Activewear Sale Bargains – Start off your 2018 Fitness Regime in Style

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen me whinging about what a pants Christmas I’ve been having. My other half has been ill for the whole holiday period, and whilst this resulted in no Christmas dinner and a general despondent air (and threats to take down the Christmas Tree on Boxing Day) one good thing has come out of this – in housebound boredom I have been scouring the sales to find fitness bargains, and thought I would share my finds with you! Where possible, I have only chosen items that had all (or at least a large range) of sizes in stock, accurate at the time of writing of course!

SWEATY BETTY

Of course I’m going to start this off with my fitness mother ship. I know some people find SB on the expensive side, and whilst I’m not going to dispute that, they do put on a cracking sale with some serious bargains to be had.

For all the yogis out there, I can thoroughly recommend Sweaty Betty’s Namaska padded yoga vest. I already own it in 2 colours, and I’ve ordered the fluorescent coral colour to add to my collection. I’ve also found that it’s a pretty good top for bouldering. All 3 colours on the site are currently half price (£25 down from £50). Their Dharana Yoga Tee in powder blue is also a steal – £18 down from £60. I’ve resisted the urge to buy this so far but don’t see that lasting…

If you’re looking for some new bottoms, I’ve found bargains in all lengths! For shorts, their bum sculpting power shorts in this geometric print are now £15 down from £50. And yep, I’ve also ordered these as I love the super wide waistband. If showing that much leg isn’t your style, their origami crane print contour crop workout leggings are the same price. And if you’re looking for a full length option for winter, the textile print version of their famous zero gravity run leggings are now just £27 down from £90. It’s a loud print, but you can’t argue with that price!

You can view the rest of the SB sale here.

ASOS

Delving into the ASOS January sale is a sure-fire way to lose hours of your life. Trust me. My “save for later” list is currently sitting at 95 items. Oops. I didn’t find a huge numberof items that were both a steal AND available in all sizes, but I did stumble across these ombre Onzie leggings (£22 down from £55) and this Kisaiya yoga drape side vest top (£12 down from £35). I think they’d make a pretty nice outfit together!

You can view the rest of the ASOS Activewear sale here.

WIGGLE

Ahh Wiggle. How I love you. And not just for the bag of mini Haribo that you chuck in with every order. Although that helps a lot. Every year I manage to pick up a Shock Absorber Run Bra from them (the only sports bra I ever use for running) and this year you can get the red lime version for £14.70 down from £42. I also have a huge problem with cycling gear (in that I personally find that most of it is hideous to look at), but this Primal Athene 2nd Layer Jacket is really good looking and only £36 down from £90.

You can view the rest of the Wiggle Activewear sale here.

DANSEZ

Dansez are a fairly local company to me with a base in Bury St Edmunds , and until the 7th January they’re offering 40% off across the site using the code CHRISTMASSALE. They have a background in dancewear and launched their activewear range a couple of years ago. Even better, they make their products in the UK from their factory in Kent. I’m a fan of their fun prints and use of mesh panelling, and three of my favourite items are the dance fitness bra in Rio (£15 with the discount), the mesh boatneck vest in black (£15 with the discount) and the mesh leggings in Rio (£22.80 with the discount). The individual product images I found weren’t great quality but this lookbook image will give you a good idea of the style.

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You can view the rest of the Dansez Activewear range here.

THE OUTNET

Lastly, I had to share these utter beauts from Purity Active. You just can’t go wrong with a pair of star print leggings (£44 down from £92) and the matching top (£28 down from £58), even if they are a little pricey to begin with!

You can view the rest of the Outnet Activewear sale here.

I hope you found this guide useful – let me know if you buy anything!, and happy new year!

 

Sports Gear Sale Bargains

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Ok you lovely lot. I’ve spent about three hours trawling the web for a ton of sportswear bargains so that you don’t have to. You can thank me later. All of the items I’ve picked had multiple sizes available at time of writing, so fingers crossed this is still the case!

First up is my old reliable favourite, Sweaty Betty. You usually have to be pretty quick off the mark for their sale (I really wasn’t, much to the relief of my other half) but there are a couple of gems still tucked away on the site. I’m recommending their Triple Jump shorts because I swear by SB shorts for running. I just adore them. They have inner shorts which I always like and zips for your keys etc. and these are now £24 down from £60. I’m also recommending their Anna headband, which is now a steal. Great for keeping your hair off your face and your ears warm, this colourway is now just £3 (down from £10). Plus you can order items for delivery to the store for free.

Next up is ASOS which is actually teeming with sports gear so long as you’re happy to spend a bit of time browsing. A couple of standouts for me are the Nike Leg a See leggings in a bright punchy coral, down from £25 to £15, and a Reebok Metallic Print vest which would be ideal for chucking on for Yoga and Pilates, down from £23 to £13.50.

