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!

Seasonal superfoods

If you’re reading this in the UK, you might have spotted a new title on the shelves of your local supermarket or newsagent lately – Superfood, a magazine dedicated to eating well using ingredients that are naturally nutritious.

We hear a lot about superfoods, and sometimes information on the topic can be confusing or contradictory. Even the term itself is much debated and hard to define, so I really hope that this magazine helps clear things up!

The first issue is a Christmas special, so I thought I’d share five wintery fruits and veggies that I’ll definitely be incorporating into my seasonal celebrations.

  1. Cranberries. A rich source of vitamin C and greatly valued for their anti-inflammatory properties, cranberries were even used by Native Americans to treat arrow wounds!
  2. Sprouts. I LOVE sprouts, and have done since I was a baby. Maybe it’s because they’re low in carbohydrates and a 20g serving contains more vitamin C than an orange?
  3. Sweet potatoes. One of the most versatile superfoods around, sweet potatoes are also one of the best sources of vitamin A. Plus, they’re linked to cancer prevention and the maintenance of good eyesight.
  4. Beetroot. Research suggests beetroot can help lower blood pressure, boost performance when exercising and prevent dementia. Even better, it’s a hangover cure! The beta cyanin that gives beetroot its colour is an antioxidant which helps your liver flush alcohol out of your body.
  5. Onions. Do not underestimate the humble onion! It provides many vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre, beta carotene and folate, but almost no fat – no wonder we use it in everything!

Thanks to Superfood magazine for the facts. If you’re keen to incorporate more of these natural goodies into your Christmas feast, check out the first issue which has plenty of recipes to inspire you – from a traditional cranberry sauce to a colourful winter slaw. 

  

Stressing out on social media

Last Wednesday (4 November 2015) was National Stress Awareness Day. To mark the occasion Just Park created the Stress-O-Sphere, an interactive tool that explores what stresses people are taking to Twitter to talk about, divided by topic and presented in real time.

Surprisingly, health is the second most tweeted-about cause of stress, behind partners/families/friends but ahead of work and money. I say that this is surprising, although perhaps I shouldn’t be so shocked as much of the pressure to look a certain way or be a certain weight (which, let’s face it, is what many of us think about when we hear the word ‘health’) comes from social media – largely thanks to celebrities sharing altered images of themselves and giving the rest of us unrealistic ideals. So it makes sense that we’re expressing our concerns about it there too.

Stressful stats

Here are some of the key findings of the Stress-O-Sphere:

  • 50,000 tweets about stress are posted every single day – that’s one every two seconds 
  • Health is the second most tweeted-about cause of stress, with a post on the topic being shared every 10 seconds
  • Body image and sleep are the most tweeted-about health worries, featuring in 3,000 tweets per day
  • Eating is a bigger source of stress for Twitter users than smoking, drinking and drugs combined
  • More people tweet about health-related stress than anxieties over work, money or marriage

Wellbeing woes

Delving deeper into our wellbeing woes, Just Park found that the top 10 most tweeted-about health stresses are:

  1. Body image
  2. Sleep
  3. Diet
  4. Pain
  5. Hair
  6. Depression
  7. Skin
  8. Drinking
  9. Smoking
  10. Exercise

Obviously many of these are genuine causes for concern (although I’m not sure about number five…) and it’s upsetting to realise that insecurities about body image are so widespread, but I do have a little tip for anyone who’s ever posted about being stressed out over exercise. Instead of posting something negative about falling off the wagon, try sharing something positive, such as “I’m going to go to the gym three times this week and nothing is going to stop me!” Even if only a handful of people see your tweet, it’s a public declaration that you can hold yourself accountable to. If you’re stubborn like me it works like a dream!

Oh, and if you’re wondering why I’m posting this now instead of last week, it’s because last week I was too stressed about work to look at emails about my blog! Me stressed is not pretty. It usually looks something like this… 

 

Health hacks: the holiday edition


When I’m on holiday there’s no way I’m going to deny myself something I fancy, like a giant pistachio ice cream or a buttery pastry… yum! But equally I don’t want to come back from my break feeling worse than before, so here are my top five tips for staying (moderately) healthy on your hols.

