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.

Building dat booty: Curvebuilding with Corpao Fitness

his 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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Sweating it out – are you replacing your minerals?

The sun is finally out and I (and everyone else, don’t lie) am SWEATING a lot. Especially if you are doing any kind of sport. I sacked off track partway through the session last night because a) it was the hardest sessions EVER (6 x 1 mile) and b) it was the hottest day ever.

Now, I obviously know when you sweat, you lose electrolytes and that is a bad thing. You don’t perform as well, you don’t recover as well, you get cramp. That is why companies are constantly peddling electrolyte drinks, vitamin water (I drink it because I like the taste rather than any nutritional benefits), protein coconut water (still tastes as bad as normal coconut water vom) to get you to replace lost salts and minerals.

So that is a form of supplementation – but supplements as a whole, I’ve never really felt the need to delve into…It’s a combination of

  1. thinking I don’t need to (and I know best obviously)
  2. remembering a nutrition module in my degree with the conclusion of you don’t really need to if your diet is sufficient
  3. every study showing the benefits having an opposite study that refukes the claim (again, side effects of a sports science degree)
  4. I always forget to take them.

Pharma Nord got in contact a few months back to ask if we would like to try out their Bio-Magnesium tablets, and I have to say, I was easily convinced by the claims of magnesium in reducing DOMS and aiding recovery. I rarely feel like I’m not in a state of DOMS (to the point that my legs always hurt walking up stairs.end of) so this was a BRILLIANT way of convincing me.

What role does magnesium play in the body?

Magnesium regulates A LOT of reactions in the body (over 300 enzymatic reactions!), from protein synthesis to blood pressure regulation. It is also probably fairly low in the list of “top things you would think about supplementing” – with iron and sodium tending to be near the top of the list for endurance athletes, but its role must not be ignored.

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Now I know how Hannibal would feel during burpees… – Skinny Rebel review

A few months back, Kate & I received an opportunity to test out “Skinny Rebel“, a class offered by the guys at Train Dirty…which is described as “a personal training workout with a difference”…

A myriad of things (think building leaks, illness and general work/life balance being the wrong way round) set out to try and prevent it happening, but a few weeks ago I was able to try my hand at the sort of thing that typically happens when you live in say, Colombia or the Rift Valley – hypoxic training…or for those of you who don’t recall this from your sports science degree – reducing the oxygen available to the body. In this case, it’s all down to a clever little mask.  Which makes you look either like Bane or Hannibal. And sound a bit like Darth Vader.

*Disclaimer – the session was provided free of charge, however all opinions are my own*

A nice and leisurely 8am session was a great idea, meaning I didn’t have to leave my flat until 7.20 to get to the gym, WIN.The Conrad St James is super easy to find – bang opposite St James’ tube (although I walked from Victoria, which took about 10 minutes) and very close to Met Police HQ. It is, as you’d expect, a gorgeous location, with the kind of reception staff you would expect from a high standard hotel. (also meaning there are gym towels, lockers, a fridge full of still and sparkling water and the ever-present hotel gym green apple offering!)

The gym is tucked away downstairs and upon entering, my initial worry was confirmed – it was a typical hotel gym aka about 4 square foot, with a weird “this can do everything” weights bench and your usual limited cardio and weights equipment.Ugh.


However, don’t judge a book by its cover Katie.

I was welcomed in by James and we had a chat about the class, the team, the locations (think luxury hotels in St Tropez and Lisbon….much more appealing destinations than London on a dreary Wednesday morning!) and what was coming. I went along with the naive feeling that, being a fair few months into a marathon training programme, I was in pretty decent shape, but was promised that this would really help to test where I wasn’t in shape. And where I needed to focus.

Circuit 1 went something like this:

Bear crawls, ropes, more ropes, duck walks, boxing, burpees. BURPEES. I hate burpees. However I have a real respect for anyone who puts them in a circuit though as I know they do their job.