 

Another place that’s worth spending some time trawling is Wiggle. They’ve got a Shock Absorber run bra in a gorgeous bright pink for a steal down from £42  to £16.60 (I bought this one myself) and they’ve got a lovely Adidas Purple Tank down from £37 to £16.65. Plus they do free delivery and you get Haribo with every order. Their sale is always good and pretty huge, so it’s worth searching on your size.

 

Lastly, I found a couple of random gems. Active in Style‘s sale can be a bit hit and miss, and often they only offer 20% off. But I did stumble across these gorgeous Under Armour leggings which are £70 down to £30. John Lewis also has a good number of sportswear items, and I’d recommend popping into the store if you can. Otherwise, this nice bright pink Puma T-shirt, down from £28 to £16.50, is available on their website.

 

So that’s it for my sale round up. It’s also worth mentioning that Sportshoes have an epic sale on but there are usually only 1 or 2 sizes left in each item. In particular you can get some bargain trainers but you need to get a bit lucky. Also, the Outnet have a nice activewear section with some unique brands, such as these Lucas Hugh capris, but they are obviously on the pricier side. The last one deserving of a mention is the Ivy Park range on the Topshop site, but the selection of sizes on the real bargains is seriously diminished now.

Did you get any sportswear bargains in the sales? Let me know in the comments below! Disclaimer – as well as the Shock Absorber bra I did manage to get my mitts on this top from SB which had been on my wishlist since August…!

enCORE by Sweaty Betty and Getting a Glow with Madeleine Shaw and Origins

I was a lucky girl last week. Not only did I snag a place on the first class of Sweaty Betty’s latest #GetFit4Free class enCORE, but I also managed to get a ticket to Origins’ book signing with wellness blogger Madeleine Shaw.

So, first up on Tuesday evening was the enCORE class, a ballet bootcamp class with a focus on – you got it – the core. This class was being taught by Jo Hopkins, one of my favourite local instructors and an SB Ambassador. I first met Jo when she taught the Fly, Flex, Flow class in January 2015, which is still my favourite #GetFit4Free class to date. She is one of those people who seems to be like Energiser Bunny hocked up on caffeine and sugar – pretty much a walking advert for the power of exercise induced endorphins. So I knew that if nothing else, this class was going to be a laugh.

At 39 minutes long (Jo was VERY precise!) the class is ideal if you don’t have bags of time (take a look at the video here). You  also don’t need loads of room so it’s perfect for trying out at home (or in a small store!). This workout is demanding on your core yes, but it also requires balance. Generally I consider my balance to be pretty good, but my coordination was severely lacking as I continued to go left as the rest of the class went right and then wondered why I was consistently on the wrong leg. I also found out that under pressure to attempt elegance I squeak like an irate mouse whose cheese has just been stolen, and I have hands like melted spatulas. Not pretty. Good to know those ballet classes when I was a kid weren’t wasted. Watch your back Darcy.

For me, it was when we got on to the mats that this class really came into its own. A glute bridge sequence had my legs seriously burning, and this alone would be enough to make me do this video regularly at home, as I’m always looking to find ways to strengthen my glutes. If I could I would go to all four of the classes at the SB store, but Tuesday night is my regular night with Ely Runners. However, if you fancy giving the class a go, bookings for next week will open at midnight tonight. As the name suggests it’s totally free. You’ll just need to set up an SB account if you don’t already have one and then book here. Oh, and top tip – it doesn’t hurt to give Jo a homemade cinnamon bun. The Energiser Bunny needs fuel you know.

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Photo courtesy of Sweaty Betty Cambridge

After my butt and quads had recovered from this class, I got up bright and early (for me anyway) on Saturday to head into Cambridge to the recently opened Origins store on Rose Crescent to meet Madeleine Shaw, get some healthy treats courtesy of Novi Cambridge and generally try lots of lovely products. I had actually changed my booking to the earlier time slot so that I could meet up with fellow Cambridge blogger Sophiekateblogs and I’m so glad I did – she’s an awesome bundle of enthusiastic energy with a gorgeous blog to boot. Go check her out (and watch her vlog of the event too).

Now I’ve been an Origins customer for some time, dipping into their serums and staying pretty loyal to the Vita Zing Energy Boosting Moisturiser, which is like a tinted moisturiser which gives every skin type a really lovely glow. So I was super pleased when I heard that they were opening a store in my favourite shopping area in the city (Rose Crescent and Trinity Street – SB is about a 5 second walk away). The store itself is stunning – really light and airy with a massive spa like sink in the middle to test their scrubs and masks and gorgeous views of the University buildings from the windows at the back of the store. It was a lovely place for a book signing with the company’s 2016 Glow Girl.

