with the need to both pay rent at London prices and feed myself I seriously doubt I’ll have £80 left over for a pair of fancy running leggings. So when Trespass got in touch asking if I’d like to review their activewear range I was more than keen!

I chose two items, this quick dry t-shirt...

Blue sports t-shirt

…and these running leggings.

Grey and yellow running leggings

As it turns out, the timing was ideal as the lightweight fabric was exactly what I needed in this heat. I don’t like wearing shorts to run in even when it’s boiling outside – not because I want to hide my legs, but for practical reasons. (The way that I’m built means I will never have a thigh gap, so bare legs would mean CHAFING and no one needs that.) These leggings are the perfect solution!

I love the flash of colour on the sides and the crossover detail on the waistband, but my favourite feature is the fit on the calves. There’s no flaring so they do tailor to your leg, but they’re quite loose so you’re not left with big red seam marks on your skin for hours after you’ve taken them off, which I’ve often found with other three quarter length leggings.

The t-shirt did a great job of keeping me as cool as possible in this weather too, as it’s made of an almost mesh-like fabric. It has a cut-out design on the back, which will make you happy if you’re like me and think that a plain t-shirt just isn’t fashionable enough, even for gym clothes!

Being a performance-focused brand, Trespass has thought about more than just the aesthetics, though. The fabric boasts a number of other qualities – it’s antibacterial, high wicking and quick drying. And believe me, I tested these to the extreme in this heat wave…

I have only worn the pieces once but I know I’ll get lots of use out of them in the future, regardless of the weather, because they’re so comfortable. I actually put this outfit on when I got up this morning, as being already dressed for it would mean I had to go for a run later, but I was enjoying wearing it so much that I kept delaying my run – I just wanted to stay in these clothes all day!

(P.S. HOW LUSH is my street? Thanks to my personal photographer, flat mate and running buddy, Jennifer, for the pic!)

 

Work off your Wimbledon faves

Who doesn’t love watching a bit of tennis with a glass of Pimms and a punnet of strawberries?

With Wimbledon just around the corner, Central London Apartments has put together this fun infographic showing how much of the sport you’d actually need to play to work off the treats traditionally associated with it.

Serious message: the infographic is based on calories and we should all know by now that one calorie is not like another – what’s way more important than the number is where the calories are coming from (i.e. protein, carbs, fats), but regardless this is an entertaining guide for tennis fans visiting the city this June/July.

I’m rather partial to a cream scone myself so the news that I’d need to play for an hour and a half to make up for it is rather alarming, although 15 minutes for a g&t seems reasonable…

What’s your Wimbldon weakness?

Infographic

Drop the Pom, Gymbox – review

Girls at the Drop the Pom class

Yesterday I headed to the Gymbox in Farringdon to try out urban cheerleading with PT Esmee Gummer. Esmee is a member of London’s Drop the Pom group and devised the class based on the workout cheerleaders get when practising and performing their routines.

I have to admit that I wasn’t sure how strenuous shaking some pom poms about would be, and was kind of hoping the studio wouldn’t have any windows so that no one could catch me in the act… Having found my love for exercising through weight training I wasn’t sure how seriously to take this class, but it turns out that the answer should have been VERY. Cheerleading is hard work!

After warming up, Esmee put us through our paces with a series of drills for legs, abs and arms. I started training years ago because I hated my thighs (which sounds stupid to me now), so I can squat with the best of them, but I found the arms section a challenge – you’d be amazed how hard it is to keep your arms up in the air for four minutes! So this is definitely a class I’d recommend to anyone who wants to sculpt their upper arms/shoulders.

After that there was a HIIT (high intensity interval training) section, which was probably the toughest section of all. This involved badass cheerleader-variants of side lunges, high-knees, jump lunges and the dreaded burpees, for a minute each, and I am more than happy to admit that I had to stop for a breather mid way!

Finally, we worked on a little routine, and by this point I had totally forgotten my worries about looking daft with the pom poms and could not have been loving it more. Esmee was a great teacher and taught us little sections at a time, always building on what we’d already practised.

One of my favourite things about the class was learning how strong you need to be to perform as a cheerleader, both physically and as a person – Esmee kept reminding us to smile and not let them know that we were in pain, ‘them’ being the audience of 10,000 that we were imagining performing in front of! This reminded me of pole dancing and how it looks so pretty and graceful but actually you need to be hard as nails to do it because it hurts like hell. There’s a weird satisfaction in making something difficult look easy – maybe it’s endorphin-related.

Esmee knows all about overcoming challenges to succeed, having had to learn to walk again after a complication during surgery for a sports injury left her temporarily paralysed from the waist down. This stopped her from going to performing arts school, but hasn’t prevented her from becoming a successful PT and dancer and even releasing her own fitness DVD earlier this year. It’s an impressive story and you can read all about it here.

All in all, Drop the Pom was a super full-body workout. My arms are aching today, which is always a good sign! More importantly I really enjoyed myself and felt so much better walking out of the gym than walking in, all set to enjoy the weekend.

I think I got lucky in that the class I attended was on a sunny Friday evening, so it was quieter thanks to the number of people who weren’t able to resist the pull of the beer garden! But Esmee’s class usually has a waitlist so if you decide to give it a go make sure you book in plenty of time.

Half-hour bum-busting bedroom workout

So despite having been pretty active since moving to London, going running regularly and walking all over the city, I can tell that I’m not giving my body what it wants – which is weight training.

I’m still not sure if I can afford a gym membership, but I was in serious fear of my glutes turning to lard this evening, so I decided to do a body weight workout in my bedroom.

I thought I’d share it as this workout can be done literally anywhere (believe me, my room is teeny tiny). Each section should take about 3-4 mins so it’s probably a good idea to put together a half hour playlist of your favourite energising songs – that way, as you’re working through each one, you know you only have to make it to the end of the next tune!

Now I have to admit that I don’t know what all of these exercises are called so I’ve done my best to explain them instead – leave me a comment if I haven’t been clear enough! So…

SQUATS – 20 squats followed by 20 pulses in the squat sit position, then repeat three times (so four times altogether – no cheating!)

LUNGES – 20 backwards lunges followed by 20 pulses in the lunge sit position, alternating so you do this twice on each leg.

HIP RAISES – 20 regular, 10 single leg on each side, 10-second hold, then repeat once.

FOOT TO CEILING LEG PULSES – on all fours, bring one knee in to your chest and then take the foot of the same leg as high as you can to the ceiling. Do this 10 times, and on the tenth time do 20 pulses at the top. Alternate to do this twice on each side.

PARALLEL LEG PULSES – on all fours, stick one leg out straight behind you and parallel to the ground. Pulse it up and down 30 times, then take your leg and arc it over the other side as far as you can and back to centre ten times. Alternate to do this twice on each side.

CORE – 20 deadbugs followed by 20 crunches for the duration of a whole song(!)

FINALLY, SIDE BOOTY – lying on one side and propped up on your elbow, lift one leg and make 30 small circles with your ankle, then bring your knee to your chest ten times. Repeat, circling your ankle the opposite way, then do the same on the other side.

And you’re done! A quick half hour to get the heart racing, wherever you are.