Getting Ready to Rumble with Sweaty Betty

Any regular readers of this blog will know I’m a huge Sweaty Betty fan. It’s not unusual for me to basically be a walking billboard for the brand and I dread to think what percentage of my salary I’ve spent on their gear in the last 12 months.

So when Grazia magazine ran a competition to win a place at the launch of their latest #GetFit4Free campaign “Rumble” in London, of course I jumped at it. The spec for the class promised that “the 45-minute high-intensity calorie-burning workout combines shadow-boxing techniques, adrenaline-pumping cardio and core-sculpting conditioning”, which sounded like a pretty winning combination to me! I mean, just check out Sweaty Betty’s official video:

When I received the email saying I had won a place I was utterly giddy. That is until I realised that for a second weekend running there was a bus replacement service for the trains between Ely and Cambridge and engineering work happening on the London Liverpool Street line, which meant my relatively straightforward hop on the train had become a bus-train-tube scenario. I ummed and ahhed about whether or not I could face the hassle of the journey and decided it was just too good an opportunity to miss.

The journey was not without its stresses. An accident in Ely (where thankfully it seems everyone was ok) meant that we got stuck in the city and had to take a long detour to make our way to Cambridge. As the minutes ticked away it was looking less and less likely that I’d make my connecting train. The bus arrived with 90 seconds until the train was due to leave so I sprinted to the platform (NOT easy after an 8.2 mile half marathon training run that morning), and made it with about 5 seconds to go until they closed the doors. When I finally made it to London Liverpool St I used Google Maps on my phone to find my way to 1Rebel, triumphantly texting my other half to let him know I’d made it. Imagine my frustration when it turned out that there were TWO 1Rebel gyms about half a mile from each other, and of course I had gone to the wrong one. I then managed to get fantastically lost trying to find the other gym, meeting a sea of blank faces whenever I asked for directions and stressing out that I was going to fail to make the class at the last minute after a shocker of a journey. Finally a security guard in an office pointed me in the right direction and I arrived with 10 minutes to spare, out of breath and red-faced (a sign of things to come).

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The wrong 1Rebel

The words I would use to describe my first impression of 1Rebel are “urban hipster”. It was all exposed pipework and bricks, with glossy concrete floors and copper accents everywhere. However, it wasn’t remotely pretentious – just effortlessly cool and functional. I wish I could have had more time to look around, but I had to quickly get changed, get help with the lockers(!) and haul arse into their amazing boxing studio, filled with slimline boxing bags, nightclub lighting and an incredible sound system. And standing in the middle of it all, was our instructor for the next 45 minutes, Mila.

After jogging around the studio to warm up, Mila explained the structure of the class – we’d do a boxing section followed by a cardio section, repeated 3 times. We were taught a range of boxing combinations, including jabs, hooks and kicks, and other than the odd opportunity where I mis-timed my kicks and battered my shin, it was brilliant! The cardio sections involved star jumps, mountain climbers, burpees, press ups (why oh why did I decide to do an arms session the day before?!) and a killer abs section. My absolute favourite move was when we did side planks and kicked the bag with the top leg, although that may have been because I was just so grateful that I didn’t have to use my arms in that moment. Mila (the Machine) was a seriously hard task master, ploughing through the class with no breaks although I had to pause occasionally to use my sweat towel and have sips of water, neither of which were easy to do when wearing boxing gloves!

The 45 minutes absolutely flew by, and I had worked so incredibly hard. The endorphin rush was huge and at the end Mila talked about the mental health benefits of the class, discussing how good boxing is for relieving stress. I’m always so happy when people talk about that side of exercise, as all too often the focus is just on the physical benefits.

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Goody bag photo courtesy of Sweaty Betty’s Twitter account

After the class we were given an awesome goody bag, and I got to use 1Rebel’s great showers, all of which had fantastic quality shampoo, shower gels, cleansers and conditioners. They even had deodorants, hair straighteners and feminine hygiene products in the changing rooms, which made me think that 1Rebel have really thought about the whole customer experience when creating their gyms. They even had a flipping Smeg fridge for cold towels! Seriously, I need that in my life. How utterly BRILLIANT! On top of all of that their staff were really lovely and friendly too. If you’re lucky enough to live near a 1Rebel gym and are looking for a new place to work out they should be seriously considered.

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The right 1Rebel

I had such a brilliant time and if you get the opportunity to try this new class at your local Sweaty Betty boutique you should definitely sign up. The classes will be running every Tuesday from the 26th January to the 16th February. And best of all? They’re free of course!

Sweaty Betty – the epitome of fitness awesomeness. A huge thank you to them, Grazia and 1Rebel for making my 2 1/2 hour journey each way totally worth it.

A wander to Wandlebury

If you don’t know Wandlebury Country Park, it’s described on the Cambridge Past, Present & Future Cambridge PPF as a “tranquil open space [that] offers more than eight miles of wonderful walks through mature woods, meadows and chalk grassland areas.” Doesn’t that sound delightful? No doubt it’s conjuring up images like this in your mind:

Running Leo Sound of Music

No. No, no, no, no, no. NO. Stop that RIGHT NOW.

For those wishing to play frisbee, take their dog for a walk or have a picnic, Wandlebury is probably a little slice of twee, Cambridgeshire loveliness.