For those of you who don’t know much about Madeleine, she’s a a nutritional health coach, yoga instructor and bestselling cookery author, with a social media following of 55.5k followers on Twitter and 254k on Instagram. If I’m being honest, I didn’t know a huge amount about her before the event, other than that she has a really attractive Instagram profile. A look at her website tells me that she is currently studying Naturopathic Nutrition at CNM, but from what I could see the majority of her knowledge comes from her own personal experience of IBS and other health issues that forced her to take a look at her diet and to make lifestyle changes.

A lot of what Madeleine writes about is good old common sense and sensible eating (although despite what she says about beige food I’m still going to eat pizza and cake when I feel like it, but I may try this cake recipe of hers to mix things up a bit!). If nothing else she’s giving people attractive, healthy meal ideas without a plethora of insane ingredients (and if I’m honest I know I could do with adding some more vegetables into my diet). I also liked that she pressed home the point of how she chooses to have meat in her diet for the iron it gives her (18% of women between 16 and 64 years are iron deficient), and she also extolled the virtues of eggs. Like I said – sensible, but there will be people with more nutritional qualifications out there who don’t have the pull of a huge social media following who would also be worth listening to.It’s always a good idea to keep that in mind and to do your research if you’re looking to make changes to your diet.

In person, Madeleine was incredibly friendly and smiley, and seemed genuinely interested in everyone who had turned out, asking questions in return and getting stuck into the conversation. She’s a good fit for the Origins brand, and talked about her favourite products including the Super Spot Remover (which her boyfriend also uses) and the GinZing Eye Cream. Her skin did look really good, and I especially noticed how the staff member who I spoke with, Jiayan, had the most amazing skin I have ever seen on a real human being, something she fully credited to Origins products. She was also extremely knowledgeable on the product range, despite having only worked for the company for 3 weeks, so it showed me how passionate she was about the brand. She was able to answer all of my questions and give advice, and I left with a RitualiTea Comforting Cleansing Body Mask with Rooibos Tea and Rose, and the much talked about GinZing Peel Off Mask (because I’m a sucker for anything that you can peel off!) plus a couple of samples. I’ve already tried both of them and they’re as good as I hoped, although each will need a few more uses before I get the full benefits.

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I like the Goldfinger vibe

So two thumbs up for Cambridge, continuing to provide loads of fitness and beauty opportunities out there to keep me busy! I love my city.

A Weekend of Firsts – Yoga at Ethos and the Wings for Life World Run

Blimey – last weekend was a bit of a scorcher wasn’t it? Just the ticket for a yoga class on the third floor of a building in the centre of Cambridge with no air con on Saturday and an endurance run at midday on the Sunday. Wait, what?

Yes, that’s how I spent the hottest weekend of the year so far. So let’s start with Ethos shall we? Based in St Andrew’s House right near Drummer Street, Ethos is tucked away in what at first glance looks like little more than an unremarkable building made up of small offices. As you walk up the stairs though (my sister doesn’t do lifts!) you start to feel a hum of activity and our first introduction to Ethos was a couple of people who had clearly worked up a sweat stretching against a wall in the corridor in a way that meant we had to squeeze past them.

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The interior reception area of Ethos

The reason why Stacy and I had rocked up at Ethos was for a free Myofascial Release class courtesy of – you guessed it – Sweaty Betty. They were hosting a takeover of the studios, securing free spaces for their customers in around 20 classes across the weekend. As a “fan” of the foam roller (we have a love/hate relationship), I was intrigued at the idea of a class dedicated to serious muscle massage. After paying £1 to rent a mat each, we both got changed in the curtained off changing area (if you like your privacy this set up may not be for you), left our less valuable belongings on the shelves (ditto if you’re hot on security and like a proper locker) and headed into the class with Ellie and Hannah from SB.

When I saw some class members in very little clothing lying down in awkward positions with bean bags on their eyes, I did wonder what I had gotten myself into. But as soon as our instructor Mark got going I quickly relaxed into the class. And boy did I learn a lot. I got tips on how to better foam roll my calves (sit on your knees and tuck the foam roller under your thighs with it resting on your calves and then lean back as much as you can bear. Inch the roller down and repeat), how to ease my hips (once I had finally jammed my thumb in the right place) and how to use tennis balls to seriously massage my spine. I admit that resting my forehead on a tennis ball at the end felt more than a little weird and left me with a hard to explain mark on my face, but on the whole this was a brilliant class.

If I’m completely honest, I’m not sure if I really gelled with the vibe of Ethos as a whole. I think my personality is generally a bit too highly strung (I like my sports places to have proper changing rooms and showers and can be a bit OCD on hygiene stuff) but it’s clear to me what the main draw of Ethos is – and that’s the instructors. Mark was absolutely brilliant, cracking jokes all through the class and putting everyone at ease, but also showing that he really knew his stuff. He took the time to make sure everyone was getting the most from each move, correcting and advising where necessary. Stacy and I both left the class armed with tips, raving about Mark, and feeling lighter in the legs. Which would bode well for the Wings for Life World Run which I was due to do at midday the following day…….