1. Get off to a good start

I know how tricky it is to resist the temptations of a breakfast buffet, but think of it this way – choosing a healthy start to the day will mean one extra treat later on! Admittedly I’ve frequently caved in and gone for a full (veggie) English myself, but I usually end up feeling pretty terrible (as in ill, not guilty) afterwards, and no one needs that with a full day of sightseeing planned! Greek yoghurt and fruit (preferably fresh berries) is a good option.

2. Use your pins

Can’t work out the local transport system? Who cares! Walking is not only the best way to explore somewhere new, it’s also a great way to burn fat – more so than running, in fact. So make sure you pack a comfy pair of shoes and get your hands on a map as soon as you arrive.

3. Don’t forget the H2O

Always carry a bottle of water with you. It’s easy to get dehydrated while you’re on holiday, especially if you’re like me and you decide to just go for a quick wander to get your bearings and don’t come back for five hours… Carrying a bottle with you will mean you won’t have to halt your adventure mid way to hunt for the nearest corner shop or supermarket.

4. Avoid the crowds

A packed gym is never ideal, and it’s particularly hard to avoid on holiday as hotel facilities are often rather ’boutique’ (i.e. tiny). If you can, steer clear of the morning rush and try going at a quieter time of day. Early evening is usually pretty good – when most other guests are having their pre-dinner nap! (Although I do also love a pre-dinner nap.)

5. Travel with Yoogaia 

Pack your tablet and you can take hundreds of different guided yoga classes on holiday with you. Even if you can’t join a live session because of the time zone you’re in, you can choose from the many recordings available on the site. All you need is an internet connection!

Now if all of this has got you in the holiday mood, enter the #travelwithyoogaia competition for the chance to win a weekend break in a Nordic city – just like the one I’m enjoying now*. All you need to do is start your free seven day trial, take a photo of your practice and upload it to Instagram along with the competition hashtag. Good luck!

*This was an all expenses paid trip to Helsinki courtesy of the lovely people at Yoogaia.

Behind the scenes at Yoogaia HQ

I’m writing this post from my hotel in Helsinki. Okay to be more specific I am writing it from the bar in my hotel in Helsinki…! I’ve been invited here by Yoogaia*, to help them let yoga fans around the world know about a really easy way to keep up their practice while they are holidaying or travelling abroad.

The main point of the trip is to use Yoogaia to practice yoga in my hotel room and write about the experience, but as the business’ HQ is in Helsinki I was keen to take a look around while I’m here. I learnt lots whilst chatting to Katja, who is a Yoogaia instructor and manages the Helsinki studio, so I wanted to share some of that with you!

For those of you that don’t know, Yoogaia is an online platform that you can log on to anywhere and at any time to follow a recorded yoga class or join a live one. The unique thing about Yoogaia is that it uses two-way visuals, so as well as being able to watch the yoga instructor live from your own home (or hotel room), you have the option to allow them to view you as you practice – so that they can give advice, correct posture or make recommendations about how best to tailor the session to your individual needs. 

The business launched 18 months ago right here in Helsinki, but has since opened up two new studios in London and Hong Kong. Classes aren’t actually held at the studios, but having more locations where instructors can film from means that Yoogaia can offer classes in more languages and to suit more time zones. Growing at a pretty impressive pace, the business already has its eye on other markets too, keen to capitalise on its USP before the idea catches on and competitors start popping up across the globe – which they inevitably will do with a concept this good.

One of Yoogaia’s other selling points is that the team take their yoga pretty seriously, with scores of different types of session available covering everything from mindful yoga and chakra meditation to, you guessed it, Broga! Katja tells me that yin yoga is the most popular here in Finland. Yin is a slow-paced practice – poses can be held for up to five minutes with the aim of increasing circulation and flexibility. It’s definitely one I’m keen to try and I’ll be checking in for a session this weekend.

In addition, all of the instructors, no matter where they’re based, are carefully recruited and put through their paces before being offered a place on the team. This is really important for maintaining a high quality across the board and ensures that, if you fancy trying something different from your usual practice, you won’t be disappointed by your new instructor.

While I’m here I’m going to be joining as many different classes as I can fit in around being a very excited tourist in a new city. If you want to join me, why not sign up for the one week free trial? If you’re not yet convinced, check out Yoogaia’s stunning Instagram feed which is full of yogis practising against beautiful backdrops of green meadows and peaceful lakes. If that doesn’t get you feeling inspired, I don’t know what will!