For a runner – especially a runner from the fens – IT IS PURE EVIL.

It was a lovely day, not much wind and some much needed sunshine. It was everything you’d want from an outdoor run really. And when Alan explained what I’d be doing I was filled with a bit of trepidation but up to the challenge. He was pretty vague and talked about 45 seconds-ish uphill followed by about 40 downhill with a minute rest between each one and we’d do that three times, followed by six 20 second hill sprints with a walk back down recovery between each one.

Fair enough. So I gave it a bash.

Holy effing arseballs. It was THE HARDEST THING I HAVE EVER DONE.

I know I’ve probably said this before, but I seriously, seriously mean it. That 20 second hill sprint was like running up a treacle covered slide, hanging off a cliff face, whilst someone punched you in lungs. It was this but with far more swearing and sweating:

HIll Sprints

Getting through it I was so proud of myself, and when Alan talked about what to do next time, I thought “yep, you know what? I’ve learnt from this. When we come back here in around 4 weeks or so, I’ll pace myself a bit better and shorten my stride on that hill sprint and use my arms more. No probs.”

Oh poor misguided grasshopper.

When he said next time, he meant repeating it immediately.

Crying Baby

I had completely and utterly misunderstood the session plan, and had obviously put a lot into what I thought was the last hill sprint. I felt a mild flutter of panic, but I uttered the words I always utter to Alan.

I’ll try.

And you know what? That’s all he ever wants from me. For me to try my best and give it go. The worst that will happen is that I’ll vomit in those lovely quiet woods and upset a few rabbits.

Turns out, I paced myself better the second time around. It hurt and was physically and mentally tough, but when I finished that last hill sprint, I felt unstoppable. And then I felt a bit wobbly and vaguely nauseous but you know what? That was ok.

As we walked back to the car, Alan started to tell me about future sessions at Wandlebury, but I quickly cut him off. Truth be told, I’d rather not know what to expect as I don’t want to psyche myself out and start worrying that I can’t do it. It’s a bit like the Tough Mudder Race which I stupidly agreed to do with my friends James and Amy today. James wrote a blog about his recent experience there, and it’s a great read but I almost wish I hadn’t seen it. as the thought of the Cry Baby is freaking me out slightly….

As I cycled back to work from the centre of town, my lovely colleague Lucy had actually texted me as I had been gone for two and a half hours and she was worried Alan might have actually completely broken me this time. No chance. It’ll take more than a few hills, even if my legs don’t feel like they belong to me today. Tomorrow’s Parkrun could be interesting….

Wandlebury Country Park 2Do not be fooled by the beauty.

This Girl Can – With or Without Makeup

To celebrate the inaugural Women’s Sport Week, I’m going to focus my posts this week on women in sport and the topics around this, starting with my thoughts on the “This Girl Can” campaign by Sport England and other partner organisations that launched back in January.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with it, the campaign focussed around a National TV advert that showed women of all ages, cultures, shapes and sizes giving it their all in sport. Take a look:

When it launched, I remember getting into a debate with someone on Twitter who asked “why does it have to be about how women look?” I suspect it was images like this that prompted her question:

This Girl Can 2   This Girl Can 1

And you know what? I got her point. I can see that she was trying to point out that how you look shouldn’t matter in sport, that it shouldn’t even be mentioned in this campaign – after all, would this be mentioned if the campaign were aimed at men? In a dream world, makeup and appearance wouldn’t be one of the (to be fair, many) focus points of “This Girl Can”. But the problem is, 40% of girls feel self-conscious about their bodies during PE, and 26% say they “hate the way that they look when they exercise/ play sport”. These are horrible statistics, and the fact is that too many of our girls are dropping out of sport once they leave school, and concerns with how they look is a key part of this.

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“This Girl Can” can only really tackle the problem as it stands now. If girls and women are not exercising because of concerns about how they look, then this needs to be addressed in the campaign, and their fears need to be allayed. They need to know that exercise is not synonymous with looking “bad” or “silly”. You can sweat with lipstick on if that’s what floats your boat, or you can go utterly beetroot after a run like me. How you look simply doesn’t matter, so you should do what makes you feel comfortable.

A report by the Commons Health Select Committee showed that two thirds of women do not exercise for fear of being the one “struggling at the back”. I find this to be another terrifying statistic, especially as I know that whether you’re standing at the front or the back of your Zumba or Circuits class, or whether you struggle to clap on the beat or you’re only lifting 1kg dumbbells, no one is going to care. They’re all too busy getting off on that endorphin high and wiping the sweat out of their own eyes. The fact that you’re there means you’re giving it a go, and no one worth knowing is going to judge you for that.

The thing I’ll be interested in come January 2016, is seeing what percentage of women are now taking part in sport. With more and more female sporting role models elbowing their way into male-dominated sports media and campaigns like “This Girl Can” and “Women’s Sport Week” being launched, I hope that more women will make sport as natural a part of their day as cleaning their teeth, and not give a tiny rat’s arse how they look doing it. Then maybe in five years’ time we can have campaigns with no mention of how a woman looks, because we’ll be so used to their sweaty red faces that it won’t even occur to us to mention it.

And just on a final note don’t tell me that these women right here don’t inspire you to give it a go and not once consider how you look doing it. I know they do me, sweat and all.

This Girl Can 4   This Girl Can 5