Official runs make me nervous. Everyone knows this. Running in the heat makes me even MORE nervous. So you can imagine what a mess I was in when I arrived at Parker’s Piece on Sunday morning at around 10:30am, ready to register before the race started at midday. The car had told us it was already 27 degrees, so with 90 minutes to go there was plenty of time for it to get even hotter. I’m really fair, so I had slathered myself in factor 50 ALL OVER (you can never be too sure!) before getting dressed, but as I queued twice (once to sign a disclaimer, again to get my race number) I could feel myself already starting to get a bit too much sun.

After bumping into my friend Jen (another fan of the legend that is Alan Baldock), I quickly lost her again when I went to The Regal pub to pee (much more sensible than joining an enormous queue for the portaloos which are less than pleasant in that heat).  As I started to panic that I would have to face this behemoth of a run on my own, I found Miranda and Ros from Ely Runners sensibly sitting in the shade, and from then on in I stuck to the poor sods like glue. I would like to say now that I owe the pair of them a debt of gratitude, from Ros making me feel ok to be a nervous run pee-er, to the pair of them deciding that I was in fact 12 years old and deploying a running theme of jokes around the subject for the duration of the run. They didn’t even rip into me too much when I walked into a pole. Yup.

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All smiles at the start. Thanks to Nigel for the photo! 

As we settled halfway into the crowd waiting at the start line, the nerves began to give way to excitement. The feeling for this race is SO different to say a half marathon, where I always think about my PB and whether or not I’m going to beat it. With this run, you don’t really know how far you’re going to get, and any plans I had (a half marathon would have been lovely) went out the window once the mercury started edging 30 degrees. So it was a case of just start running, and see what happens.

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And that’s just what we did. Setting off and weaving through the city, going past the colleges and being cheered on by the frankly awesome folk of Cambridge, we headed up and out towards Girton, hitting Oakington and finally Cottenham. I cannot begin to thank the brilliant people of these villages who handed out sweets, drinks and who hosed us down with water. Oh the blessed relief of those hosepipes. It really was the best thing ever. And the WFL organisers did an absolutely bang up job of making sure the refreshment stations were regular. I grabbed water at every one, and finished the bottle nearly every time, pouring it on my legs (a brilliant tip from Miranda) and gulping huge mouthfuls. Normally if someone was to chuck a load of water at my back I would be somewhat annoyed at them but when Ros did it I could have kissed her. I swear my skin sizzled.

When we got to around the 13k mark, we adopted something of a run/walk strategy, taking maybe 20 – 30 seconds to catch our breath before setting off again (a strategy even the male winner, Steve Way, had to adopt towards the end of his incredible 63.75km run – read his race report, it’s brilliant). The heat really had started to push our resilience by this point, but when we hit Cottenham and saw Miranda and Ros’ other halves it gave us such a boost to keep going, and we made it out of the village and into the next stretch of quiet farmland. Wilburton was never realistically on the cards for us, but when we heard that the catcher car was in the distance, we did our utmost to hit the 11 mile mark, finally making 11.12 (17.89km) before a grinning David Coulthard passed us by, waving as he went.

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Helloooooo Cottenham!

Suddenly it was over, and we had something like a 10 minute walk to reach the buses that were waiting every 5k to take runners back to Parker’s Piece. It was such a lovely walk, mooching through the quiet countryside as we reflected on what we’d achieved and chatting to our fellow runners. But then sitting on that bus, waiting for it to leave, was probably the hottest we’d been all day – it was like a sauna with lots of people who had been sweating for a copious amount of time. Imagine that if you’re so inclined. But when it set off and the breeze started coming through the window it was utter bliss.

Back on Parker’s Piece we picked up our frankly awesome goodie bags (containing our medal, a high vis technical tee, microfibre towel, sweatband, pack of nuts and a beer token),  grabbed our beers and headed over to Trumpington Road to meet our ride home (my OH). We couldn’t stop raving about what a brilliant race it had been and mild sunburn aside (only patches on my arm where the factor 50 had been hosed off – worth it!), I think this was the funnest race I’ve ever done. So much so that I’ve already signed up for next year, which is so unlike me.

So if you’re looking for a race with a twist, this is the one for you. 100% of the entry fee goes to spinal cord research and the current early bird price is only £25, which I think is a brilliant price now that I’ve seen just how much effort goes into this run. So what are you waiting for? Go sign up. I’m sure it’ll be cooler next year……

Yoga for Runners with Sweaty Betty

This Monday I was lucky enough to bag a place at Sweaty Betty’s latest one-off free class, Yoga for Runners, after someone else cancelled (sucker)! Having made a commitment to myself to try and make time for more Yoga and Pilates to deal with my stress levels, this couldn’t have come at a better time.