Circuit 2 was similar, a few changes in exercise, but of note was that BURPEES were in there again! At this point I was pretty glad I didn’t have the mask on yet, purely because the feeling of burpees couldn’t possibly be made any worse…

However, after this, out came the mask. And yes, I looked like Hannibal. If Hannibal had blonde hair.  I found the biggest challenge was learning not to panic when you couldn’t breathe. It’s like swimming, or anything where you need to focus on your breathing – the more you panic, the harder it is. I have a feeling if you do yoga and are good at controlling your breathing, you will do this a heck of a lot better than me…


The choice is yours whether to wear the mask or not – and I’m not going to lie, it was a pretty tough session even without the mask on! I wonder whether I would have pushed myself more not wearing it – I was struggling so much with getting used to it and worrying that I couldn’t breathe that I probably put less intensity into the exercises themselves (i.e. burpees) I think thought that after a couple of sessions you would easily crack it and begin to reap the benefits. There’s a whole host of studies about the impact of continued oxygen deficiency on the body (it boils down basically to being able to do a better job of transporting and using the oxygen you have available when you limit it) – and this is a legit way to do it rather than a) becoming a pro cyclist and going the short way round or b) spending months living up and training down mountains.

Fail #1 is misplacing my HR monitor. I have no idea where it is (probably under my bed) – and I wish I had had it for this session to see the impact that putting on the mask actually had. Claims are big – up to 1000kcal in a 45 minute session.

Fail #2 is thinking ‘I’m sure I will be fine wearing a mask’. Nope, it’s less fine than you think it will be – it took me a good circuit and a half to feel comfortable wearing it and less like I was going to have a full scale panic attack. But once it’s on and you’ve got used to it – you begin to forget it’s there. Until you realise how much harder it is making things feel!

Fail #3 is doing an arms session the day before. NO! This made my press up ability very limited – and meant my planks suffered as well. I get to the point now where I just think I am in a permanent state of DOMS.

In summary:

  • It’s new, exciting and different
  • You don’t HAVE to wear the mask – you’ll get a decent workout whatever you choose, but it’s a great little thing to try
  • You also won’t be FORCED to wear the mask – I whipped it off a couple of times mid circuit for a few quick breaths and then popped it back on again, it’s amazing what a bit of calm and reassurance can do to you
  • You can do A LOT in a hotel gym with minimal space. This I think is down to great planning and a trainer who knows what gets results – big thumbs up to this approach
  • Always trust a PT who can judge you early on – the best ones can read through the lines and push you to do what you can, rather than what you think you are a bit too tired to do

I then popped to work with a spring in my step – I showered at the office so didn’t get a chance to see if you were able to use any changing facilities – and was buzzing to tell people what it had felt like!

Skinny Rebel workouts run at Conrad London St. James for guests and your regular selves. The workout is priced at £40 for one 45 minute session, with block booking offers available. For more information and to make a reservation, email: info@traindirtylondon.com – or they’re also on Classpass.  The team also offer a range of PT options – visit the website for more information.

 

VLM 2016 – aka the one where the wheels fell off!

So, it’s that time of year again! The one day of the year where everyone gets inspired, and plans to run a marathon next year. And also the one marathon of the year that most people seem to think is the ONLY MARATHON EVER. And I always get shocked watching the highlights at the amount of people willing to talk to Denise Lewis rather than tell her to naff off because you’re trying to PB (sorry Denise!) So here is my London Marathon review.

I’ve been pretty restless the last few weeks or so – a busy month at work combined with some missed sessions, a niggly Achilles, knee and hamstring (YUP I’m getting the excuses in early here!) has meant my expectations were rapidly rapidly going downhill.But IT’S LONDON AND THEREFORE YOU HAVE TO BE EXCITED!

Anyone who has asked recently about my goal has been told “3.20 – 3.30”. Truth be told, I didn’t even back myself to get that. I’ve never really felt that I’ve ‘got’ how to run a marathon properly. I’ve had people telling me I should have been pushing more towards the 3.15 end of things, but to be quite frank, the thought terrifies me. And if the thought terrifies me, then there is very little likelihood I’m going to get anywhere near it.

My taper was a real taper – and by that I mean I hardly ran at all. Instead, I spent a lot of time acquainting myself with my foam roller, a lacrosse ball and some kinesiology tape (applying this to your own hamstring is quite hard) and hoping for the best…

I got uber excited picking up my number at the expo on Friday evening – the buzz is incredible and it’s such a special event. I think I wrote something imaginative like “I love running” on the wall.

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Managed actually not to purchase anything – wasn’t quite sold on the tshirt this year so no snazzy memorabilia.

