REVIEW: Body Conditioning @ Everyone Active

Disclaimer: Not going to lie – this has been sat in my drafts for no reason other than I have a memory like a sieve… but it is still as relevant as ever as Body Conditioning is a still a staple of the Castle Centre’s group exercise timetable.

Everyone Active have recently taken over the running of several leisure centres in Westminster and Southwark. They’ve also invested a fair bit of cash in refurbishing and creating brand new timetables, and they are clearly pretty pleased with the way things are going so far. So pleased that they have staked their reputation on it by inviting a bunch of fitness bloggers, such as ourselves, to check them out and review them. In this review, I’m sharing my experience of the Body Conditioning class at The Castle Centre. For more info on the leisure centre itself, check out the my thoughts on it here.

Delighted at the prospect of trying out a few new classes on the house, I trotted off to Elephant & Castle one Monday evening after work to have a go at the Body Conditioning class. Described on the Everyone Active website as “A challenging workout designed to improve your cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength and physical endurance, delivering all round benefits to every part of the body. Suitable and adaptable to all levels of fitness from” I thought, that doesn’t really tell me very much, but it certainly sounds suitably challenging.

The biggest clue I got on the content before it started was that it was populated solely by women with the exception of one guy, who admittedly left after 15mins. Our instructor, Galena, cranked the poppy music up high and enthusiastically hollered at us to get started – the first combination of moves we did included a ‘grapevine’. Lightbulb moment: this is an old school aerobics class.

The participants were certainly representative of all different levels of fitness and form, which was great to see, but I was a little disappointed when it became clear that there wasn’t going to be variations on the moves to make them harder (or easier). Despite this, I certainly got out of breath and swe-e-aty! Which is as good an indicator of a decent cardio as any in my book, but I wouldn’t say it truly delivered a ‘challenging’ workout, as promised.

If you are looking for a fun way to get a bit of cardio into your weekly routine and mix it up a bit by doing something a bit silly I would thoroughly recommend this class – it is high-camp and freaking fabulous. I’m not usually a fan of dance-based classes, because frankly I’m terrible at them, but this class gave me a workout for my brain as well as my body, and I really enjoyed the old-school aerobics moves – after all if they ain’t broke, don’t fix ’em!

For more class reviews in the London area, check out the Reviews section under ‘What we write about’ in the header above.

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Trails are the new pavements – and here’s why!

If you know me in real life, you’ll know I’ve recently moved back out of London to enjoy spending lots of time with my parents (aka saving money) I’ve written about this before (my parents are close to London so it’s super easy for me to default back here if I need to) but something I’ve really noticed is how much more I’m enjoying my running – and part of that is purely due to the lack of traffic, lack of pollution and ability to be in a field within 5 minutes and not have to deal with traffic. In short, TRAILS!

I mean I’m hardly claiming that the Chilterns are some sort of trail Mecca relative to the rest of the world, but they’re the best I’ve got right now. It frustrates me how much of a big deal is made out of trail running being something you really need to ‘prepare’ for – unless it’s mega muddy you don’t need special shoes, you don’t really need to spend hours on ankle mobility exercises and if you’ve got a bad sense of direction, stick to well marked paths and don’t get lost in the woods…

So I’ve basically got 10 reasons why trail running is great- and yes, this was partially an excuse for me to dig out lots of photos that I love!

1. The views. I mean as much as London has nice landmarks, it’s still a city with big grey buildings and boring stuff. I know what I would prefer to cast my eyes over! (N.B. you can see here that I go to France a lot…)

Vedrignans, France

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Tour Madeloc, Port-Vendres, France

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Route de la Corniche, Ciboure, France

2. The quiet. You can escape everything. No traffic, no music, no other people. It’s the perfect place to chill out. Obviously it’s also much safer to run on trails with no distractions, but to be perfectly honest, you shouldn’t need them.

3. Who you share them with. Seriously, if you run in London you know no one ever says hello and it’s eyes down, run on. Out in the sticks (!) everyone is so much more friendly – whether it’s walkers, runners, cyclists or horse riders I guarantee you’ll get at least a nod! (Or a wave if you meet Clapham Chasers in the Pyrenees as per picture below…) Or, you won’t see anyone for miles – which is equally enjoyable…

4. What you share them with. I was out before 6 on Wednesday morning and heard woodpeckers, saw buzzards and red kites and startled a whole herd of deer (including an albino one!) Much better than some skanky fox making a mess of bin bags. Or someone staggering home from Infernos.

5. It’s tough. Trails are naturally harder to run on – there’s more absorption of your power so you won’t be as fast as you would on road – and you’ve got to be careful around where you step, so it’s not easy. Your balance gets better, your eyesight becomes more focused and your brain is more switched on. Can’t argue with that. I mean, it’s not ideal for speed work but it will improve your overall strength no end.

6. Hills are good for you! Seriously. After having a long spell where Battersea Bridge was one of the biggest hills I ran over, I really struggled with inclines but it’s coming back to me pretty quickly. There is something incredibly rewarding about getting to the top and thinking “wow, I got up that all by myself”

7. When you get to proper trails, you get to take a backpack and SNACKS and sometimes you can walk up the hills. Dreamy. It makes you look like you are pretty serious as well.