Now I’ve probably spent something like 0.5% of my life in the Sweaty Betty Cambridge shop. Without doubt I have more SB stuff than any other label in my wardrobe, and I love how the staff greet me like an old friend whenever I walk in, and they always have time for a chat about how I’m getting on with my training and which events I have lined up. If you’re new to fitness but are slightly daunted about setting yourself up with some new workout kit, I can’t recommend Hannah and her team enough (and just LOOK at the new season)!

When I turned up for the class, I didn’t know who would be teaching it. I’ve been to a couple of yoga classes with SB and both instructors have been really brilliant – you can tell that they choose who they work with really carefully. The class was led by Emma, who I hadn’t met before, but who was utterly brilliant. She managed to cram so much into an hour long class and some of the sequences were challenging without being overwhelming for any runners in the group who might not have known their savasana from their elbow.

One particular flow towards the end of the class seriously put us through our paces where we had to go into Warrior 3. This involves standing on one leg with the other leg straight out behind you and your arms in front so that you’re basically making a T shape. It’s a fairly advanced pose, but Emma made it seem really accessible as we had slowly worked our way up to it. It felt awesome to manage a pose like that (with only the smallest of wobbles)!

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Emma in the new SB Palm Print Urdhva Reversible Yoga Leggings

All in all it was a great class and I felt so relaxed afterwards. I just wish I didn’t undo all of the good work within 5 minutes by having to jump on my bike and pedal off for a train! The point of this class though, was not only to provide some of the runners of Cambridge with some hip opening and ankle strengthening moves to try at home, but also to raise funds for SB staff member Libby, who is running the Virgin London Marathon this weekend for VICTA, a charity that supports children and young people who are blind or partially sighted and their families across the UK. This is Libby’s first marathon, and even though her training was interrupted by a couple of weeks out through sickness, she has to be one of the most laid back first time marathoners I’ve ever seen! All Libby wants is to finish the race, and I have no doubt that she’ll manage it. If you’d like to sponsor Libby and this brilliant charity, you can do so here.

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I really hope some more one off classes appear on the SB schedule soon. I always enjoy mixing up my training and adding variety to my workout schedule. In the meantime, you can find their regular class timetable here. Now if only they’ll hurry up and get those floral shorts in store…..!

 

Pilatesfit – A Haven in Our Busy City

When I was contacted by Rowan from Pilatesfit on Twitter with the opportunity to try one of their classes*, I leapt at the chance. Even though Vinery Road is a bit of a trek from where I work, it’s nice and close to Cambridge train station which is a bonus. As I’ve only done a handful of Pilates classes in my time (I’m more of a yoga girl generally) I booked in for a Beginner’s Class with Michelle Njagi on Friday 11th March at 6:15pm. It seemed like a good opportunity to end my stressful week on a relaxing high.

I have to say that a rather fraught journey up Mill Road meant that I wasn’t feeling especially chilled when I finally reached the Pilatesfit Studios. I thought everyone escaped early on a Friday but clearly no one has told the irate road users congregated in this part of Cambridge (slow hand clap to the cyclists who think it’s ok to mount the pavements and scatter pedestrians to get through it). And when I found the Studios I wasn’t completely convinced that I had actually found them, but the road numbering suggested I had.

When I first opened the gate and saw a large dog walking into a door on the left I was a bit worried I had walked into someone’s front garden (a common mistake on a first visit Rowan assured me) but to be fair, that kind of is what you’re doing (and signage outside is coming soon!). To give you a bit of background, the founder Rowan has worked as a Physiotherapist in Cambridge for about 17 years, and then started Pilatesfit about 2 years ago. After word of mouth meant that the popularity of her classes grew, she then opened the Vinery Road studio next to her home a year ago.

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The Studios themselves are stunning. They’re all white walls, high ceilings and gentle lighting, and you can tell they’ve been designed with serenity and simplicity in mind. The lovely thing about Pilatesfit is that their classes are for a maximum of 8 people at a time. This means that the instructor is able to check on each attendee individually during the class, advising on and correcting their form where necessary.

As for my experience in the class, at first I thought “Pffft, this is easy. I am totally nailing this. I should have gone for the intermediate class.” This self-confidence lasted about 10 minutes, and was all but shattered by the time Michelle had me doing glute bridges on a foam roller.