All good to go! #vlm2016 #ukrunchat #vlmexpo #boost #running #londonmarathon #race 😵😵😵😵

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Saturday was spent at the rugby before coming home to a pre race dinner of a jacket potato with beans and some chocolate and some ice cream. Dinner of champions!

The usual wake up, get ready activities took place. It was raining when I woke up. (Didn’t really have contingency plans for clothing)

Boyfriend taped up my Achilles and told me it was all going to be OK. I told him I did not believe him, I didn’t want to run and I was going to be rubbish. We then had a ‘fine then I won’t try and be motivational if you’re going to be like that’ type disagreement. (He is learning every time how to get better at this, basically by either ignoring me or agreeing with everything I say) I got on the tube (rain had stopped) and headed to London Bridge, no real wait for a train to Maze Hill and then the usual trudge up the hill to the Green Start whilst eating a bagel with PB.

 

This is when you start to realise exactly the scale of the operation – and green is only a handful of people compared to red and blue!  It’s incredible seeing the sheer volume of people heading in one direction.

I took a gamble that I would be OK wearing just a bin bag. Despite the fact the organisers had specifically sent an email saying it would be cold.It was cold. Ended up finding some fellow Chaser ladies huddled in the changing tents.  We had a bit of a chat around times and worked out a few pairs – Cat has a trail marathon next weekend so her and Jas were going to be hitting the 3.40ish mark, and Korkoi is “IM training but not doing as much running as she should be so not really in marathon shape” so we decided to go out together. Plan was hit a 3.25 pace and just see what happened.


Greenwich was fairly quiet as usual from a supporter side, lots of people warning you about humps in the road, and it felt fairly cluttered with runners as the first 10 miles or so always do! We eventually got caught up by ANOTHER Chaser, Leanne – we had set a fairly similar goal (to be entered into the very very accurate cheer squad spreadsheet tracker) so we decided to push on as a three – and it was great to have a little bunch together, especially all in club vests. There was lots of “Come on Chasers” support all across the course, and this was such a nice little boost. I’ve also realised I quite like not having my name on my vest – this means that anyone who shouts Katie is someone I actually know, which is quite a nice feeling.

Here are some ugly pictures of me running, courtesy of Darren Tanner.

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Knee gave a little bit of a niggle around mile 8, which wasn’t ideal…but surprisingly, my Achilles and hamstring felt GLORIOUS (well as much as they could!) At mile 9, my little support crew were ready and waiting. This time, the cow bell had been remembered (we always forget the cowbell for races…) I think I remember thinking at this point that the pace was probably quite optimistic…(we were running solid 7.30-7.40 splits)

We lost Leanne at around 11, but Korkoi & I continued on, over the amazing sight (and sound) that is Tower Bridge with thousands of people either side, before hunkering down on the Highway and spotting the leading men coming the other way (with a fair old gap between them and anyone else) The Chaser cheer brigade were in full force around mile 14, covering both sides of the road, including Ingrid the mascot (inflatable doll…don’t ask) and a few pints in hand.

The gloves were eventually thrown around mile 15, round about the same time I decided I wanted to put my headphones in – I was beginning to feel the strain. Korkoi and I kept pretty close together round the Isle of Dogs, which is always a bit of a drag for me, but spruced up by my support crew being ready and waiting around mile 18, which is roundabout where she started to pull away. Had gel #3 probably around Mile 16. Citrus flavour this time.

I hate Canary Wharf. Some people think the buzz is amazing, but for me, this is where it starts to hurt. I think it’s the slight incline up to the roundabout that does it – my legs just didn’t feel the same afterwards.

I hate Poplar High St. And the drag back to 21 (despite Run Dem Crew being brilliant – we’re taking some tips for the Chaser squad next year!)  Basically my least favourite bit of the London Marathon is mile 20-22. I say this every year. And I don’t learn.