*This was an all expenses paid trip courtesy of the lovely people at Yoogaia.

Psycle London – review

At every other gym I’ve been to, spin class has been a collection of dodgy-looking bikes in one corner of a harshly-lit room, usually run by an unenthusiastic (and pretty unfit-looking) PT. At Psycle, it’s a borderline religious experience. And being the endorphin-worshiper than I am, I LOVED IT.

As soon as you arrive at Psycle you can hear music pumping up from the basement studios, and that’s part of the USP. Classes take place in rooms lit only with atmospheric multi-coloured strip lights, the idea being that this helps you lose yourself in the beat instead of focussing on how hard you’re working. The low level lighting also means you’re less aware of your neighbours and therefore less self conscious – although everyone in my class was really welcoming to newcomers, with the instructor giving a shout out to first-timers as well as bronze, silver and gold riders (i.e. people who had attended a milestone number of sessions) at the start.

Psycle’s other big selling point is that it provides cleated shoes for everyone. These increase the connection between the legs and the bike to really engage your hamstrings and glutes. Different movements in the saddle, including press-ups on the handlebars, and some hand weight exercises make this a truly full-body workout, proving that Psycle offers substance as well as style.

The instructor I had for my first class was A.D. and I thought he was completely awesome, although I should caveat that by saying it’s because I’m really into instructors who do the “Focus on your goal and imagine yourself achieving it and repeat after me ‘I CAN DO THIS!’ -type spiel. I just LOVE it. If someone says to me “Pedal double speed, close your eyes and say ‘I AM MY OWN MOUNTAIN'”, I’m like “YYEEEEEAAAAHHHHH!” because I find a tough workout a very cathartic and almost cleansing experience.

If, however, this isn’t your style, not to worry because there are lots of different instructors so you can try a few out until you find someone you jel with. All the instructors have bios on the website, listing their favourite workout tunes so you can choose a session by soundtrack too, which is pretty cool.

It’s also worth noting that there’s no competitive element regardless of the instructor – everyone’s encouraged to push themselves, but against their own maximum effort rather than someone else’s. As someone who came to love exercise as an adult, always thinking as a teen that I couldn’t do it at all just because I wasn’t good at team sports, this matters to me. All bodies are built differently, so unless you’re a professional athlete why pit yourself against someone else? 

But it’s not just the classes themselves that make Psycle so great – it’s the whole experience, from the wealth of info on the well-designed and attractive website to the friendly staff who will take you around on your first visit. I was shown how to use the lockers, given shoes to try and helped to set up my bike, and knowing in advance that this would happen put my mind at ease. I was really impressed by the whole thing, and can’t wait to go back.

Psycle has two London venues, at Mortimer Street (five mins from Oxford Circus) and the newly opened Canary Wharf studio. Sessions have to be booked in advance and don’t come cheap at £20 a go, but there’s a special intro offer where you can visit twice for that price – and in my experience that’s probably enough to get you hooked!

Regent’s Park run

I’m not much of a photographer, so the reason this is a photo post isn’t to show off my amazing photography skills – it’s to show off my amazing neighbourhood! In the week my flatmate took me on a running tour of Saint John’s Wood and Regent’s Park, and it was so pretty that I went back yesterday to take some pics to share.

Unfortunately I didn’t stop to get one of the tourists outside Abbey Road Studios but I did take a break to say hi to these local celebs… 

Then inside the inner circle of the park, near the open air theatre, there are a tonne of carefully curated little gardens and flower beds like this one… (spot the lady on the bench)

… plus this fountain of a couple of mermaids and a dude blowing water out of a shell. Normal.

There’s some pretty cool wildlife to see outside of the zoo, too, like these herons just chilling out by the boating lake. 

Note: this is also a great spot to watch people on pedalos taking pictures of themselves using selfie sticks. 

And finally, check this out. Those white spots on the ground? Thousands and thousand of daisies! 

If you want to see this route, use WalkJogRun and search for 8km routes near Maida Vale. I’ve named it ‘Fit As A Flea Regent’s Park run’, Ronseal-style.