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Michelle (on purple mat) in action. Photo from VineryRoadStudios on Instagram

Despite being in a fairly busy part of the city, what little noise from the outside world that managed to sneak in was quickly drowned out by the perfect background music to the class and Michelle’s gorgeous, soothing voice (she should do audio books on meditation. I would totally buy them). I found myself feeling so relaxed, which is not a state I’ve been in much recently. Don’t get me wrong – I worked hard, and my glutes and especially my hamstrings felt like they’d had a serious workout the next day, but I felt like I was able to drown out all of that outside crap that has been clamouring for attention in my head recently, and just be.

At the end of the class Michelle took her time to have a chat with me (despite having only 15 minutes before her next class started) and she also told me that I’d done really well and that she could tell I was strong. This girl had already sussed the way to my heart.

Now – down to the nitty gritty. Pilates classes at Pilatesfit are on the pricier end of the scale at £9 a pop. But you are getting more for your money compared to say a Pilates class that takes 20 people. You get one-on-one attention from the instructor during the class, and this is invaluable if you’re like me and struggle to get your ribs aligned properly or you find yourself holding your breath during more challenging poses, which makes them far more difficult. I suppose it depends on what you want from your Pilates class. They also let you pay as you go, which is a bonus when many Pilates classes in the city are based on a course of classes which you pay for in advance regardless of whether you can make every session.

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Would I pay for these classes? The answer is a resounding yes. While I can’t afford to go all the time (at least not without reining in my Sweaty Betty addiction), I’m going to treat myself to a class at least once a month, because I got so much more out of it than just an ab workout. It’s impossible not to relax and centre yourself in a class at the Pilatesfit studio. They’ve just done everything so well.

Rowan is also doing a great job of building a strong community around Pilatesfit, with a great social media presence, and a gorgeous Instagram feed. They also offer more than just the classes –  they do 1:1 Pilates and antenatal sessions, as well as offering private physiotherapy, including sports injury treatments such as kinesiotaping, ultrasound, acupuncture, massage and sports specific rehab. They are also the only Physiotherapy clinic in Cambridge where all the physiotherapists are also trained to teach Pilates. They have so much to offer, and I think they’re a really great addition to the Fitness scene in Cambridge.

* When offering me the free class, Rowan never asked me to blog about it, but I have chosen to do so.

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.

10 Best Gifts for the Fitness Fiend in Your Life

With the big day now less than four weeks away (yes, you heard that right!) you may be looking for the ideal gift for the fitness fiend in your life. Now I promise this isn’t just an excuse for me to get my own Christmas list out in the public domain, but needless to say I wouldn’t be sorry to find any of these things in my stocking on December 25th.

Sweaty Betty Accessories

It’s no secret that around two thirds of my workout gear is Sweaty Betty, but if you’re looking for some stocking fillers, you can’t go wrong with their brilliant skinny headbands. They don’t budge from my head (although my sister says they don’t work on her “torpedo head” so, if your gift receiver resembles a conehead you might want to give these a miss). I’m also a big fan of their super soft trainer liners, which they do on offer for 3 for £15.

Foam Roller

Foam rollers are quite honestly injury-preventing little cylinders of genius. Ok, I can’t promise they’ll keep the fitness fiend in your life totally injury free, but they will allow them to give their muscles a deep massage without the help of a pricey physio. Just five minutes a day on one of these bad boys can make a huge difference. I credit mine with keeping my IT band healthy.

Sweaty Betty Hairband – £6, Foam Roller from £11.39

High Vis

It’s winter. It’s dark out. For the love of all things festive and holy please make sure that if the one you love is exercising outdoors, they’re wearing something that will make sure they’re seen. Honestly, the number of times runners and cyclists have suddenly loomed out of the darkness all in black and made me slam on my brakes is frightening.Get them a vest or an armband or a bright yellow top. They don’t have to cost the earth and they are so important at this time of year.

Medal Holder

I keep all of my medals in a tiny box (I reckon my sister has a storage unit somewhere) but I think this medal holder from Siop Gardd is a lovely gift. Plus it can be personalised which I always think is a great touch and shows you’ve put a bit of thought into it, rather than just buying whichever perfume was on offer the day you went shopping.

Ronhill High Vis from £10.80, Medal Holder £24.50

Trail Trainers

As the weather gets colder and wetter, it’s not a bad idea to get the runner in your life some trail trainers. These are “grippier” than your standard running trainers, so will set them up right for an off road running session (at Wandlebury say….)! I can recommend the Asics Fuji trainers.

Training Log

It’s always good for the serious fitness fan in your life to keep a log of their training. I’m not brilliant at doing this it has to be said (I ran out of space on my scrap of paper that had my weights programme on it and haven’t been keeping a record since – sorry Tristan!) but if I had a runner’s notebook like this lovely one from the Quirky Gift Library from Not On the High Street I might keep better records. It can be personalised and also comes with chocolate – what’s not to like?