I hate coming back along the Highway. Everything seems so much further away than it normally does. And everyone is so cheery and all I wanted to do was listen to my music and zone out but the crowd were too loud. (I think you get where I’m going with this – I had a pretty bad time over the last 10k. There was a tiny bit of walking – the ‘having a drink’ technique – but everything was starting to feel the force of the fast 20)

(I’ve been having a discussion with a guy at work about this – my love for the crowd was waning at this point. I don’t want to sound like a brat, or ungrateful, but seriously, if you’re in a bad place, the crowd are actually incredibly frustrating. I wanted to zone out and listen to my music – but I couldn’t hear it. I wanted to slow down – but they kept shouting at me. I wanted to not be experiencing some severe pain surrounded by 000s of people. I wanted to cry. Maybe in a way this is good, because it stopped a lot of these things – but at the time, all I could think was JUST GO AWAY. Especially anyone who says “you’re nearly there” at mile 20. THAT IS A LIE)

Stole Haribo from a small child (same as last year) but didn’t have another gel – and looking back, I wish I had,  because it was just sitting in my belt… Saw my friend Hannah at Old Billingsgate and then mildly perked up going into the tunnel because I knew that once I was through that and up the slight (MASSIVE) incline under Blackfriars Bridge, it was simply a case of the longest two miles in the world. Apparently I missed Colin Jackson here but ain’t nobody got time for that, I’ve got a PB to hit!

When I realised the wheels were falling off (i.e., mile 20) , I was doing lots of mental calculations. “It’s OK, I can still get under 3.30, I just have to run 5 x 9 minute miles” and so on. Switching from 9 minute miles to 5 minute km to 8.30 minute miles to 6 minute kms. Round and round and round.  I think this kept my brain busy. And everyone I notched around the 8.30 pace, the more I realised the goal was back in sight. At mile 24, the clock said bang on 3.10. That meant 2 x 10 minute miles, plus the little bit extra, minus the little bit I had in hand from getting over the start line and I WOULD BE THERE. Simply a case of gritting teeth and hanging on in there – I wasn’t having this pain for nothing.

 

My family said they knew I was struggling/had tried harder than last year because I looked a lot less happy (see above photos). I nearly missed them on Embankment, but luckily fishwife mother was on form with her shouting. My stride was off, I was just plodding. But plodding at a just about OK speed to get me there. The Houses of Parliament actually came up sooner than I was expecting them to – considering I run this route on a regular basis, I think I just switched off.

Running up Birdcage Walk, I had THE WORST wave of nausea ever. I mean I have never come that close to throwing up from running, but somehow managed to convince myself if I was going to vom, I wasn’t going to do it until I had crossed the line. I also had a really self-conscious thought of not wanting to go to the side and accidentally vom on a spectator’s foot or something. I got overtaken here by a Roman Soldier. And then by Elvis as we rounded the corner – and then suddenly the finish line was in sight! And it was saying 3.28! I had no idea about what my time over the line was, but knew I had done it as long as I could shift my backside down that last straight within a minute. And I have never felt so happy to do so.

3.27.32. A new PB, 817th female and 524th AG. 6 minutes off last year.

I didn’t really know what to do when I had finished. Whether to cry, to be happy, to stop, to walk. It’s a weird feeling, finishing a marathon – fairly overwhelming. I was also overwhelmed by the amount of support I had when I checked my phone – from people tracking, to congratulating – it really made it worthwhile.

Bit of post-race analysis..

  • My splits were horrible I mean truly, this was a beautiful example of ‘pushing hard early on and it catching up with you’. I was probably on for a low 3.20 until mile 20, and then I dropped straight from 7.38s down to 8.20s. And there was nothing I could do about it!
  • However, I am 99% sure it would have caught up with me even if I was slower – so was the banking time strategy a success? Who knows?
  • I am also very happy about how evenly I ran the first ¾ of the race. I truly wouldn’t have done this without Korkoi & Leanne to push me through it. And to be quite honest, it felt comfortable until then.
  • Here is a PERFECT example of ‘a marathon is a 20 mile run with a 10k race at the end’  done badly, or ‘here is a wall, do you want to run into it?’

Look out for a future post entitled “What I learn most years when I run a marathon and really should remember for the next training cycle rather than saying at the start I’m going to do it and then not doing it at all”

(Well done for reading this far!)

A tale of two races…

I’m finishing this post off having just got my 3rd PB in 7 days…but less about that, let’s go back to last weekend! Last weekend was a week away from the long run of marathon training and then turned into a double-header of races (yes, I know, maybe not the brightest idea I’ve had), which couldn’t have been more different in profile, surface, weather, ease…and just about everything.