8. Well you don’t have to worry about cars running you over or stopping at traffic lights…

9. The ground is far better for you than constant pavement pounding. Especially if you’re coming back from injury, you’ll find a softer trail run works wonders when you’ve been hammering it a bit too hard on an unforgiving surface. I often find that some of my niggles are markedly less niggely on softer terrain.

10. Mud! You can slide through it, try and scoot round it, lose a shoe in it (me three weeks ago) – but whatever your take, ploughing through mud and puddles feels remarkedly fun and childlike (same for kicking leaves). Trainers wash, socks wash, you can have a shower – just go for it!

So there you go – trails are fab and if you’ve got the opportunity, go for it and don’t worry! Even when you’re in London, get off the pavements, run on the grass in the Royal Parks, try Hampstead Heath or Wimbledon Common. The North and South Downs are also both pretty handy via a train from Clapham Junction!

Do you do much trail running? What’s your favourite part about it?

Planning your race calendar

I love a plan. OK, I mean like, really love a plan. Particularly for training and races and meals. I’m a control freak and the amount of notebooks I’ve filled writing what I’m doing that week is ridiculous! (Note, this definitely does not mean I always do what is in my plan. I have good intentions that are usually over ambitious and assume I can manage on about 3 hours sleep a night whilst training 17 times a week. I still haven’t quite realised that this isn’t physically possible)

Last week I sat down to try and plan my race calendar for the rest of the year and thought I would give a few tips that might help…

1. Have a vague idea of what you want to do this year. For example, I’ve gone for shorter stuff, duathlons, i’m not fussed about marathon this year, a couple of tris and MAYBE an autumn half (so not really shorter stuff, basically just not a marathon)

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2. Have a vague idea of how willing you are to travel and spend money, i.e. I don’t really want to be spending upwards of £80 on a triathlon and I really begrudge spending anything over £30 on a run-only event unless it’s a marathon or a real ‘must-do’. I might do a destination event if I see something that really piques my interest, but haven’t spotted anywhere in particular.

3. Long list the potential events. This is the fun bit! Get a piece of paper and use all means of finding races (mainly Google) and WRITE THEM ALL DOWN. Use points 1 and 2 to help or hinder your selection.

4. Read a bit about each one and then manage to find even more races that you hadn’t spotted. Add them to the long list in really small writing at the very bottom. Decide that parkrun “doesn’t really count” so you don’t need to properly plan it.

5. Do a second hash of your priorities. Age group qualifiers? PB races? Terrain? Distance from home? Just FUN? What do you want to get out of a race this year? No, what do you actually want, make a decision woman.

6. Then probably remember that you have to have a social life and do things like attend weddings, go to work and see your family so I would use this to cross out anything you definitely definitely can’t do or make your excuses to people now. (Your long list now should be suitably long with maybe couple of items crossed off) Be slightly mysterious to anyone who is trying to make plans with you for later in the year until you’ve worked this out.

7. Then realise you can’t enter 3 events on the same day. Get rid of a few more. But whilst doing this, find a few more events you weren’t aware of and add them back in as replacements. Also then decide this is the year you really want to try and time trial your way through a 3,000m but also want to do a 100m race because you miss school athletics but genuinely don’t know if you are any good at sprinting any more. Then worry that you will look a bit ridiculous and would like some moral support. Phone a friend and bribe them to enter.

Race planning goals

8. Now match your medium-long list to your priorities and realise that they’ve probably changed again. Decide on which events you actually want to do and think about entering them (basically make a “definite, maybe and definitely not” or “A race-B race-C race” type list that won’t kill you from over-training or over-racing)

9. Work out that 7 of your events have already closed for entries so you can’t do those. Feel sad because it is one of your favourite races. Switch in some other events from the maybe list. Tip – find out when each of the entries close and if they are likely to sell out so that you can stagger race costs and not have to justify it all in one go to anyone who may not understand.

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10. Actually enter the events and write them in your diary. Feel smug.

11. And a bonus #11 – then try and write/find a training plan that remotely can suit multiple events without completely killing you!

How do you plan your diary? Am I the only one who gets over-enthusiastic?

Building dat booty: Curvebuilding with Corpao Fitness

This post is for gym bunnies and non-gym bunnies alike and it’s about a very serious subject guys. A very serious subject indeed. So, buckle up because we are about to talk about the booty. The glutes. Dat ass. The wagon. The rump. The derriere. The junk in the trunk, yo. You catch my drift.

One of the nice side effects of being one of those people that plays a bit of sport and does the odd (or indeed more frequent) bit of training, is that your physique starts to shape up. Sure, we’re not all instagrammable fitness models (in fact the last thing I posted on our joint Insta account was a picture of my toe after my toenail fell off… true story: I had to shave my toe before I took the photo lest it was deemed just TOO gross by Katie, or indeed any of our lovely followers. But I digress.), but there is no harm at all in being bloody proud of the body you have worked hard for or when you achieve a particular goal you’ve set for yourself.

One of the things I’m working on at the moment, with the help of my long-suffering and eternally patient boyfriend, is squats – I have another post in the pipeline to talk about this some more – but one of the things I have read a lot about in relation to this recently is that squats alone does not a cracking booty make. Rather, if your goal is to work on the shape and lift of your butt, you need to complement those squats with other targeted exercises.

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