Asics Fuji from £34.95, Runner’s Notebook £15

 Fitness Band

If you feel like splashing out and your fitness fiend likes a bit of tech there are a lot of fitness bands out there. There’s Fitbit, Jawbone and Withings, but I personally have my eye on the Microsoft Band 2. The band has a continuous heart rate monitor to track heart rate (d’uh) calorie burn and sleep quality, and email, text, social updates and call alerts can all be viewed. 11 sensors include GPS, UV monitor and barometer and it’s compatible with Windows Phone, Android and iPhone.

FlipBelt

I wrote a review of the FlipBelt a few months ago, and I’m still a huge fan. I’m confident that anyone who does long runs on their own would find this a real asset for storing their keys and phone without it hindering their running in any way.

Microsoft Band 2 £199.99, FlipBelt, £25

Personalised Running Achievements Print

This may well be my favourite item on the list, because it’s not only incredible stylish, but it’s the most personal item here. Mrs L Cards’ print can be designed for a range of running distances or times, and is available in two colourways. I adore it. It’s available on both Not On The High Street and Etsy.

A Running Top

It’s a festive running t-shirt for crying out loud. Just buy one immediately. Alternatively, the awesome RedBear also do this brilliant sugar skull one.

Running Achievements Print £15, RedBear top £29

Five Reasons Why I Will Always Love Zumba

I love to dance.

Back in the day I was a serious jazz hands kid (I know – shocker right)? I danced as a cat while someone sang Memory. I played Quasimodo, Orphan Annie and Old Martin from Royal Hunt of the Sun (I’m sorry I never spoke slowly enough Mr Sharpe. I’m still working on that). I took my Dance GCSE at 13, and the only A I got at A-Level was in Dance. At one point I was even seriously considering going to a theatre university until I realised I really wasn’t good enough for all that.

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Another Drama Queen

These days, I’ll dance when I’m feeding the cat. I’ll dance in the changing rooms at work when (I think) no one else is there. I’ll dance after any amount of Prosecco. And that is precisely why Zumba is part of my weekly workout regime. I just love it.

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Dancing after Prosecco

However, sometimes when I tell people in fitness that I regularly do Zumba as part of my weekly workout regime, you can see them desperately trying to stop their eyes from rolling back in their head. And I get it – dance based classes aren’t for everyone, and they sometimes struggle to see the benefits of it. But Zumba is the absolute bee’s knees for some people, including myself. And here are 5 reasons why:

It’s Accessible

Every Zumba class I’ve been to has been attended by people of all ages and all fitness levels. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been out of fitness for a while or if you run, swim, spin, lift weights and more in seven days. A good instructor (like my incredible instructor and friend Lucy) will make sure there are high and low impact versions of the various exercises so that it’s suitable for everyone. You work to your ability, not everyone else’s.

It’ll Improve Your Coordination

It may take a little while, especially if you’ve got two left feet, but the basic steps in Zumba tend to be repeated through the different routines so you’ll find you pick them up pretty quickly. Once you’ve got the merengue and the single, single, double nailed, there’ll be no stopping you.

It’s a Serious Calorie Burner

Have a quick search on Google and you’ll find no end of stories of people who have successfully lost a lot of weight and improved their fitness thanks to Zumba. Depending on your fitness level, you could burn anything from 400 to 1000 calories in a class.

It’s a Mood Enhancer

Research from the University of Derby has shown that a combination of exercise, social interaction and the concentration learning a new skill requires significantly boosted the mood of those suffering from depression. The uplifting atmosphere of a Zumba class coupled with upbeat music cannot fail to release those endorphins. And when your favourite routine comes on (Here to Stay (Electronic/Glitch Hop) or Feel This Moment for me) I defy you not to whoop and dance like you’re flipping Beyonce. This is the main reason I do Zumba. It never fails to put me in a brilliant mood.

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This is how I look doing Zumba

It’s a Social Hub

There are now so many people I can call friends thanks to Zumba. Off the top of my head there’s Lucy, Elaine, Niaz, Tamsin, Clare, Olga, Angela, Hannah, Julie, Sally, Kirsty, Viv, Nella, Iryna and probably loads of others (don’t be offended if you’re not here – it’s 11:30 at night. I still love you). It’s such a sociable class and I usually spend the whole hour laughing my head off, and not just because of some of Lucy’s descriptions of the moves – pumpy pumpy anyone?

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Zumba FRIENDS

There are loads of other reasons why dance based classes are a fun and valid fitness option, but these are the ones that came to mind first. And surely ANYTHING that gets people moving can only be a good thing.

This also seems the right blog post to do a shout out to Sweaty Betty’s recent Rave Dance class which I attended with TheeMiddleSis. I wish so much that this was something they could do every couple of months rather than an annual(ish) event, but basically it’s exactly as it sounds – a dance aerobics class with flipping GLOW STICKS for crying out loud! The free class was led by the ball of energy that is Jo Hopkins, and I vote that they make it a semi-regular thing! Just brilliant, brilliant fun.