Race 1 – Southern XC Champs, Parliament Hill. 7.5k of mud and hills.

Race 2 – The Winter Run. 10k of pretty much dead flat London city streets.

So, you now have to contend with TWO race reviews…

*Disclaimer – my own race entry for the Winter Run was complementary  – however all other places mentioned were paid for*

Saturday

Met my mum early at Peter Jones for some browsing (I have A LOT of John Lewis vouchers that need spending) and then wandered around the Kings Road before heading up to Kentish Town for a short walk to Parliament Hill for the Southern Champs. The Senior Women’s race was the second last, meaning all the juniors had had plenty time to churn up the course for us – thanks guys (and girls!)

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2015 – a wrap up

Everyone seems to be doing a wrap up of what took place this year…so thought I would follow suit, especially seeing as we are nearing These Girls Do’s first birthday!

It’s been a great journey so far – met some awesome people, taken part in some awesome activities and I don’t think we ever appreciated that people would actually enjoy reading what we wrote…

So without further ado, here are a few highlights!

January. 

Tackled dry January for the third year under much duress from everyone else for being boring. Did not give in. Decided to write a blog whilst Kate was a few drinks down and I was not. Held her accountable. Struggled for blog name. Launch of This Girl Can. Found name for blog! Kicked things off with some thoughts around women’s sport not being that exciting, heavily prompted by some interactions with a fairly high profile rugby coach who thought that as girls, we wouldn’t be interested in rugby, despite attending a talk specifically on rugby. Followed by a similar view on women’s cycling, including pink clothes, fixing punctures and overtaking men. Kate attracted some attention chatting about the use of plus size models. 

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Review: Kate and her Trespass Yukon Walking Boots take on the Cornish coastline

I might have mentioned this once or twice before: I love the outdoors. I love walking, hiking, trekking, scrambling, whatever you want to call it, so imagine my delight when Trespass – UK outdoor wear brand extraordinaire – wrote to us to say that they’d like us to test out some of their products!

The boots on the left are my trusty old walking boots looking a little sad. I must have walked at least a couple of thousand miles in these old things, but they’ve served me very well for a fair few years and are super-comfy, but when Trespass sent me a brand new pair of Trespass Yukon Womens Walking Boots to try out (right), I was only too happy to oblige.

Old and new (l-r)

Old and new (l-r)

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The big one – Hever Castle Olympic Triathlon – RACE REPORT!

Soooooo because I am a really stupid person, straight after my first foray into the world of triathlon at Thames Turbo at the end of May, I had a bit of a ‘two days post race haze of euphoria’ which lead to me deciding that joining the rest of the Chasers at Hever (being used as our Club Champs race) was a sensible idea (and not only just doing another, but jumping up to the Olympic distance from a ‘sprint but with a short swim which is good because I really hate swimming’) and I, er, signed up.

And then realised about two days later what I had actually done. Yeah, so 1500m is a lot for someone who is not a fan of swimming. And puts off swimming. And spends 30 minutes on the phone trying to convince people to tell me that it is OK for me not to go swimming and have a night off from ALL the swimming I do…(you know who you are)

So, without further ado – here is my Hever Castle Triathlon race review! (10/10 for rhyming)

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Variety is the spice of life – so try something different with somuchmore

I, like many 20-somethings apparently according to MULTIPLE Elite Daily articles, am a bit flakey, easily distracted and always looking for that bit more, therefore finding it hard to commit to what I’m doing tomorrow, let alone agreeing to something for months on end.

This is especially true when it comes to classes. Races and team sport, I’ve got down to a fine art. I know what I’m doing, when, where and for how long, and it’s highly structured because I get a bit type A with my training plans. Classes, meh, I dip in and out depending on how I’m feeling. With a class, I won’t let the team down, it won’t impact my training…(answer – because yoga and cross-training are good for me and actually will benefit my training, but let’s move swiftly on) There are SO many classes I could go to at the gym, but I rarely do – preferring to use it for weights and swimming – so if I’m not going to use what I’m already paying for there, why would I pay for single studio access on top of that?!

Enter somuchmore. They’re the new kid on the London multi-studio block, bringing tonnes of sought after classes to you in one single membership, meaning that you need as much commitment to individual studios as you do to the colour of your nail varnish or which pair of leggings you’re going to wear today…#win.

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