Right – now who fancies a dance?

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Endorphin producing awesomeness

Body by Simone at Sweaty Betty Cambridge – My Review

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m a HUGE fan of any movement that allows people to experience exercise for free, whether it’s the awesome parkrun and Parktennis events taking over green space all over the country (and beyond) or whether it’s Sweaty Betty, continuing to expand their #GetFit4Free campaign with new and innovative workouts.

I’ve been to a few of Sweaty Betty’s free classes over the last year or so. Most recently I’ve enjoyed Flow and Glow with Rachael and Fly, Flex, Flow with Jo, and I loved both, so when I saw that they were bringing in “Body by Simone” for a four week period I knew I’d have to skip a Tuesday Ely Runners session (sorry guys!) to give the class a go.

Simone in this context is Simone De La Rue, an LA based fitness guru with abs of actual steel if her photos are anything to go by. According to the SB website, the “Body by Simone” workout will make your heart rate soar, tone and strengthen your body and leave you feeling fabulously happy. Ultimately, it’s a dance cardio workout tailored to work the bum, legs, arms and abs with the aim to give you a body like a dancer.

Now I know it’s going to take more than a 50 minute workout to give me a dancer’s physique. I’d have to lay off the visits to Cherry Hill Chocolates in Ely for a start and we all know that’s not going to happen. But I can say that after one class, if you were to do this regularly enough, your body would reap the rewards.

The class itself took place at the Hidden Rooms in Cambridge, somewhere I’ve not been before and which were a bit too well hidden for me as I walked past the door a few times before someone gently pointed me in the right direction with a bemused smile on their face. Inside there are low ceilings (which may have caused some of the taller attendees some problems but which obviously didn’t impact on me in the slightest) and a very cool, only vaguely hipster-ish vibe to the whole place. Previous classes I’ve been too have been held outside or in the Sweaty Betty store, but because there were some large, dynamic movements in this class such as lateral lunges and star jumps, the store wouldn’t have worked, and as music is a key element to the class we needed somewhere inside to make sure we didn’t cause a public nuisance. So being just around the corner from the shop, The Hidden Rooms were ideal.

Around 15 of us had gathered for the class, and after a quick intro by our instructor Katie (who I recognised from the Cambridge store and from the many times I’ve spotted her power walking to the train station) we were led into a very dynamic warm up, which set the pace for the whole class. And I have to give out a shout out to the AMAZING music she was using. When did you last hear Ghetto Supastar by Pras for crying out loud?! Just. Awesome.

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The only kit required – a mat and some hand weights

Now I’ve never been the biggest fan of aerobics as I find it can be too “single-paced” for me. I like variety between high impact cardio, body weight movements and weights work, which meant that this class was a great fit for me. After a cardio song that involved pretending we had a ball in our hands (stick with me here, it makes perfect sense in the moment) we then went into weights work for the arms. Now I would normally scoff at 1.5kg weights (I do rows with 14kg dumbells at the moment), but after an entire song’s worth of tricep dips, flies, curls and more, it felt like I wouldn’t have been able to hold much more without sacrificing the quality of the movement. After another cardio track that involved a lot of squats and lunges, followed by another that involved lots of jumping, star jumps and deep squats to hit your palm on the floor (my personal favourite), we then did an abs section, which I think is the one I’m most likely to repeat regularly at home. I already have an ab workout that I do most evening (always to Naughty Boy’s La La La which my husband could not be more sick of) but this plank-focussed workout was a great alternative, incorporating mountain climbers and holding the plank position on our palms and then on our elbows. We then ended the class by combining three of the different cardio routines into one, so having a little bit of natural rhythm and the ability to follow dance-based moves will help, but isn’t essential.

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Myself and Katie, two very Sweaty Betties after the workout

All through the class our instructor Katie – who clearly had a dancer’s background as evidenced by her ridiculously elegant arm movements – was fun and full of energy, which is clearly standard protocol for SB staff and ambassadors. It’s not easy to teach to a class of mostly strangers (I suspect she’s not able to build up quite the same rapport in these situations as she can with people who attend the classes she teaches regularly outside of the #GetFit4Free movement) but she was relaxed which helped to put the class at ease. Plus she asked at the start if anyone had any injuries, which is always a massive plus sign for me.

I left the class feeling like I’d had a great workout, and most importantly that I had some elements that I could take home with me and do again in my own time. If you’re keen to try it yourself you can either access the workout online, or the last class with the Cambridge store will be happening next Tuesday and you should be able to book a spot here from Monday morning. I mean why wouldn’t you? It is free after all.

Unless of course you count the shorts that I bought in the sale. Those wily SB minxes. They know exactly what they’re doing.

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Wearing my new shorts that have all the colours